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Yearly Archives: 2021 − News & Stories


Ski mara­thon can­cel­led

The ski mara­thon, one of Longyearbyen’s major annu­al events in the calen­dar of sports and cul­tu­re and in 2021 sche­du­led for 17 April, has now been can­cel­led becau­se of coro­na for the second time in a row. The ski mara­thon is orga­nis­ed by Sval­bard Turn, a local sports club in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. For the club, the can­cel­la­ti­on invol­ves a lot of effort and a major finan­cial loss. Lon­gye­ar­by­en loses a major event that used to bring several hund­red inter­na­tio­nal par­ti­ci­pants in recent years, making the mara­thon an important event also for the local tou­rism indus­try inclu­ding hotels, restau­rants and tour ope­ra­tors.

Longyearbyen skim arathon: cancelled because of Corona

The ski mara­thon in Lon­gye­ar­by­en has now been can­cel­led becau­se of coro­na – for the second time.

Sval­bard Turn now puts their hopes on the con­ven­tio­nal mara­thon on 05 June. The par­ti­ci­pants of the ski mara­thon can re-book for 23 April 2022. This inclu­des a lar­ge num­ber of peop­le who wan­ted to to the mara­thon alrea­dy in 2020.

Strict rules for crui­se ships until at least end of April

The strict rules for ship-based tou­rism in Nor­way inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen will remain in for­ce until at least end of April, accord­ing to an offi­cial press release by the Nor­we­gi­an government.

Most ship owners and tour ope­ra­tors had to can­cel their arc­tic sea­son in 2020 com­ple­te­ly. Only a few crui­ses were actual­ly car­ri­ed out, for examp­le by the Cape Race, the Ori­go and the Le Bore­al, with strict hygie­ne mea­su­res. This was, in the­se cases, done suc­cess­ful­ly without any cases of Coro­na (Sars­Cov-2, Covid19) on board. The coro­na out­break on the Hur­tig­ru­ten ship Roald Amund­sen, howe­ver, shows that it is dif­fi­cult to achie­ve abso­lu­te safe­ty.

Restric­tions inclu­de a com­ple­te ban on lar­ger ships and a reduc­tion of the pas­sen­ger capa­ci­ty to 50 %, some­thing that makes ope­ra­ti­on eco­no­mi­c­al­ly impos­si­ble for many com­pa­nies. The­se and other restric­tions (see Lovdata.no (Nor­we­gi­an) for all details) remain in for­ce during the spring, as could be expec­ted.

Origo, Spitsbergen

The Ori­go: one of a few ships that actual­ly did some crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen in 2020.

The Nor­we­gi­an government has announ­ced to moni­tor the situa­ti­on and to make a decisi­on until 01 May about exten­ding the restric­tions or modi­fy­ing them as appro­pria­te.

Gene­ral restric­tions on inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­ling as well as the new requi­re­ments for coro­na tes­ting befo­re tra­vel­ling from main­land Nor­way to Spits­ber­gen remain in for­ce.

Coro­na tests for Spits­ber­gen tra­vel­lers, tou­rism in hea­vy seas

Coro­na test requi­re­ments: dif­fi­cult in real life

Sin­ce last Fri­day, all tra­vel­lers to Spits­ber­gen need to show a nega­ti­ve coro­na test that mus not be older than 24 hours. This requi­re­ment comes from the Nor­we­gi­an health minis­ter and it was com­mu­ni­ca­ted on Thurs­day after­noon, just a cou­p­le of hours befo­re it came into for­ce. Local aut­ho­ri­ties, inclu­ding the Sys­sel­man­nen and the com­mu­ni­ty admi­nis­tra­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, were not invol­ved. It is, howe­ver, dif­fi­cult to get a test pri­or to depar­tu­re in Oslo or Trom­sø. The­re is a test sta­ti­on for rapid tests at the air­port in Trom­sø, but will soon be clo­sed accord­ing to Sval­bard­pos­ten. This lea­ves tra­vel­lers from Trom­sø with the opti­on for PCR tests, but it takes usual­ly 2-3 days to get the result. Not hel­pful if the requi­red maxi­mum is 24 hours.

