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Home → April, 2022

Monthly Archives: April 2022 − News & Stories

Lil­le Kval­fjord & Ham­mer­fest

The wea­ther does all sorts of things here the­se days, but not neces­s­a­ri­ly what we want it to do. Crossing the Barents Sea is curr­ent­ly not an opti­on, but we are hap­py here on the Nor­we­gi­an main­land coast. After some wea­ther-rela­ted chan­ges of plans we ended up in Lil­le Kval­fjord on Stjernøya. Never heard? Neither have we 🙂

Lille Kvalfjord

Lil­le Kval­fjord on Stjernøya in Alta­fjord.

It is real­ly a lost place, with a tiny sett­le­ment, but it seems com­ple­te­ly deser­ted. Com­ple­te­ly sur­roun­ded by steep moun­ta­ins, the only access appears from the sea. But it is an beau­tiful place in its own way. Some old huts and hou­ses spread along the shore and in the forest of low birch trees. Huge rocks and steep moun­ta­ins. And very deep, soft snow. A very lone­so­me, very quiet place!

Stjernøya has always been an important place for the Sami peo­p­le, who call it Stierd­ná. They still keep reinde­er here during the sum­mer months.

Pho­to gal­lery Lil­le Kval­fjord

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

Then we set cour­se for Ham­mer­fest.


Ham­mer­fest – cool! None of us would have expec­ted that a week ago. I have never been here befo­re. And now we are sud­den­ly here! Nice!


The “old” cent­re of Ham­mer­fest in wea­ther that fits the lati­tu­de.

Ham­mer­fest is one of tho­se cities that cla­im to be the nor­t­hern­most one in the world. This may have been the case at some stage and of cour­se it will depend on your defi­ni­ti­on of a city. With a good 11,000 inha­bi­tants, it is cer­tain­ly a good bit lar­ger than Lon­gye­ar­by­en, no doubt.

So we spent Fri­day here, again with some pret­ty impres­si­ve wea­ther chan­ges.

Struve-Meridian, Hammerfest

The monu­ment of the Struve meri­di­an in Ham­mer­fest.

And the­re are quite a few things to see and to do. The­re is the town its­elf, of cour­se, with its streets and shops, pubs and cafés and churches. The­re is the monu­ment of the Struve meri­di­an, which was quite an impres­si­ve bit of sci­en­ti­fic work of the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry, cove­ring a geo­de­tic arc from the Black Sea to – exact­ly – Ham­mer­fest. The­re is the world famous polar bear club (no, I did not join) and the muse­um about the regio­nal histo­ry, main­ly focus­sing on the awful years of the second world war which brought com­ple­te des­truc­tion to the who­le area. This is why Ham­mer­fest does not have any older buil­dings.

It is easy to spend a day here.

Now we expect to lea­ve for Bear Island and Spits­ber­gen tomor­row (Satur­day).

Pho­to gal­lery Ham­mer­fest

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


An after­noon under sail brought us yes­ter­day to Kåfjord, at the head of Alta­fjord. The­re was a cop­per mine here a long time ago, you can still see the remains in this beau­tiful win­ter and moun­tain sce­n­ery. We got a good bit of snow yes­ter­day evening!

The wea­ther is inde­ed doing fun­ny things the­se days. It will have to chan­ge a bit befo­re we can ven­ture out in the Barents Sea and set cour­se for Bear Island.



But we good some fair winds later so we could put the sails up again, sai­ling nor­thwards in Alta­fjord. We had the idea to visit Oks­fjord, but drop­ped that again quick­ly after a tas­te of the strong head­wind in Stjern­sund.

Meander under sail, Altafjord

Mean­der under sail in Alta­fjord.

