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Yearly Archives: 2021 − News & Stories


Erd­mann­flya, Ymer­buk­ta – 09th August 2021

The sun was hiding behind a low cloud lay­er, but calm wea­ther and good visi­bi­li­ty tempt­ed us to hike across Erd­mann­flya, a wide tun­dra plain with many reinde­er, various birds, lakes, wet­lands and low rocky rid­ges with love­ly views. The crossing took a lar­ge part of the day and was com­ple­ted with clo­se-up views of Esmark­breen from the ship. Now ever­y­thing around us has dis­ap­peared in the fog as we lea­ve Isfjord. Soon we will turn nor­thwards.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 08th August 2021

Final­ly, after almost 2 years, we can set sail again in Spits­ber­gen! We can hard­ly belie­ve it, but we are moving, skip­per Hein­rich, my col­le­ague Hel­ga and nine who are keen to see a lot of Spits­ber­gen the upco­ming 18 days.

The first evening brings a walk in Bore­buk­ta on the north side of Isfjord, a wal­rus and gre­at views over wide tun­dra are­as in the gol­den light of the mid­night sun.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Pyra­mi­den and Dick­son Land. And SV Anti­gua is back in Spits­ber­gen!

As I men­tio­ned recent­ly – we spend a lot of time out­side, and the­re is always some­thing to do in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. So the lap­top is clo­sed most of the time, wri­ting is not the main thing here and now. But the hiking boots are some­ti­mes steam­ing, and at other times the out­board engi­ne of our litt­le Zodiac and at yet other times the came­ra. And that is how it should be.

SV Anti­gua final­ly back in Spits­ber­gen

Antigua, Ymerbukta

Anti­gua in Ymer­buk­ta.
We went out the­re for a love­ly ren­dez­vous.

Good old Anti­gua is back in Spits­ber­gen! Gre­at! We went by Zodiac to Ymer­buk­ta to meet the good ship and her crew the­re, whe­re the ship was ancho­red for a rest after the crossing. It was good to see Cap­tain Mario and the crew again! We took the oppor­tu­ni­ty tog­e­ther to take a detour into Coles­buk­ta on the way to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re the crew is now get­ting the ship rea­dy for the first depar­tu­re next week. I am loo­king for­ward to join them in late August. First, I’ll be out with SY Arc­ti­ca II soon.

Captain Mario, Colesbukta

With Mario, Cap­tain on SV Anti­gua, in Coles­buk­ta, cele­bra­ting the occa­si­on.

Pyra­mi­den and Dick­son Land

Now it has alre­a­dy been a while sin­ce we spent some days in and around Pyra­mi­den in July. We went to look for – and found – a fos­si­li­sed forest, which was cover­ed with mud by a flood in a flu­vi­al plain almost 400 mil­li­on years ago. Most of the trees (sigil­la­ria) just kept stan­ding as they had been gro­wing, and the still stand the day today. We had seen ano­ther part of this forest last year; flu­vi­al ero­si­on keeps brin­ging other parts to the light of day for a geo­lo­gi­cal split-second, befo­re they dis­ap­pear and get lost fore­ver. If you hap­pen to be in the area during this geo­lo­gi­cal moment, then you just have to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty.

And any­way, Dick­son Land is just one of Spitsbergen’s most beau­tiful are­as, if you ask me.

Gal­lery – In and around Pyra­mi­den

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

In Mar­tin Conway’s foot­s­teps in Bol­terd­a­len

The Arc­tic! Spits­ber­gen! Natu­re! Being out the­re! Fan­ta­stic …

That the sum­ma­ry 🙂 and that is what it is all about here the­se days, in and around Lon­gye­ar­by­en. I have spent alre­a­dy far too much time on the com­pu­ter this year, that has to wait now. Other­wi­se I could alre­a­dy have writ­ten a lot here on my arc­tic tra­vel blog.

But today is a day of rest, time to catch up a bit.

The pre­sen­ta­ti­on series “Arc­tic Wed­nes­day” was a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to dig deeper in sto­ries and sub­jects that are important to me, and the best thing is, of cour­se, to do that in situ. Who remem­bers my pre­sen­ta­ti­on about Mar­tin Conway’s first crossing of Spits­ber­gen in 1896? (That was online last April, in Ger­man).

Now we were fol­lo­wing Conway’s foot­prints at least for a short bit of is path. Con­way and his com­pa­n­ion Gar­wood wan­ted to find a way from Advent­da­len to Van Mijenfjord in the south. Due to a lack of geo­gra­phic infor­ma­ti­on (this lack of know­ledge was their reason to get out in the first place, obvious­ly), they star­ted on a rou­te that appears rather absurd today. The who­le thing ended up as an impres­si­ve forced march until they had found what they were loo­king for and made it back to their camp in Advent­da­len.

Tverrdalen, Conway

Con­way and Gar­wood fol­lo­wed this val­ley in 1896 to the end, whe­re we can see Reind­a­len. Hence, they had found a rou­te from Advent­da­len to Van Mijenfjord.

We didn’t do a forced march of 40 kilo­me­t­res, but nevert­hel­ess, Bol­terd­a­len has all the plea­su­res of arc­tic ter­rain that one needs for a day of fun: wet tun­dra for kilo­me­t­res on end, river crossings and wide, rocky morai­ne land­scape. That’s the Arc­tic!

The reward comes in shape of a lot of arc­tic natu­re, with a colourful flo­ra, curious reinde­er – many of them with cal­ves – and petri­fied wood from the Ter­tia­ry.

After our hike, we got back into the car and dro­ve back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Con­way, in con­trast, got back to his camp in pou­ring rain. One of his two ponies had run away from the­re and all the way back to Advent Point (today: Advent­pyn­ten, near the air­port). The poor bear was alre­a­dy tired of the end­less snow bogs. One of Conway’s men had to walk all the way back to get the poor ani­mal. Sin­ce then, the val­ley has got its name: Bol­ter Val­ley, today Bol­terd­a­len.

Gal­lery – Bol­terd­a­len

Here a cou­ple of impres­si­ons of our day in Bol­terd­a­len, actual­ly start­ing near Lon­gye­ar­by­en:

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Fare­well to Mark Sab­ba­ti­ni

Most days have been a bit grey and win­dy recent­ly, but full of joy and good expe­ri­ence out­doors, so time keeps fly­ing. After a long peri­od of abs­ti­nence, forced upon me by the pan­de­mic, I enjoy being out­side and that’s defi­ni­te­ly the focus the­se days, rather than spen­ding time on the com­pu­ter. The­re would be more than enough to wri­te about, sto­ries and pic­tures from Spitsbergen’s stun­ning natu­re, so many beau­tiful impres­si­ons …

But that has to wait right now, we’ll get the­re later.

Things keep hap­pe­ning also up here in Spits­ber­gen, and it would be quite out of place to wri­te about being in the out­doors, with stun­ning sce­n­ery, wild­life encoun­ters and inte­res­t­ing “dis­co­veries” of phe­no­me­na such as fos­sils and others, wit­hout having writ­ten about cer­tain other events first.