Coronatest, Spitsbergen

Coro­na-test on the way to Spits­ber­gen.

The­re is not much more offi­cial infor­ma­ti­on than the hint that all tra­vel­lers are them­sel­ves respon­si­ble to get a valid test in time.

Tour ope­ra­tors in Lon­gye­ar­by­en put staff on lea­ve

The­re is cur­r­ent­ly hard­ly any inter­na­tio­nal traf­fic to Spits­ber­gen. Tra­vel­lers come almost exclu­si­ve­ly from main­land Nor­way, both locals and tou­rists, in num­bers that are a faint shadow of what Lon­gye­ar­by­en was used to until 2019. Major local tour ope­ra­tors have now told Sval­bard­pos­ten to put employees on lea­ve: Hur­tig­ru­ten Sval­bard will send about 40 out of 100 employees home, for part of their time or ful­ly, while 20 of 70 staff of Sval­bard Adven­tures will loo­se 50 % of their work soon. It is uncer­tain when they can return to their work­pla­ces again ful­ly (or at all). Nor­mal­ly, Febru­a­ry would be the start of the important local win­ter sea­son.

Public money does not reach the com­pa­nies as nee­ded

John Einar Lockert, head of Sval­bard Adven­tures in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, feels hims­elf made a fool by govern­men­tal finan­cial aids and regu­la­ti­ons. Com­pa­nies who deci­ded to keep their ope­ra­ti­on up and run­ning lose rights to fun­ding. Ins­tead, the­re are fun­dings for rest­ruc­tu­ring mea­su­res, some­thing many com­pa­nies do cur­r­ent­ly not have any eco­no­mi­c­al power for. Spon­ta­ne­ous regu­la­to­ry initia­ti­ves such as the requi­re­ment for coro­na tests for tra­vel­lers which was intro­du­ced after only a few hours of warning time are not expe­ri­en­ced as hel­pful.

Tourism: in heavy seas due to corona

Tou­rism is, due to coro­na, cur­r­ent­ly in hea­vy seas.

Self-employ­ed peop­le often out in the rain

Not only artists, but also one-man-com­pa­nies wit­hin tou­rism are often just left without public sup­port, in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Ger­ma­ny and other coun­tries. Self-employ­ed gui­des, for examp­le, who usual­ly offer their ser­vices to com­pa­nies on a con­tract-basis, try to enga­ge them­sel­ves in crea­ti­ve solu­ti­ons whe­re­ver pos­si­ble, and as soon as this is not avail­ab­le any­mo­re, they use up their reser­ves and then depend on part­ners, fami­lies and friends.

Nor­way tigh­tens tra­vel restric­tions and requi­res tests for tra­vel­lers to Spits­ber­gen

Many coun­tries have intro­du­ced restric­tions on tra­vel­ling in an attempt to keep the new ver­si­ons of the Sars­Cov-2 (coro­na) virus under con­trol. Nor­way has also had a num­ber cases with the­se new viru­ses recen­ty and tigh­tens in on regu­la­ti­ons for inter­na­tio­nal traf­fic to redu­ce fur­ther sprea­ding, accord­ing to a press release by the Nor­we­gi­an government, which is also avail­ab­le in Eng­lish (click here).

Corona-quarantine, Spitsbergen

App­lies to all of Spits­ber­gen: Coro­na-qua­ran­ti­ne.
Com­pul­so­ry coro­na tes­ting has now addi­tio­nal­ly been intro­du­ced (pho­to com­po­si­ti­on).

Sin­ce today (Fri­day, 01 Janu­a­ry) ever­y­bo­dy who tra­vels to Spits­ber­gen has to be tes­ted wit­hin 24 hours befo­re tra­vel­ling. This has to be done befo­re tra­vel­ling, hence on the main­land and not after arri­val.