Foto gal­lery Kåfjord

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

The arc­tic tra­vel blog con­tin­ued: with SV Mean­der in Alta­fjor­den

Full speed ahead 🙂 with SV Mean­der in Alta in north Nor­way, bet­ween Trom­sø and Nord­kapp. Mean­der isn’t a new ship – she was ori­gi­nal­ly built in 1946 and has been rebuilt seve­ral times sin­ce – but she is new up here for us, so I am more than just a litt­le bit exci­ted, and so is the group of 11 arc­tic tra­vel­lers and the crew: captain/owner Mario, mate (and also cap­tain) Hei­ne, deck­hand Bas­ti­an and chef Eek.

We went on board in Alta. A town that was com­ple­te­ly des­troy­ed in the second world war, so all the archi­tec­tu­re is quite modern.


Start­ing in Alta. Here is the nor­t­hern light cathe­dral in the city cent­re.

We left the pier on Mon­day late after­noon and sai­led out into the fjord. Our main desti­na­ti­ons are Bear Island (Bjørnøya) and Spits­ber­gen, but we will first spend some days in regio­nal coas­tal waters. A very clear and easy decis­i­on, con­side­ring the wea­ther fore­cast.

SV Meander in Alta

SV Mean­der in Alta.

So our first place is Årøy, a litt­le island in Alta­fjord. A silent place today with only 18 inha­bi­tants, but Årøy has a histo­ry of many hundred years. And it is a sceni­cal­ly beau­tiul place. And it has some very quick wea­ther chan­ges!

SV Meander at Årøy

SV Mean­der ancho­red off Årøy in Alta­fjord.

Yes, the wea­ther chan­ges were real­ly ama­zing. We spent the mor­ning hiking over the island and we went from silent snow fall to bliz­zard to bright suns­hi­ne and back again! Have a look at the pho­tos for some impres­si­ons:

Pho­to gal­lery Alta – Årøy

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

Fatal snow mobi­le acci­dent on Lon­gye­ar­breen

On Sun­day (10 April) after­noon, an acci­dent hap­pen­ed on Lon­gye­ar­breen, a gla­cier a few kilo­me­t­res south of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, during a snow mobi­le tour. One per­son was sever­ely inju­red and later offi­ci­al­ly con­firm­ed dead.

Offi­ci­al infor­ma­ti­on that is publi­cal­ly available so far is limi­t­ed to the fact that the casu­al­ty was a woman who was not a local resi­dent. The acci­dent hap­pen­ed during a pri­va­te snow mobi­le tour. So far, the­re is no infor­ma­ti­on available regar­ding the acci­dent cau­se.

Lon­gye­ar­breen is a com­mon snow mobi­le rou­te, and traf­fic the­re is fre­quent during the sea­son.

Snow mobile accident, Longyearbreen

Lower Lon­gye­ar­breen. This is the area whe­re the fatal snow mobi­le acci­dent hap­pen­ed yes­ter­day after­noon (pho­to taken in late March 2022).

P.S. in an ear­lier ver­si­on of this artic­le it was writ­ten that the casu­al­ty was tra­vel­ling with a gui­ded group. This was not cor­rect. She was tra­vel­ling with a group with both local and non-local mem­bers.

Com­ple­ti­on: On Mon­day, the name of the casu­al­ty was released by the aut­ho­ri­ties after con­sul­ta­ti­on with her fami­ly. It was a Nor­we­gi­an woman from Trond­heim.

Sanc­tions will hit Barents­burg

The inter­na­tio­nal sanc­tions intro­du­ced by many count­ries as a reac­tion to the Rus­si­an war of aggres­si­on and exter­mi­na­ti­on against the Ukrai­ne will also hit the Rus­si­an north inclu­ding Barents­burg.

Mur­mansk is Russia’s most important har­bour for coal export. Accor­ding to Barents Obser­ver, years of signi­fi­cant growth resul­ted in export of more than 16 mil­li­on tons in 2019. Most of the coal was expor­ted to the EU – main­ly Ger­ma­ny – the UK and Isra­el. The growth led to plans for a new coal har­bour in Lav­na on the Kola pen­in­su­la. The cur­rent deve­lo­p­ment invol­ves major ques­ti­on­marks for this pro­ject.