Mark Sab­ba­ti­ni left Spits­ber­gen invol­un­t­a­ri­ly

Espe­ci­al­ly when it is about someone who had to lea­ve the island after more than 10 years (13, to be more pre­cise). Someone who didn’t have plans to lea­ve.

The power of the Sys­sel­mes­ter, the Nor­we­gi­an government’s hig­hest repre­sen­ta­ti­ve in Sval­bard, includes to expel someone from the islands. This is some­thing that hap­pens rather rare­ly, for exam­p­le in cases of per­sons repe­te­ad­ly found to have used or even sold ille­gal drugs, some­thing con­side­red even more dan­ge­rous to a rela­tively young com­mu­ni­ty in the far north, with seve­ral months of polar night, than else­whe­re in the world.

Also tou­rists who arri­ved wit­hout any means to sup­port their stay in Spits­ber­gen have alre­a­dy been sent back on the next flight. The aut­ho­ri­ties don’t want peo­p­le to sleep in the streets or to camp wild in or near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, some­thing that is a) for­bidden and b) dan­ge­rous (polar bears).

So far, so under­stan­da­ble. But someone who has lived here fo 13 years?

Mark Sab­ba­ti­ni: 13 years of Spits­ber­gen, 13 years of “Ice­peo­p­le”

The Ame­ri­can Mark Sab­ba­ti­ni, per default a news­pa­per- and media per­son, had alre­a­dy spent con­sidera­ble time in places inclu­ding Ant­ar­c­ti­ca when he came to Lon­gye­ar­by­en 13 years ago and star­ted publi­shing his free, Eng­lish news­pa­per and web­site “Ice­peo­p­le”, an alter­na­ti­ve media plat­form next to the local news­pa­per Sval­bard­pos­ten and lan­guage-wise cer­tain­ly more acces­si­ble to an inter­na­tio­nal public. Sin­ce then, Mark has been part of Longyearbyen’s inven­to­ry, sit­ting at a table in a cor­ner of Café Frue­ne and focus­sing on his com­pu­ter while live is busy around him, kee­ping his news­pa­per and web­site updated.

But eco­no­mic­al­ly, “Ice­peo­p­le” never beca­me a source of wealth (some­thing that its edi­tor and aut­hor had never pri­ma­ri­ly inten­ded): paper edi­ti­on (the “fishwrap­per”, as Mark hims­elf calls it) and the web­site are ful­ly acces­si­ble for free, and adver­ti­sing has never brought much busi­ness. The har­dest of seve­ral eco­no­mic­al blows that Mark had to suf­fer, howe­ver, was the Gam­le Sykeh­jem (“Old hos­pi­tal”) sto­ry. This is a long sto­ry in its­elf (click here read more about it). In short words: Mark was one of seve­ral who bought a flat in this house which then show­ed struc­tu­ral dama­ge due to mel­ting per­ma­frost, so it had to be evacua­ted on short noti­ce and tho­se who had bought a pro­per­ty the­re suf­fe­r­ed more or less a full loss (some more than others, depen­ding on cir­cum­s­tances). Other blows that Mark had to suf­fer affec­ted his health, inclu­ding fal­ling and get­ting hurt bad­ly in times of clear ice on the street in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This all is well-known local gos­sip and Mark has never made a secret of it.

Eco­no­mic­al and health-wise downhill deve­lo­p­ment

Final­ly all reser­ves were used up, and Marks eco­no­mic­al situa­ti­on in the nor­t­hern­most sett­le­ment (if we exclude Ny-Åle­sund, which does not have a nor­mal popu­la­ti­on) of the rich coun­try Nor­way rea­ched a point whe­re he had incre­asing dif­fi­cul­ties to fund his dai­ly spen­dings. So it went on for a while. Many did this and that to help, and it went on, with bet­ter and more dif­fi­cult times.

It is one of the con­se­quen­ces of the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty that the­re is no net­work for social secu­ri­ty bey­ond what is pro­vi­ded by everybody’s home count­ries. And as the Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties do not accept peo­p­le living in unsett­led situa­ti­on in Spits­ber­gen, they reser­ve the right to expel peo­p­le from Sval­bard who are not eco­no­mic­al­ly able to take care of them­sel­ves on a level accept­ed by the aut­ho­ri­ties.

New Sys­sel­mes­ter Lars Fau­se has a dif­fe­rent view­point on this who­le ques­ti­on than his pre­cur­sor, and he deci­ded to “take respon­si­bi­li­ty” as soon as he came into power recent­ly.

Mark hims­elf has told his view of this sto­ry in public a num­ber of times, inclu­ding Sval­bard­pos­ten, his own web­site Ice­peo­p­le and social media and in per­so­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, also to this aut­hor. He empha­si­zes that he does not only under­stand and accept the Sysselmester’s decis­i­on, but he also con­siders it to be the right decis­i­on, in the light of the deve­lo­p­ment in recent years.

Back to Alas­ka

Mark left Spits­ber­gen last Wed­nes­day, hea­ded for Juneau in Alas­ka, whe­re he wants to reco­ver health-wise and eco­no­mic­al­ly. Then, he wants to find hims­elf a place in Alaska’s media land­scape, pre­fer­a­b­ly with a focus on remo­te com­mu­ni­ties.

Mark Sabbatini

Mark Sab­ba­ti­ni during his good­bye in Lon­gye­ar­by­en last Wed­nes­day. Pho­to: Ice­peo­p­le.

Mark wants to con­ti­nue with Ice­peo­p­le, so the page will be acti­ve and updated also in the future, sup­p­ly­ing an inter­na­tio­nal public with inte­rest in local mat­ters with all sorts of detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on, pre­sen­ted in Mark’s own way, often with a touch of humour and writ­ten in a style that may occa­sio­nal­ly be slight­ly chal­len­ging for non-nati­ve Eng­lish spea­k­ers.

By the way, Mark has con­tri­bu­ted with pro­ofre­a­ding to a num­ber of texts used in various publi­ca­ti­ons, print and online, by this aut­hor, inclu­ding shorter texts such as quite recent­ly in Sval­bardhyt­ter or lon­ger ones inclu­ding updates of the Eng­lish ver­si­on of the gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard. Accor­ding to Mark, he will be hap­py to make simi­lar con­tri­bu­ti­ons also in the future, some­thing I’ll be hap­py to make use of (as a paid ser­vice, as befo­re)

If you want to read more about the cir­cum­s­tances of Mark’s depar­tu­re, then you will find ple­nty of stuff on his own site, Ice­peo­p­le.

So long for now, Mark! See you again!