Rapid tests are also accep­ted, acord­ing to Knut Sel­mer, medi­cal doc­tor at the hos­pi­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, who tal­ked to Sval­bard­pos­ten.

New regu­la­ti­ons for dro­nes

New regu­la­ti­ons for dro­nes are in for­ce sin­ce 01 Janu­a­ry 2021. Dro­nes weig­hing more than 250 g or that have a came­ra need to be regis­tered at the Nor­we­gi­an air traf­fic aut­ho­ri­ty air traf­fic aut­ho­ri­ty (Luftf­art­stil­syn­set). This inclu­des a web-based cour­se, a test and a fee. Ever­y­bo­dy who wants to use a dro­ne in Sval­bard (or main­land Nor­way, for that sake) will need to go through that, unless the dro­ne weighs less than 250 g and does not have a came­ra.

Drones in Spitsbergen: rules and no flight zone Longyearbyen

No flight zone around Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the most important rules for dro­nes in Sval­bard (Sys­sel­man­nen. Fol­low the link to get a high reso­lu­ti­on file).

The most important rules are given on the Sysselmannen’s web­site. The­se inclu­de amongst others:

  • Regis­tra­ti­on, cour­se and test, see abo­ve.
  • Gene­ral no flight zones wit­hin 5 km distance from the air­ports in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Sveagru­va. This inclu­des almost all of Lon­gye­ar­by­en!
  • Gene­ral no flight zones wit­hin 20 km distance around Ny-Åle­sund (radio silence zone to avoid dis­tur­ban­ce of sen­si­ti­ve sci­en­ti­fic instru­ments). This inclu­des the who­le Kongsfjord.
  • Dis­tur­ban­ce of wild­life and humans is gene­ral­ly for­bid­den. Respect peo­p­les’ pri­va­cy (mini­mum distance from peop­le, buil­dings, boats etc.: 150 m).
  • Maxi­mum flight alti­tu­de abo­ve ground: 120 m.
  • The dro­ne must remain wit­hin eye­sight.
  • Fly­ing in darkness is not allo­wed.
General no flight zones within 5 km distance

New rules for dro­nes are in for­ce from 01 Janu­a­ry 2021.

Expan­si­on of Nor­dens­kiöld Land natio­nal park

Nor­dens­kiöld Land Natio­nal­park inclu­des the sou­thern part of Nor­dens­kiöld Land, in other words the north coast of Bellsund. This natio­nal park is now under review and the plan is to make it much lar­ger. The idea is to inclu­de almost all of Van Mijen­fjord and lar­ge parts of Van Keu­len­fjord. The south side of Van Keu­len­fjord are alrea­dy part of the South Spits­ber­gen natio­nal park. The result would hence be that all of Spits­ber­gen south of Nor­dens­kiöld Land, from Van Mijen­fjord to Sør­kapp, would have pro­tec­tion sta­tus as natio­nal park.

Nordenskiöld Land National park: expansion

Blue: the sche­du­led expan­si­on of Nor­dens­kiöld Land natio­nal park.
Map © Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard.

Public hea­ring

The pro­cess is cur­r­ent­ly in the sta­ge of public hea­ring. The public is encou­ra­ged to give input to the Sys­sel­man­nen.

Restric­tions for snow mobi­les, new bird sanc­tua­ries

A lar­ger Nor­dens­kiöld Land natio­nal park is likely to invol­ve several restric­tions for public traf­fic, inclu­ding restric­tions for moto­ri­zed traf­fic (snow mobi­les) on the fjord ice of Van Mijen­fjor­den. This is main­ly tar­ge­tet against snow mobi­le traf­fic to Rin­ders­buk­ta and Akseløya. In addi­ti­on, 3 new bird sanc­tua­ries are plan­ned in loca­ti­ons that have high con­cen­tra­ti­ons of res­ting and bree­ding birds, main­ly com­mon eider ducks, bar­na­cle geese and pink-foo­ted geese. The loca­ti­ons cur­r­ent­ly in ques­ti­on are Maria­hol­men (near Akseløya), Ehol­men (near Fors­b­la­dod­den) and Mid­ter­huks­let­ta.

