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Yearly Archives: 2021 − News & Stories


Return of the sun cele­bra­ted in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The return of the sun to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, sol­fest in Nor­we­gi­an, is tra­di­tio­nal­ly cele­bra­ted on 08 March, the day when the sun is direct­ly visi­ble from town after seve­ral months of polar night. This is the case at the stair­ca­se of the old hos­pi­tal, which does not exist any­mo­re (but a repli­ca of the stairs is the­re), near the church.

Usual­ly, the sol­fest comes with a who­le series of cul­tu­ral events over seve­ral days, the sun cele­bra­ti­on week (sol­fest­u­ke). The cul­tu­ral part suf­fe­r­ed obvious­ly hea­vi­ly from coro­na rest­ric­tions.

Sun festival 2021, Longyearbyen

Sun fes­ti­val 2021, on 8 March in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Pho­to © Max Schwei­ger.

Max Schwei­ger is in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and kind­ly pro­vi­ded a cou­ple of pho­tos of today’s cele­bra­ti­on.

The sun is actual­ly visi­ble from lower Lon­gye­ar­by­en, near the shore of Advent­fjord, but this part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, now known as Sjøs­kren­ten, did not exist when the tra­di­ti­on of the sun cele­bra­ti­on was star­ted.

Every year, a new emblem is made the sun fes­ti­val. It is cho­sen from dra­wings made in Longyearbyen’s kin­der­gar­tens. This year’s sel­ec­tion is cle­ar­ly very appro­pria­te!

Sun festival 2021 in Longyearbyen

This year’s emblem for the sun fes­ti­val. Pho­to © Max Schwei­ger.

With the sun cele­bra­ti­on, the long polar night is “offi­ci­al­ly” over in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The late win­ter with a lot of light is now the­re, fol­lo­wed by a short spring and then the sum­mer with the mid­night sun. A lot of light that fol­lows on a long, dark peri­od. May this very soon be the case also for the rest of the world!

Polar bear shot in Mohn­buk­ta, man inju­red

A man was inju­red and a polar bear shot and kil­led ear­lier today in Mohn­buk­ta on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen, accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen.

To per­sons were on the fast ice in Mohn­buk­ta with snow mobi­les. Both were employees in the film pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Jason Roberts Pro­duc­tions and on the ice to mea­su­re the thic­k­ness. As far as curr­ent­ly known, the men were not awa­re of the pre­sence of the bear until it atta­cked from behind. One man recei­ved inju­ries during the attack, the other one shot the bear.

Polar bear shot in Mohnbukta, Spitsbergen

Polar bear on the ice in Mohn­buk­ta (archi­ve image).

The Sys­sel­man­nen arri­ved soon on site by heli­c­op­ter with poli­ce and res­cue forces. The infu­red man was soon deli­ver­ed to the hos­pi­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. His inju­ries are said to be minor.

Both per­sons appear to be expe­ri­en­ced locals. The case is under inves­ti­ga­ti­on by the Sys­sel­man­nen. Polar bears are pro­tec­ted in Spits­ber­gen.

Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Spits­ber­gen to end in 2028

Coal is an ener­gy car­ri­er source of the past. This is also the case in Spits­ber­gen, whe­re the power sup­p­ly of most of the few remai­ning sett­le­ments is till based on coal. Work has been going on for more than just a while in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to replace today’s coal power plant with a more modern, more envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly and more relia­ble ener­gy sup­p­ly. The ques­ti­on as to which ener­gy source will be used, or which com­bi­na­ti­on of various ener­gy sources, remains yet to be ans­we­red, seve­ral opti­ons are still deba­ted. But the aim is to have a new ener­gy sup­p­ly up and run­ning within 5 years.

Expec­ting that the new solu­ti­on will not invol­ve coal, the Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni has deci­ded to put an end to coal mining in mine 7, the last Nor­we­gi­an coal mine in Spits­ber­gen that is still pro­du­cing coal, when the coal power plant is histo­ry, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten. Hence, mining is expec­te to cea­se in mine 7 in 2028. Store Nor­ske then expects to use 2 years for a major clean-up.

Mine 7: end of coal mining in Spitsbergen in 2028

Mine 7 near Lon­gye­ar­by­en: end of Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Spits­ber­gen expec­ted in 2028.

Store Nor­ske expects growth and new jobs in busi­ness are­as such as new solu­ti­ons of ener­gy sup­p­ly, logi­stics, pro­per­ty and housing.

Sveagru­va, for deca­des Norway’s lar­gest coal mining sett­le­ment in Spits­ber­gen, is alre­a­dy in an advan­ced stage of a major clean-up pro­cess. The Rus­si­an in Barents­burg may, for some time, be the only ones who run an acti­ve coal mine in Spits­ber­gen, but also here – coal mining won’t last fore­ver. The end of coal pro­duc­tion in Barents­burg has been fore­cas­ted alre­a­dy more than once, with mining coming to an end in years that are now alre­a­dy histo­ry. But it appears fair to assu­me that Rus­si­an coal mining won’t con­ti­nue much bey­ond 2030, if at all.

Local tour ope­ra­tors: 65 % loss, sup­port to come soon

Local tour ope­ra­tors in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have to deal with los­ses of 65 % in avera­ge due to coro­na. For some, the last year has been a total loss, some com­pa­nies and indi­vi­du­als would be hap­py to have a remai­ning tur­no­ver of 35 %. Others have some boo­kings by tou­rists coming from main­land Nor­way, but also the­se don’t come in num­bers com­pa­ra­ble to pre­vious years. The­re is no inter­na­tio­nal tou­rism due to the cur­rent tra­vel rest­ric­tions. It remains to be seen when things real­ly get bet­ter.

Longyearbyen tourism Corona

Win­ter tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen:
will lar­gey be a loss this year – again.

At least, local tour ope­ra­tors can now expect 40 mil­li­on kro­ner (3.9 mil­li­on Euro) as public sup­port sup­port from Oslo. It is too ear­ly to say if all com­pa­nies will sur­vi­ve the cur­rent cri­sis even con­side­ring this new finan­cial aid. The upco­ming win­ter sea­son, nor­mal­ly pea­king in March and April, will most­ly not hap­pen this year.

The “arc­tic Wed­nes­day” con­tin­ued: online pre­sen­ta­ti­on about the Mosaic expe­di­ti­on, 3 March

The series of 6 arc­tic online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons in the series “The Arc­tic Wed­nes­day” that Bir­git Lutz and I have star­ted is over – but this is not the end of the Arc­tic Wed­nes­day. It has been just too good to stop it now.

The pre­sen­ta­ti­ons will be held in Ger­man.

Icebreaker Polarstern, Mosaic expedition. Presentation in the series Arctic Wednesday, 3 March

The rese­arch ice­brea­k­er Polar­stern during the Mosaic expe­di­ti­on:
Pre­sen­ta­ti­on in the series “Arc­tic Wed­nes­day” on 3 March.

Bir­git and I are, howe­ver, not the only ones who have got some sto­ries to tell. On 3 March, Udo Zöphel will talk about his expe­ri­en­ces as a polar bear guard for sci­en­tists during seve­ral arc­tic win­ter months as a mem­ber of the Mosaic expe­di­ti­on, drif­ting with the ice­brea­k­er Polar­stern with the ice across the Arc­tic Oce­an. Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on about the pre­sen­ta­ti­on (the link will open a Ger­man page, but the pre­sen­ta­ti­on will also be held in Ger­man).

After a litt­le break, Bir­git and I will come up with seve­ral more dates in March. We will pre­sent the new dates on 03 March. See you then! 🙂

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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