Adven­ture Oslo air­port. And: the ans­wer

The Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken mys­tery

To start with, the ans­wer to the ques­ti­on in the last blog. It was about this pho­to:

Svalbardbutikken, Longyearbyen

A cor­ner in Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken, Longyearbyen’s refur­bis­hed super­mar­ket.
$64-ques­ti­on for Spits­ber­gen-nerds: what’s wrong here? 🙂

So, what is wrong? Obvious­ly, it wasn’t real­ly obvious 🙂 the pho­to on the wall is mir­ror-inver­ted. They say they will get a cor­rec­ted ver­si­on at some stage.

Adven­ture Oslo air­port

Spen­ding a cou­ple of hours in an air­port is pret­ty much the most bor­ing thing that I can think of. why wri­te about it? Becau­se it can go wrong if you expect it to work as nor­mal.

Test or no test, that is the ques­ti­on

The ques­ti­on keeps coming up wether or not coro­na test­ing is requi­red on a trip to Spits­ber­gen. The cur­rent situa­ti­on is that immu­nis­ed tra­vel­lers (ful­ly vac­ci­na­ted or recent­ly reco­ver­ed, docu­men­ted with an ack­now­led­ged docu­ment such as a digi­tal Euro­pean vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te) do not have to show a cer­ti­fi­ca­te for a nega­ti­ve test upon ente­ring Nor­way or che­cking in on a flight to Spits­ber­gen. That may chan­ge at any time, as ever­y­thing the­se days; aut­ho­ri­ties inclu­ding the Sys­sel­mes­ter have alre­a­dy deman­ded to re-intro­du­ce the test obli­ga­ti­on.

In my expe­ri­ence, it is an incre­asing risk that you can’t neces­s­a­ri­ly rely on gover­nemt decis­i­ons espe­ci­al­ly when things are chan­ging more or less every week. Then it’s wha­te­ver the air­port offi­ci­al you are deal­ing with thinks. What use is in being right if you don’t get any fur­ther with is? An non-Coro­na-exam­p­le: legal­ly, as a EU citi­zen you don’t need a pass­port to tra­vel from Nor­way to Spits­ber­gen, an ID card will do. But at the air­port they demand a pass­port from non-Nor­we­gi­ans. Addi­tio­nal­ly, machi­nes like auto­ma­tic check-in machi­nes or auto­ma­ted pass­port con­trol machi­nes can only read pass­ports and not ID cards, so you are well advi­sed to bring your pass­port any­way.

Digital EU-vaccination certificate, Oslo Gardermoen

Digi­tal EU-vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te: makes the pro­cess more effi­ci­ent in Oslo Gar­de­r­moen.
But not neces­s­a­ri­ly effi­ci­ent.

So, back to the initi­al ques­ti­on: curr­ent­ly, test­ing is not requi­red under the abo­ve-men­tio­ned con­di­ti­ons. But it may still be a good idea to have enought time to get one, just in case. The­re are test­ing faci­li­ties at Oslo Gar­de­r­moen air­port, but you may need a cou­ple of hours until you get the cer­ti­fi­ca­te, depen­ding on traf­fic. And, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten, the coro­na test sta­ti­on at Trom­sø air­port accepts only tra­vel­lers coming in from inter­na­tio­nal flights, but not out­go­ing ones desti­ned for Sval­bard. Tho­se have to use equi­va­lent ser­vices in Trom­sø cent­re. Next to the extra time, expect cos­ts of 1500 kro­ner (plus trans­por­ta­ti­on) unless you are a regis­tered resi­dent in Spits­ber­gen, then it is free.

Adven­ture Oslo air­port: tra­vel infor­ma­ti­on

The usu­al two hours from arri­val at Oslo Gar­de­r­moen air­port until depar­tu­re may be enough when it’s ear­ly in the mor­ning. Or may­be not. It is bizar­re how rapidly the queu­es are get­ting lon­ger and lon­ger until they reach ama­zing dimen­si­ons. Last weekend, one could get the impres­si­on that they are dis­cus­sing test­ing requi­re­ments in detail with every sin­gle pas­sen­ger befo­re you could con­ti­nue to the actu­al check-in area. For us, with desti­na­ti­on Lon­gye­ar­by­en and ful­ly vac­ci­na­ted, it was a very short con­ver­sa­ti­on – “have a good trip” was the only com­ment as soon as we had pro­vi­ded our infor­ma­ti­on. But get­ting that far is the point, and it takes much, much lon­ger for many other flight pas­sen­gers, and you may have hundreds in the queue ahead of you. From then on, the pro­cess was actual­ly reason­ab­ly effi­ci­ent (secu­ri­ty check, pass­port con­trol). Lucki­ly.

Oslo Gardermoen Airport

An emp­ty air­port Oslo Gar­de­r­moen: that’s histo­ry!

Accor­ding to Nor­we­gi­an media, tra­vel­lers have recent­ly spent up to 8 hours queu­ing up in the air­port of Oslo Gar­de­r­moen, miss­ing their flights and ever­y­thing that comes with that (for­get about social distancing!). In the inte­rest of all tra­vel­lers, we can only hope that they impro­ve the logi­stics signi­fi­cant­ly soo­nest. Any­way, if you plan to tra­vel through Oslo at any time soon, make sure to have extra time.

And make sure to have even more time if you are not ful­ly vac­ci­na­ted or don’t have an accept­ed docu­ment for this.

Final­ly … Spits­ber­gen!

Final­ly – Spits­ber­gen! That has been a long, long dry spell … but now we are back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, keen and full of ide­as and plans. Let’s see what the next weeks and months will bring.

If you want to fly any­whe­re from Oslo, make sure you have got enought time in Oslo Gar­de­r­moen. The queu­es can real­ly be very long, and it is not a very effi­ci­ent pro­cess.

And you should also plan some extra time when you go into Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken, Longyearbyen’s super­mar­ket. It is kind of twice the size it used to be. But not ever­y­thing is per­fect (yet) …

Svalbardbutikken, Longyearbyen

A cor­ner in Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken, Longyearbyen’s refur­bis­hed super­mar­ket.
$64-ques­ti­on for Spits­ber­gen-nerds: what’s wrong here? 🙂

Some first litt­le impres­si­ons from Oslo and Lon­gye­ar­by­en:

Final­ly – Spits­ber­gen! Ein paar ers­te, klei­ne Ein­drü­cke, Lon­gye­ar­by­en und nähe­re Umge­bung

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Van Mijenfjord: new natio­nal park

It has been a long pro­cess, hence it did not come as a sur­pri­se when the new Van Mijenfjord natio­nal park was estab­lished by law on 18 June. The new natio­nal park includes the nor­t­hern part of Van Keu­len­fjord and adjoins the South Spits­ber­gen Natio­nal­park. As a result, the who­le sou­thern part of the main island of Spits­ber­gen from sou­thern Nor­dens­ki­öld Land (the land area bet­ween Isfjord and Van Mijenfjord) is now pro­tec­ted on natio­nal park level.

national park

Inner Van Mijenfjord in late May: now a natio­nal park.