Nordenskiöld Land national park:  bird sanctuary Midterhukssletta

The expan­si­on of the Nor­dens­kiöld Land natio­nal park may bring traf­fic restric­tions in several new bird sanc­tua­ries, incu­ding Mid­ter­huks­let­ta.

Parts of the for­mer sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va, which is lar­ge­ly being remo­ved the­se days, are cur­r­ent­ly not inclu­ded in the enlar­ged natio­nal park.

The cour­se of things up north

No new here for a week or more, is the­re not­hing going on in Spits­ber­gen? Inde­ed, the far north has not shaken the world recent­ly. But the­re is always some­thing going. Not just coro­na – it is a long page, stay tun­ed! 😉

Coro­na, Coro­na, Coro­na

Coro­na is obvious­ly com­man­ding the world the­se days, and that is also the case in Spits­ber­gen. Even though the­re has not yet been any cofir­med infec­tion with SARS-Cov-2. Last sum­mer, the virus was alrea­dy the­re with a Hur­tig­ru­ten ship, but it didn’t stay as the­re was no con­ta­ct bet­ween the ship and the sett­le­ment, the trip star­ted and finis­hed in main­land Nor­way.

Corona, Spitsbergen

The coro­na virus still has the world in its firm grip, inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen.

The­re is still some tou­rism in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: a few tou­rists come from the Nor­we­gi­an main­land. The­re are, of cour­se, strict rules. And locals return after their Christ­mas holi­days or wha­te­ver they have done, poten­ti­al­ly giving the virus a lift. In one case, it tur­ned out that someo­ne who had retur­ned to Lon­gye­ar­by­en had been a con­ta­ct of someo­ne with a con­fir­med infec­tion. So far, redu­ced con­ta­cts and other safe­ty mea­su­res seem to have worked fine. On the other hand, a few of Longyearbyen’s oldest inha­bi­tants alrea­dy got the first dose of the SARS-Cov-2 vac­ci­ne.

Regu­la­ti­ons for inter­na­tio­nal tra­vel­lers are still very strict, obvious­ly, and inter­na­tio­nal tou­rism up north is prac­ti­cal­ly non-exis­ting the­se days.

Coro­na: hard on the eco­no­my

Con­se­quen­ces for local com­pa­nies are dra­ma­tic, espe­cial­ly wit­hin tou­rism. And brid­ging aid are more dif­fi­cult than on the main­land, part­ly becau­se of Spitsbergen’s spe­cial sta­tus. But important steps have been taken in recent weeks. Still, many can just hope for impro­ve­ment befo­re their jobs or small com­pa­nies get lost. The important win­ter sea­son, usual­ly pea­king from Febru­a­ry to ear­ly May, will hard­ly hap­pen as it nor­mal­ly does.

Corona, Spitzbergen: Tourismus

Win­ter tou­rists in Spits­ber­gen: nobo­dy knows when this will be pos­si­ble again, but many are wai­t­ing desper­ate­ly.

Powe­ring Lon­gye­ar­by­en up

The future of Longyearbyen’s electri­ci­ty sup­ply has been deba­ted for a long times. The sta­te of the dis­cus­sion is still pret­ty much like the sum­ma­ry given in Decem­ber. In very short words: a new solu­ti­on is nee­ded, and it is likely to be based on some­thing dif­fe­rent than coal, at least part­ly. But now Oslo offi­cials have said that this will have con­se­quen­ces for mine 7, Longyearbyen’s last coal mine. It is obvious that the years of coal mining will come to an end in the not too far future. So far, some­thing near 2030 see­med likely. Now it may actual­ly be ear­lier than that. But final decisi­ons have yet to be made.

Mine 7 near Longyearbyen

Mine 7 near Lon­gye­ar­by­en still has some years left, but the end of coal mining is com­ing clo­ser.