Suc­ces­sor of the Nor­dens­ki­öld Land natio­nal park

The Van Mijenfjord natio­nal park is the ampli­fied suc­ces­sor of Nor­dens­ki­öld Land natio­nal park which was estab­lished in 2003, but rest­ric­ted to a land area on the north side of Van Mijenfjord. The­re have been chan­ges sin­ce 2003 that have made the adjus­t­ment neces­sa­ry, inclu­ding the lar­ge clean-up of the for­mer mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va. Ano­ther aspect that nee­ded pro­per regu­la­ti­on were the regu­lar requests by the Sys­sel­man­nen (now Sys­sel­mes­ter) who asked the public to stay clear of cer­tain sen­si­ti­ve are­as during the late spring and eary sum­mer, but wit­hout a pre­cise defi­ni­ti­on of the area and time inter­val in ques­ti­on and the legal bin­ding­ness, lea­ving room for doubt for tho­se who were ope­ra­ting in the area. This is now regu­la­ted bey­ond any grey zone poten­ti­al. Yet ano­ther aspect is moto­ri­sed traf­fic (snow mobi­les) on fjord ice. Also here, the Sys­sel­man­nen has spo­ken out bans on such traf­fic on a regu­lar basis. Inclu­ding the­se bans which were spo­ken out on an annu­al basis in a per­ma­nent law makes it easier to know what one has to deal with. The details of some of the­se regu­la­ti­ons are of cour­se at least in part con­tro­ver­si­al; the govern­ment has cho­sen a very exten­si­ve and strict approach to the ban on moto­ri­sed traf­fic, some­thing that not all local tour enthu­si­asts in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are hap­py with as the oppor­tu­ni­ties to visit the south part of the main island are now stron­gly rest­ric­ted. It is defi­ni­te­ly important to some peo­p­le, but their num­ber is actual­ly limi­t­ed as even in Lon­gye­ar­by­en the­re are not too many peo­p­le adven­tur­ous (and inte­res­ted) enough to ven­ture on long trips into the­se are­as, far from the com­mon rou­tes. The­re were no snow mobi­le rou­tes of rele­van­ce for tou­rists in the area in ques­ti­on.

Three new bird sanc­tua­ries, snow mobi­le traf­fic stron­gly rest­ric­ted

Van Mijenfjord national park

The new Van Mijenfjord natio­nal park (green boun­da­ry). Yel­low dots: new bird sanc­tua­ries. Red area: moto­ri­sed traf­fic on fjord ice rest­ric­ted (see text). Shaded area: total ban on moto­ri­sed traf­fic on fjord ice.
Map © Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te / Sys­sel­mes­ter på Sval­bard, modi­fied.

Gene­ral­ly, the new Van Mijenfjord natio­nal park law includes the same regu­la­ti­ons that app­ly to all natio­nal parks. Bey­ond the­se, fol­lo­wing rules of prac­ti­cal importance for locals and tou­rists include the fol­lo­wing:

  • Mid­ter­hu­ken, Ehol­men and Maria­hol­men are now bird sanc­tua­ries and it is for­bidden to approach the­se are­as or to move within them from 15 May to 15 August. Click here to access a map that shows the exact loca­ti­ons of the­se new bird sanc­tua­ries.
  • Snow mobi­les and other moto­ri­sed traf­fic on the fjord ice of Van Mijenfjord and Van Keu­len­fjord are now lar­ge­ly rest­ric­ted every sea­son from 01 March. Only regis­tered locals are allo­wed to cross the fjord ice of parts of Van Mijenfjord on the shor­test safe rou­te, while other are­as are now com­ple­te­ly off limits for this kind of traf­fic from 01 March. Click here to access a map that shows the are­as in detail. Non-moto­ri­sed traf­fic (ski, dog sledge) remains legal­ly pos­si­ble within the usu­al legal frame­work.
  • The core area o the for­mer mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va is excluded from the natio­nal park. Here, exten­si­ve clean-up works will con­ti­nue for ano­ther while until most of the sett­le­ment is remo­ved.

Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment plans to denu­de non-Nor­we­gi­an inha­bi­tants of Lon­gye­ar­by­en of their right to vote

This is a remar­kab­le pro­ce­du­re within a frame of poli­tics that may on occa­si­ons well be descri­bed as natio­na­li­stic: The Nor­we­gi­an minis­try of jus­ti­ce has pro­po­sed to remo­ve the right to vote or to be elec­ted from non-Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens in Lon­gye­ar­by­en unless they have lived at least three years in main­land Nor­way.

The back­ground: Local demo­cra­cy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

A few words about the back­ground: Spits­ber­gen is, in accordance with the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty, not orga­nis­ed in a demo­cra­tic way. The Sys­sel­man­nen is not elec­ted but appoin­ted by the govern­ment. On a com­mu­ni­ty level, all of Spitsbergen’s sett­le­ments were foun­ded by mining com­pa­nies and run by the­se com­pa­nies as com­pa­ny towns for most or all of their histo­ry. The intro­duc­tion of demo­cra­tic ele­ments has been dis­cus­sed on a num­ber of occa­si­ons in the 20th cen­tu­ry, but took shape not befo­re the 1990s and a town coun­cil (Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re, LL) was estab­lished in 2002. Only Lon­gye­ar­by­en has a coun­cil, the other sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen are still orga­nis­ed as com­pa­ny towns wit­hout a demo­cra­tic struc­tu­re.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Loka­lyst­re, led by a mayor (here: lokals­ty­re­le­der), is so far elec­ted local­ly by all inha­bi­tants who have been regis­tered for a cer­tain mini­mum peri­od regard­less of their natio­na­li­ty. This is what the govern­ment in Oslo wants to chan­ge.

Near 3000 peo­p­le are regis­tered inha­bi­tants of Spitsbergen’s sett­le­ments, with a majo­ri­ty near 2500 in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Of the total num­ber, more than 900 have a natio­na­li­ty other than Nor­we­gi­an. A lar­ge pro­por­ti­on of Longyearbyen’s popu­la­ti­on is thus of other than Nor­we­gi­an natio­na­li­ty. Natio­na­li­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en include Thai peo­p­le, Swe­des and Danes, Rus­si­an, Ger­mans, UK and US citi­zens and many others.

Right to vote and to be elec­ted to be remo­ved from non-Nor­we­gi­ans

A recent pro­po­sal from the Nor­we­gi­an minis­try of jus­ti­ce sug­gests to remo­ve the right to vote and to be elec­ted to be remo­ved from non-Nor­we­gi­ans unless they have been regis­tered in a Nor­we­gi­an main­land com­mu­ni­ty for at least three years, a con­di­ti­on met by very few of the many hundred “for­eig­ners” living in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Longyearbyen

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is a com­mu­ni­ty with a very inter­na­tio­nal popu­la­ti­on, but soon pos­si­bly with a much redu­ced level of demo­cra­cy.

The back­ground lies within gene­ral Nor­we­gi­an Sval­bard poli­tics, which aim at deve­lo­ping Lon­gye­ar­by­en as a Nor­we­gi­an com­mu­ni­ty. This does not neces­s­a­ri­ly mean an enti­re­ly Nor­we­gi­an popu­la­ti­on, as is also high­ligh­ted by under­se­cre­ta­ry of sta­te Lars Jacob Hiim of the minis­try of jus­ti­ce in this con­text. Accor­ding to Hiim, the pro­po­sal in ques­ti­on does not aim at chan­ging Longyearbyen’s popu­la­ti­on struc­tu­re, but is to ensu­re among­st others that voters and their elec­ted repre­sen­ta­ti­ves have know­ledge about “aims and frame con­di­ti­ons of (Nor­we­gi­an) Sval­bard poli­tics”.

Local rejec­tion

Mayor Arild Olsen declared hims­elf ful­ly taken by sur­pri­se by this pro­po­sal, as Olsen told Sval­bard­pos­ten. Neither he nor the local coun­cil had been invol­ved or infor­med befo­re the recent publi­ca­ti­on of the pro­po­sal, which Olsen stron­gly rejects.

Com­ment

Local­ly, the pro­po­sal is recec­ted not only by Olsen, but also by many others. Some of tho­se who are con­cer­ned are appal­led: denu­ding peo­p­le who have lived in their com­mu­ni­ty for years, some­ti­mes for many years, of the right to vote or to be elec­ted feels com­ple­te­ly out of place and poli­ti­cal­ly-demo­cra­ti­cal­ly rather unap­pe­ti­sing espe­ci­al­ly in the con­text of a demo­cra­tic coun­try in the 21st cen­tu­ry, let alo­ne in a coun­try like Nor­way which is usual­ly con­side­red to be a very modern and open socie­ty, often lea­ding the demo­cra­tic path for many other count­ries in the world. The cur­rent pro­po­sal has a very natio­na­li­stic fla­vour and is some­thing one would rather expect, for exam­p­le, from cer­tain east Euro­pean count­ries who have cho­sen a rather down­ward-lea­ding path in their demo­cra­tic deve­lo­p­ment.

New wea­pon regu­la­ti­ons

Whe­re­as most peo­p­le in more cen­tral parts of Euro­pe hard­ly have any­thing to do with fire­arms in their dai­ly life, things are dif­fe­rent in polar bear coun­try and with 5000 arms for near 2500 peo­p­le, Lon­gye­ar­by­en has a wea­pon den­si­ty that is pro­ba­b­ly not far away from Texan stan­dards. It is actual­ly not direct­ly requi­red by law to car­ry a rif­le when lea­ving the sett­le­ments as it is often ven­ti­la­ted by poor­ly infor­med media (or gui­des, unfort­u­na­te­ly – click here for more about some com­mon­ly told arc­tic bull­shit sto­ries), but it is com­mon prac­ti­ce and it is gene­ral­ly stron­gly advi­sed to be pro­per­ly equip­ped when ven­tu­ring out into polar bear coun­try.

Com­mer­cial wea­pon ren­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Sci­en­tists, indi­vi­du­al tou­rists and others who need, can rent wea­pons in Lon­gye­ar­by­en from aut­ho­ri­sed wea­pon dea­lers, of which the­re are two. The­re was the time when some kind of ID was enough to get a hea­vy-calib­re fire­arm; but this has been histo­ry for years now: to rent a wea­pon from a com­mer­cial sup­pli­er, you need to have papers that you are legal­ly entit­led to have a wea­pon of the rele­vant kind or of a hig­her class, for exam­p­le a Euro­pean fire­arms pass or a hun­ting licen­se. If you do not have any of the­se or equi­va­lent, you can app­ly for per­mis­si­on from the Sys­sel­man­nen.

Bor­ro­wing wea­pons from per­sons or com­pa­nies

Until recent­ly it was, howe­ver, easy to bor­row a wea­pon from a pri­va­te per­son or, as an employee, from a com­pa­ny. The owner of the wea­pon “just” had to make sure that the bor­rower had the pro­per skills and know­ledge and was cha­rac­ter-wise able to have con­trol over such a poten­ti­al­ly lethal wea­pon. A simp­le form had to com­ple­ted by the owner to pro­vi­de evi­dence for legal bor­ro­wing for up to 4 weeks. But this is now histo­ry.

New Nor­we­gi­an wea­pon law from 01 June

A new wea­pon law came into force in Nor­way inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen on 01 June, repla­cing the pre­vious one which was from 1961. One key chan­ge is this: The respon­si­bi­li­ty to check the borrower’s appro­pria­ten­ess to be given a wea­pon is not the owner’s any­mo­re but now lies with appro­pria­te aut­ho­ri­ties. That is the poli­ce in main­land Nor­way and the Sys­sel­man­nen (new desi­gna­ti­on from July: Sys­sel­mes­ter) in Spits­ber­gen (Sval­bard), who pro­vi­des fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on on their offi­ci­al web­site.

This con­di­ti­on is con­side­red met when the bor­rower can pro­vi­de papers that entit­le him or her to own a wea­pon of the kind in ques­ti­on or a hig­her-clas­sed one (yes, the­re was a simi­lar sen­tence hig­her up on this page alre­a­dy). This can, for exam­p­le, be a Nor­we­gi­an wea­pon card or a Euro­pean fire­arm pass. The owner is obli­ga­ted to check this befo­re han­ding a wea­pon to the bor­rower. This is valid both for bor­ro­wing wea­pons bet­ween pri­va­te per­sons, for exam­p­le bet­ween mem­bers of one fami­ly – a com­mon prac­ti­ce in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – and within com­pa­nies, for exam­p­le tour ope­ra­tors who sup­p­ly their gui­des with rif­les, also a very com­mon prac­ti­ce in Spits­ber­gen.

Rifle, Spitsbergen

Out and on tour in Spits­ber­gen: a rif­le is usual­ly not far away.

App­ly­ing for bor­ro­wing a wea­pon

If the bor­rower does not have pro­per cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on, then the only way to legal­ly bor­row a wea­pon is app­ly­ing for per­mis­si­on from the Sys­sel­man­nen, who will check the applicant’s gene­ral appro­pria­ten­ess (cer­ti­fi­ca­te of good con­duct) and the rele­vant skills and know­ledge (“til­strek­ke­lig våpen­du­g­leik”) to hand­le a wea­pon. Accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen, this can be done by pro­vi­ding evi­dence for having done mili­ta­ry ser­vice, acti­ve mem­ber­ship in a shoo­ting club or a safe­ty cour­se that includes wea­pon hand­ling such as, for exam­p­le, the cour­ses usual­ly pro­vi­ded by UNIS in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to their stu­dents and employees. The appli­ca­ti­on cos­ts 248 kro­ner (near 25 Euro). Click here to access an appli­ca­ti­on form, appli­ca­ti­ons by email are not accept­ed.