Cash trou­bles

The end of Svalbard’s one and only bank in Lon­gye­ar­by­en was rea­son for some exci­te­ment in 2020. The bank clo­sed for good in Decem­ber. The ATM had alrea­dy been out of ope­ra­ti­on for qui­te a while, becau­se it tur­ned out to be incre­a­singly dif­fi­cult to get cash from the main­land to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Cur­r­ent­ly, the­re is no sup­ply of fresh cash in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Dif­fi­cul­ties ari­sing becau­se of that seem to be limi­ted, as cash­less pay­ment methods are very com­mon in Nor­way and the­re is no inter­na­tio­nal traf­fic the­se days. But at the latest when tou­rists start to return from coun­tries out­side Scan­di­na­via, pro­blems will incre­a­se if the­re is no cash local­ly avail­ab­le. The super­mar­ket, Coop Sval­bard (bet­ter known as Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken), may be able to pro­vi­de a solu­ti­on.

On my own behalf: Book and pos­ter “Sval­bardhyt­ter”

I have got several pro­jects in pro­gress. Some of them are lar­ger ones and the­se will requi­re time to get any­whe­re near publi­ca­ti­on, but ano­t­her one is soon to be finis­hed: Ori­gi­nal­ly con­si­de­red to be “only” a pos­ter, “Sval­bardhyt­ter” (Sval­bard huts) is now a com­bi­na­ti­on of a pos­ter and a book, intro­du­cing 60 his­to­ri­cal huts. Huts are inte­res­ting and often beau­ti­ful pla­ces in the Arc­tic. In the past, they offe­red at least a mini­mum of safe­ty and com­fort, and today, they give a sen­se of adven­ture and histo­ry. And, of cour­se, any visit to a hut in Spits­ber­gen, whe­re­ver it is, is always an excur­si­on in a beau­ti­ful area!

Svalbardhytter: Hammerfesthuset

Ham­mer­fest house on Bear Island (Bjørnøya) was built in 1822. This makes it Svalbard’s oldest buil­ding that is still stan­ding. It is one of 60 huts intro­du­ced in the post and book pro­ject “Sval­bardhyt­ter”.

The Nor­we­gi­an tit­le seems to indi­ca­te a cryp­tic text, but this is not the case: the pos­ter is a col­la­ge of 60 pho­tos and place names, and the litt­le book has some infor­ma­ti­on about every one of them in 3 lan­guages: Ger­man, Eng­lish and Nor­we­gi­an. And it does also have the pho­tos.

“Sval­bardhyt­ter” will soon be avail­ab­le in the Spitzbergen.de online shop with is clo­se­ly asso­cia­ted with this web­site. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss it, just sign up to my email news­let­ter by sen­ding a mes­sa­ge to rolf.stange@spitzbergen.de.

On my own behalf: online pre­sen­ta­ti­on seri­es “Arc­tic Wed­nes­day”

Our seri­es of online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons “the Arc­tic Wed­nes­day” has star­ted last Wed­nes­day with my pre­sen­ta­ti­on about Bear Island and Jan May­en. I am hap­py to say that it was very suc­cess­ful – I may not qui­te be neu­tral, but I got a lot of very posi­ti­ve feed­back so I can be cer­tain that this is the truth 🙂 Bir­git Lutz and I will con­ti­nue the seri­es over ano­t­her cou­p­le of weeks until mid Febru­a­ry. Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on. The talks will be in Ger­man.

The Arc­tic Wed­nes­day: polar online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons star­ting next week

Next week, Bir­git Lutz and I (Rolf Stan­ge) will start the “Arc­tic Wed­nes­day”! A seri­es of online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons whe­re we can pick up selec­ted topics. Let’s tra­vel tog­e­ther online to the beau­ti­ful, cold ends of the world! We will start on 13 Janu­a­ry with a tour to Bear Island and Jan May­en, fol­lo­wed later by a seri­es of ano­t­her five dates, every Wed­nes­day for six weeks in total. Bir­git and I have selec­ted a ran­ge of topics ran­ging from adven­ture and tra­vel through histo­ry to envi­ron­ment, which we hope you will enjoy.