That’s the theo­ry. In prac­ti­ce, ques­ti­ons remain open: do offi­ci­al docu­ments such as a cer­ti­fi­ca­te of good con­duct need (appro­ved) trans­la­ti­on and which docu­ments exact­ly are accept­ed or not. I have sent a ques­ti­on cata­lo­gue to the Sys­sel­man­nen and pro­vi­de updates here as more infor­ma­ti­on beco­mes available.

Bor­ro­wing ver­sus ren­ting

Com­mer­cial wea­pon ren­tal (Nor­we­gi­an: utleie) is for­bidden for pri­va­te per­sons and most com­pa­nies. Only aut­ho­ri­sed wea­pon dea­lers may offer wea­pons for ren­tal on a com­mer­cial basis.

Deterr­ents remain com­pul­so­ry

All this does not touch the legal requi­re­ment to car­ry an appro­pria­te deter­rent such as a signal pis­tol becau­se polar bears are strict­ly pro­tec­ted and may not just be shot. Ever­y­thing must be done to avo­id dan­ge­rous encoun­ters or, if it hap­pens any­way, to avo­id shoo­ting a polar bear as long as human life is safe. Pep­per spray is, howe­ver, not legal­ly available in Nor­way inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen. In cer­tain situa­tions, for exam­p­le from the rela­ti­ve safe­ty of a hut or even a tent, pep­per spray could be hel­pful to sca­re a polar bear away effi­ci­ent­ly and for good, thus poten­ti­al­ly avo­i­ding a situa­ti­on whe­re a bear might be shot.

Nor­we­gi­an regu­la­ti­ons for inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­ling to chan­ge soon

A cou­ple of inte­res­t­ing press releases saw the light of day in Oslo last Fri­day (18 June), inclu­ding infor­ma­ti­on about tou­rism and ship-based tou­rism (crui­ses and coas­tal crui­ses) in Nor­way inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen.

News from Nor­way about inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­ling

The­re is ano­ther press release con­cer­ning inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­ling. Non-Nor­we­gi­ans may initi­al­ly get the impres­si­on that the release is not too exci­ting, but the­re is some good stuff hid­den in the beau­ro­cra­tic wor­ding of the release, espe­ci­al­ly near the end. It starts on a lower level of exci­te­ment: the colours of the FHI chart, which is important infor­ma­ti­on for Euro­pean tra­vel­lers, are now matching Euro­pean colours again. Which is nice for ever­y­bo­dy who pre­fers green abo­ve yel­low, but it doesn’t chan­ge much. The latest FHI map, updated today (21 June), shows only two Euro­pean count­ries out­side Scan­di­na­via in green, name­ly Pol­and and Roma­nia.

Nor­way will lift tra­vel war­nings for Euro­pe (Schen­gen trea­ty count­ries), the UK and and a ran­ge of other count­ries from 05 July, sub­ject to future war­nings that may be issued at any time as nee­ded. But this is rele­vant for Norw­gi­ans who want to tra­vel abroad rather than non-Nor­we­gi­ans who want to tra­vel to Nor­way. Also fami­ly visits will be easier: so far limi­t­ed to first-gra­de rela­ti­ves, the list of per­sons who may visit fami­ly in Nor­way is now get­ting lon­ger, inclu­ding for exam­p­le grand­par­ents. That is gre­at for ever­y­bo­dy con­cer­ned, but not a game chan­ger for peo­p­le wis­hing to tra­vel to Nor­way in gene­ral.

EU vaccination certificate, Spitsbergen under sail 2021 and corona

Nor­way joins the Euro­pean vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te sys­tem, which may make it signi­fi­cant­ly easier to get some fresh arc­tic wind around the nose this sum­mer for tho­se who have plans.

Coro­na infec­tion values will be “har­mo­nis­ed with Euro­pe”

Fur­ther down in the press release in ques­ti­on, a har­mo­ni­sa­ti­on of infec­tion thres­holds that count­ries need to stay under in order to tra­vel to Nor­way wit­hout qua­ran­ti­ne is men­tio­ned. This may initi­al­ly not sound too exci­ting, but it means that the thres­hold will be lifted from 25 infec­tions per 100,000 peo­p­le within 14 days to 50, some­thing that may be an important chan­ge, as the old thres­hold of 25 is easy to miss even for count­ries with a good deve­lo­p­ment, while 50 gives some more room for smal­ler out­breaks to not ruin ever­yo­dies tra­vel plans. This chan­ge will enter force on 05 July.

Nor­way joins Euro­pean vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te sys­tem

And the­re is yet ano­ther important update: from 24 June, Euro­pean tra­vel­lers can use the Euro­pean digi­tal vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te to docu­ment their vac­ci­na­ti­ons or pre­vious infec­tions, and ful­ly immu­nis­ed tra­vel­lers will be able to enter Nor­way regard­less of the sta­tus of the coun­try whe­re they have stay­ed befo­re ente­ring Nor­way. This may inde­ed chan­ge things for many peo­p­le.

Stage 3 of Nor­we­gi­an ope­ning plan comes on Sun­day, inclu­ding rele­vant updates for Spits­ber­gen tou­rism

Stage 3 of the Nor­we­gi­an plan to lead the coun­try back to nor­mal life will come on Sun­day, as the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has announ­ced in a press release. This first press release includes steps for the coun­try back towards nor­mal life and eco­no­my.

Two Oslo press releases

The­re is a second offi­ci­al press release, which is important for Spits­ber­gen tou­rism, inclu­ding ship-based tra­vel­ling. So far, a ban is in force that makes crui­sing over seve­ral days lar­ge­ly impos­si­ble. This will chan­ge on Sun­day (20 June), but this comes with quite a bit of small print and the gene­ral deve­lo­p­ment of the coro­na pan­de­mic will con­ti­nue to govern life in gene­ral and tou­rism in par­ti­cu­lar. This lea­ves a num­ber of ques­ti­on­marks, but the pos­si­bi­li­ty of some Spits­ber­gen trips later this sea­son is, at least, not com­ple­te­ly unrea­li­stic.

Spitsbergen under sail in 2021 and corona

Nor­way makes steps to nor­mal life and re-opens the pos­si­bi­li­ty for crui­ses. It remains to be seen if “Spits­ber­gen under sail” will be pos­si­ble in 2021.

Gene­ral rest­ric­tions on inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­ling remain in force

For inter­na­tio­nal tou­rists, it is important to noti­ce that the strict ent­ry rest­ric­tions remain in force until fur­ther noti­ce. Non-Nor­we­gi­an tou­rists may enter the coun­try only if they come from “yel­low count­ries” on the FHI-map. Curr­ent­ly, most of Euro­pe is red, and who can tell what the sum­mer will bring con­side­ring the del­ta mutant of the coro­na virus that is con­nec­ted to incre­asing infec­tion figu­res in the UK? It is uncer­tain when Nor­way will per­mit at least ful­ly vac­ci­na­ted tou­rists from “red count­ries” to enter Nor­way again.