The Arctic Wednesday: polar online presentations

The Arc­tic Wed­nes­day: polar online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons with Bir­git Lutz and Rolf Stan­ge.

The pre­sen­ta­ti­ons will be in Ger­man. I know the­re are a lot of Ger­man-spea­king visi­tors to the Eng­lish site, for examp­le from the Nether­lands – this is why I inclu­de this brief note here in Eng­lish. For fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on, plea­se refer to the Ger­man ver­si­on of this page (chan­ge lan­guage by cli­cking on the flagg sym­bol on top of this page).

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

More crev­as­ses on Spitsbergen’s gla­ciers

First of all: hap­py new year!

Many of Spitsbergen’s gla­ciers have “always” had a lot of crevases, while others are con­si­de­red good traf­fic ways for tho­se moving around in the arc­tic wil­der­ness. This is – was? – the case espe­cial­ly for many of Spitsbergen’s smal­ler gla­ciers that ter­mi­na­te with a gent­le slo­pe on land, rather than with a cal­ving front at sea level. The smal­ler ones, ending on land, usual­ly move more slow­ly, which crea­tes less stress in the ice and hence fewer crev­as­ses.

More crev­as­ses on clas­si­cal “tou­ring gla­ciers”

This has appear­ent­ly chan­ged for at least a num­ber of gla­ciers, as the Sys­sel­man­nen estab­lis­hed during a heli­co­p­ter inspec­tion of fre­quent­ly tra­vel­led gla­ciers in Nor­dens­kiöld Land in Octo­ber 2020. It tur­ned out that some of the­se gla­ciers had signi­fi­cant­ly more crev­as­ses than they used to have in the past.

Glacier tour

Many of Spitsbergen’s gla­cier have been thought to have few crev­as­ses only, which made them com­pa­ra­tively easy tou­ring ter­rain …

Ano­t­her fac­tor rele­vant for safe­ty on gla­ciers is snow, which can build up snow brid­ges over crev­as­ses. Such brid­ges are fine when they are strong and safe, but they can be very dan­ge­rous traps if they are too thin to be strong enough, but thick enough to hide the crev­as­se. The sum­mer of 2020 was at times extre­me­ly warm and has mel­ted a lot of snow also on the hig­her parts of the gla­ciers. Snow brid­ges have build up again from zero.

Safe­ty and respon­si­bi­li­ty

Ever­y­bo­dy who is out in the field in arc­tic ter­rain, be it with snow mobi­le, hiking, ski­ing, dog sledge, … should be care­ful and take ade­qua­te safe­ty mea­su­res, espe­cial­ly in gla­cia­ted ter­rain. That has always been true and now this seems to be more rele­vant than befo­re at least on some of Spitsbergen’s fre­quent­ly tra­vel­led gla­ciers, and most likely also on other ones. In the press release, the Sys­sel­man­nen made it very clear that anyo­ne who is on tour is him-/herself respon­si­ble for his/her own safe­ty. Just in case anyo­ne nee­ded a remin­der.

Crevasses

… but this has chan­ged for at least some of them. Crev­as­ses like the ones seen here are life dan­ge­rous, espe­cial­ly when they are hid­den under snow.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has publis­hed a pdf with pho­tos and maps that show some of the gla­ciers and crev­as­se fiel­ds in ques­ti­on.

The rea­sons are not yet sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly estab­lis­hed. It would be natu­ral to assu­me that the velo­ci­ty of shrin­king gla­ciers is decre­a­sing rather than the oppo­si­te. For a bit of spe­cu­la­ti­on, it may appe­ar rea­son­ab­le to think that the extra meltwa­ter sup­ply during the warm sum­mer of 2020 has decre­a­sed the inter­nal fric­tion of the gla­ciers, which may lead to grea­ter speed and thus grea­ter mecha­ni­cal stress, hence more crev­as­ses.

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News-Listing live generated at 2021/October/17 at 10:13:09 Uhr (GMT+1)
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