Curr­ent­ly, Nor­way only accepts vac­ci­na­ti­ons regis­tered in Nor­way. This includes obvious­ly vac­ci­na­ti­ons given in Nor­way; vac­ci­na­ti­ons given in other count­ries can, as of now, only be regis­tered in Nor­way by per­sons who are regis­tered in the coun­try with a per­so­nal num­ber (“fød­sels­num­mer” or “D-num­mer”). The digi­tal Euro­pean vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te may (or may not) faci­li­ta­te this also for others, but that remains to be seen – as so much the­se days.

It is, howe­ver, clear that Nor­way will only accept vac­ci­na­ti­ons that are licen­sed by EMA (Euro­pean Medi­ci­nes Agen­cy) for use in Euro­pe. Other vac­ci­na­ti­ons such as Sput­nik-V or Sino­vac will curr­ent­ly not give tra­vel­lers any advan­ta­ges (other than the actu­al pro­tec­tion against infec­tion and dise­a­se, of cour­se!).

No test­ing requi­re­ment befo­re flight to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for vac­ci­na­ted tra­vel­lers

Ful­ly vac­ci­na­ted / reco­ver­ed tra­vel­lers (“ful­ly pro­tec­ted”) tra­vel­lers do not need to test any­mo­re befo­re fly­ing from main­land Nor­way to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. That is good news for the local tou­rism indus­try, whe­re many hope that Nor­we­gi­ans will spend their sum­mer holi­days in Spits­ber­gen, whe­re 83,5 % of the adult popu­la­ti­on (18 and older) are now vac­ci­na­ted. But test­ing requi­re­ments for inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­lers upon ente­ring the coun­try is ano­ther thing.

New rules for Spits­ber­gen-tou­rism

The fol­lo­wing rules will app­ly from Sun­day for tou­rism and crui­sing in Spits­ber­gen:

  • Tour ope­ra­tors will need to ope­ra­te accor­ding to safe hygie­ne stan­dards accor­ding to the same rules as on the main­land (no spe­cial rules any­mo­re).
  • Hotels may use up to 90 % of their capa­ci­ty and keep the remai­ning 10 % to accom­mo­da­te tra­vel­lers who need to qua­ran­ti­ne.
  • Char­ter flights from Nor­way to Lon­gye­ar­by­en are allo­wed again, but not from other count­ries.
  • Ships that ope­ra­te in Spits­ber­gen need to pro­vi­de a dise­a­se pro­tec­tion plan that is accept­ed by the Sys­sel­mann. Ships will not be able to use their full capa­ci­ty, but 90 % or less depen­ding on the pro­tec­tion sta­tus of all peo­p­le on board.
  • If the­re are peo­p­le on board who are not ful­ly immu­nis­ed, then the num­ber of peo­p­le on board is limi­t­ed to 200 and the­re is a requi­re­ment to do tests befo­re depar­tu­re. This is valid for Nor­way and for Spits­ber­gen.
  • If ever­y­bo­dy on board is ful­ly immu­nis­ed, then the­re may be up to 2000 peo­p­le on board (yes, two thousand!). But in any case, only up to 90 % of the capa­ci­ty may be used, or less, depen­ding on the indi­vi­du­al case.
  • In case of a coro­na infec­tion or a sus­pi­ci­on, ships need to return to the main­land or their home port, rather than to Lon­gye­ar­by­en whe­re health ser­vice capa­ci­ties are very limi­t­ed.
  • In case of a coro­na infec­tion or a sus­pi­ci­on, ever­y­bo­dy needs to stay on board until per­mis­si­on to lea­ve the ship is given by rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties.
  • Crui­se ships with an inter­na­tio­nal itin­era­ry need to com­ply to the requi­re­ments to qua­ran­ti­ne accor­ding to the FHI-map as soon as the­re is anyo­ne on board who needs to qua­ran­ti­ne.

Com­ment

So the­re is now final­ly infor­ma­ti­on for tou­rism and ship-based tra­vel­ling in Spits­ber­gen, some­thing we have been wai­ting for for quite a while now as the sea­son would nor­mal­ly have star­ted weeks ago alre­a­dy. Many ship owners and tour ope­ra­tors have can­cel­led their arc­tic sum­mer sea­son alre­a­dy a while ago. For tho­se who still have trips in their sche­du­les, it remains to be seen what will actual­ly be pos­si­ble.

A lot will obvious­ly depend on the deve­lo­p­ment of the pan­de­mic. If you want to tra­vel to Nor­way inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen, then you’d bet­ter come from a “yel­low” coun­try and make sure it remains yel­low until you have left.

Easing on ent­ry to Nor­way and Spits­ber­gen for vac­ci­na­ted peo­p­le

Many tour ope­ra­tors have alre­a­dy can­cel­led their arc­tic sum­mer sea­son, but some still main­tain some hope at least for the later part of the sum­mer, and the­re are tho­se who might con­sider pri­va­te tra­vel­ling to 78 degrees north or even a bit fur­ther.

If that will be pos­si­be, what and how, remains to be seen. Coro­na is obvious­ly the fac­tor that is gover­ning all tra­vel-rela­ted acti­vi­ties now and for some time in the future, with all the well-known fac­tors such as pro­gress of vac­ci­na­ti­on pro­gram­mes, new mutants of the virus, infec­tion rates and so on.

The FHI-map: an important data­ba­se

Given the cur­rent posi­ti­ve deve­lo­p­ment lasts, Nor­way seems to be ope­ning up step­wi­se. Inter­na­tio­nal tou­rists are essen­ti­al­ly not allo­wed into the coun­try as of now, with few excep­ti­ons depen­ding on the coun­try or regi­on of ori­gin, which is shown on this map of the Nor­we­gi­an public health insti­tu­te (FHI). “Yel­low” makes tra­vel­ling an opti­on that can be con­side­red also for tou­rists, but that appli­es curr­ent­ly only to parts of Fin­land as well as Ice­land and Green­land.

FHI-Corona-map

Coro­na-map of the Nor­we­gi­an public health insti­tu­te (FHI). Latest ver­si­on as of 04 June:
a lot of red.

Vac­ci­na­ti­ons make tra­vel­ling easier, Spits­ber­gen is included

Nevert­hel­ess, the­re is a deve­lo­p­ment that may give inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­lers reason to hope:

  • Accor­ding to a govern­men­tal press release published on Wed­nes­day, ful­ly vac­ci­na­ted or reco­ver­ed peo­p­le may enter Nor­way again wit­hout qua­ran­ti­ne from today (Fri­day, 11 June). That is, howe­ver, only for per­sons who got their vac­ci­na­ti­ons in Nor­way or who have their infec­tion with Covid-19 regis­tered in Nor­way in the last 6 months, but chan­ces are that this may chan­ce when the Euro­pean digi­tal vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te sys­tem is in ope­ra­ti­on. Nor­way has announ­ced to join this sys­tem, and we can be curious about Nor­we­gi­an decis­i­ons coming then. Test­ing upon ente­ring the coun­try remains com­pul­so­ry.
  • Spits­ber­gen is now included in important steps of the easing: as Sval­bard­pos­ten reports, vaccinated/recovered peo­p­le who are not requi­red to stay in qua­ran­ti­ne (as abo­ve) may tra­vel on the Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It was and is not pos­si­ble to qua­ran­ti­ne in Sval­bard, so qua­ran­ti­ne time has to be done on the main­land, a major obs­ta­cle for inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­lers. A nega­ti­ve Coro­na test in Nor­way within 24 hours befo­re depar­tu­re to Lon­gye­ar­by­en remains com­pul­so­ry.

The ques­ti­on of coas­tal crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen waters remains so far open. The­re is still hope that some crui­ses may be pos­si­ble later in the sea­son, pos­si­bly only for vaccinated/recovered peo­p­le.

Coro­na, Nor­way, Barents­burg …

Coro­na, get­ting to Nor­way Lon­gye­ar­by­en vac­ci­na­ti­on and test­ing

One can fol­low the almost dai­ly news and press releases on tra­vel and qua­ran­ti­ne regu­la­ti­ons in Nor­way with some asto­nish­ment. The bot­tom­li­ne is curr­ent­ly that the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment opens for easier access to the coun­try by easing on qua­ran­ti­ne – but only for Nor­we­gi­ans. Excep­ti­ons from this simp­le rule are few at the time being. The poli­cy is curr­ent­ly to enable Nor­we­gi­an tra­vel­lers to spend at least some of the qua­ran­ti­ne time at a place of their own choice, rather than in a qua­ran­ti­ne hotel. Coro­na vac­ci­na­ti­ons are curr­ent­ly only reco­gni­zed if appli­ed in Nor­way, this may chan­ge with the intro­duc­tion of a digi­tal Euro­pean vac­ci­na­ti­on cer­ti­fi­ca­te.

Spits­ber­gen has a record-brea­king vac­ci­na­ti­on rate of more than 80 % of the adult popu­la­ti­on. Nevert­hel­ess, frus­tra­ti­on is gro­wing in Lon­gye­ar­by­en about being kind of for­got­ten while the rest of the coun­try is ope­ning up. Despi­te of the high vac­ci­na­ti­on rate, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is Norway’s only town which requi­res test­ing befo­re you can tra­ve the­re. This is not a local decis­i­on, local aut­ho­ri­ties seem to be hap­py to get rid of this test­ing regime but it is a decis­i­on that needs to be taken in Oslo. The obli­ga­ti­on to test befo­re tra­vel­ling to Lon­gye­ar­by­en also app­ly to immu­nis­ed (vac­ci­na­ted or pre­vious­ly infec­ted) peo­p­le. A rapid test is available at the air­port of Oslo Gar­de­r­moen for 1195 kro­ner (near 120 Euro), while a PCR test with result in 1-5 hours comes for 2500 kro­ner (near 250 Euro) (pri­ces from a sup­pli­er at Oslo Gar­de­r­moen). In addi­ti­on comes the chall­enge of test­ing while tra­vel­ling, which may easi­ly add an extra hotel night to one’s sche­du­le.

Some­thing much bet­ter

Barentsburg

Barents­burg and the view over Grønfjord. Drawn by Edda Maaß, who cele­bra­ted her 18th bir­th­day recent­ly, with kind per­mis­si­on. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons!

But one can also just for­get all this mise­ry at least for a short while and enjoy some­thing beau­tiful, such as this dra­wing made by Edda Maaß who recent­ly fil­led 18 years. Many rea­ders will know the place 🙂

Nor­way untigh­tens ent­ry requi­re­ments – for Nor­we­gi­ans

The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has announ­ced to untigh­ten ent­ry rest­ric­tions in a press release on 21 May..

On the day the new regu­la­ti­ons ente­red force, on 27 May, the govern­ment released ano­ther note with addi­tio­nal infor­ma­ti­on, inclu­ding an ent­ry ban for tou­rists as one key point. One might get the impres­si­on that the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment took this as an impli­cit­ness that did not requi­re expli­ci­te men­tio­ning bey­ond insi­nua­ti­on in the said release.

Non-nor­we­gi­an tou­rists are NOT allo­wed to enter Nor­way

The abo­ve-men­tio­ned release from 27 May says among­st others:

“The­se (add: per­sons) can not enter Nor­way (appli­es to citi­zens of all count­ries, inclu­ding citi­zens from EU/European eco­no­mic zone and scan­di­na­vi­an count­ries):

  • Tou­rists

Fol­lo­wed by a list of groups that are curr­ent­ly not allo­wed to enter Nor­way (unless an excemp­ti­on appli­es to them on an indi­vi­du­al case basis), inclu­ding distant rela­ti­ves (such as grand­par­ents!), for­eign stu­dents (inclu­ding tho­se from scan­di­na­vi­an count­ries), per­sons with resi­dence or work per­mit but who do not alre­a­dy live in Nor­way, busi­ness-rela­ted tra­ve­lers, owners of holi­day hou­ses etc. (not com­ple­te).

Men­tio­ning tou­rists as the first group in this list, and with the sin­gle word “tou­rists” in con­trast to all other groups, sends a clear mes­sa­ge: tou­rists are curr­ent­ly not wel­co­me in Nor­way.

Oslo Gardermoen airport: Norway facilitates entry - for Norwegians

Air­port at Oslo Gar­de­r­moen: inter­na­tio­nal tou­rist traf­fic is a one way road at the time being: Nor­we­gi­ans may visit other count­ries, but not the other way around.

The­re are excemp­ti­ons for tra­ve­lers who may enter Nor­way despi­te of the gene­ral ent­ry ban. This includes, among­st others, non-Nor­we­gi­ans who live in Nor­way, peo­p­le from regi­ons or count­ries which suf­fi­ci­ent­ly low inci­dence that the qua­ran­ti­ne obli­ga­ti­on does not app­ly, visi­tors to clo­se rela­ti­ves, peo­p­le in cer­tain pro­fes­si­ons (for exam­p­le jour­na­lists, sea­fa­rers, medi­cal per­so­nell from cer­tain count­ries, …) and peo­p­le who are regis­tered resi­dents in Spits­ber­gen.

It is the map of the FHI, the Nor­we­gi­an natio­nal health aut­ho­ri­ty, that will play an important role in this con­text for ano­ther while. Curr­ent­ly, almost all Euro­pean count­ries are lis­ted as “red”.

As you go into detail, the roles are com­plex, plea­se check with the offi­ci­al web­sites of rele­vant Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties for bin­ding infor­ma­ti­on. But in gene­ral, the mes­sa­ge is pret­ty clear, see abo­ve.

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News-Listing live generated at 2024/May/27 at 05:37:49 Uhr (GMT+1)
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