Com­pared to the Mur­mansk exports, coal pro­duc­tion in and ship­ping from Barents­burg is small, and irrele­vant to the world mar­ket. A bit more than 100,000 tons are pro­du­ced annu­al­ly in Barents­burg, of which some­thing near 30,000 tons are used in the local coal power plant and the rest is for export. The­se exports are glo­bal­ly insi­gni­fi­cant, but nevert­hel­ess important for Barents­burg in terms of eco­no­my and jobs. Of near 400 inha­bi­tants, around 150 are working in the coal mine, inclu­ding many Ukrai­ni­ans.

Coal mining, Barentsburg

Coal sto­rage and indus­try rela­ted to coal mining in Barents­burg: inter­na­tio­nal sanc­tions will hit here as well.

Coal from Barents­burg was main­ly sold to the UK in recent years, but it appears very unli­kely that the United King­dom will con­ti­nue this trade. This would sever­ely dama­ge a major part of Barentsburg’s eco­no­mic­al foun­da­ti­on. Tou­rism has been deve­lo­ped in Barents­burg in recent years, but this indus­tri­al sec­tor has lar­ge­ly col­lap­sed during the last two years becau­se of the pan­de­mic and now becau­se of the war and asso­cia­ted sanc­tions, lea­ving coal mining as the only indus­try in Barents­burg.

Irri­ta­ting inter­view of the Rus­si­an con­sul in Barents­burg

Last week – befo­re the pic­tures of the cruel­ties in But­cha went around the world – the Rus­si­an con­sul in Barents­burg irri­ta­ted the public with an inter­view with Nor­we­gi­an media (nettavisen.no) say­ing the images of the exten­si­ve des­truc­tions in Mariu­pol were in some cases staged and in other cases fake. He cal­led wes­tern media “fake news”, espe­ci­al­ly refer­ring to Nor­we­gi­an media, while pre­ten­ding that Rus­si­an infor­ma­ti­on is true. The artic­le by net­ta­vi­sen is Nor­we­gi­an, but near the end it includes a video of the inter­view with the con­sul in Eng­lish.

The inha­bi­tants of Barents­burg seem to avo­id poli­ti­cal dis­cus­sions both among­st each other and with media, as NRK found out during a visit to the sett­le­ment.

Cha­ri­ty: a heart for the Ukrai­ne – hand­ma­de in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

As a cha­ri­ty, you can buy a pin in the shape a heart in the colours of the Ukrai­ne in the spitsbergen-svalbard.com web­shop. The pins are hand­ma­de in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the enti­re returns are cha­ri­ty for vic­tims of the Rus­si­an war against the Ukrai­ne. Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on.

Cus­toms con­trols in Spits­ber­gen – becau­se of Rus­si­an war against the Ukrai­ne

So far, the­re have not been any cus­toms con­trols in Spits­ber­gen. The­re was just no need: due to the regu­la­ti­ons of the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty, taxes are redu­ced. The­re is no value-added tax and no import taxes. Hence, the­re were no cus­toms con­trols.

This is about to chan­ge.

Longyearbyen airport, customs control

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: no cus­toms con­trol, just a polar bear.
This will chan­ge soon (no, the polar bear is not about to dis­ap­pear).

The back­ground is the Rus­si­an war of aggres­si­on against the Ukrai­ne and the inter­na­tio­nal sanc­tions intro­du­ced in that con­text. Nor­way wants to make sure that Rus­sia does not use Spits­ber­gen as a logi­sti­cal loopho­le to import goods that are sanc­tion­ed. This could be pos­si­ble becau­se the­re is no con­trol of goods coming to Spits­ber­gen and the­re is ship traf­fic bet­ween the Rus­si­an sett­le­ment Barents­burg and Rus­sia.

This is about to chan­ge. The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment ins­truc­ted the tax aut­ho­ri­ties to estab­lish a local pre­sence and main­tain con­trols as neces­sa­ry, accor­ding to NRK. Cus­toms con­trols are announ­ced to be in place alre­a­dy in ear­ly May.

It is also announ­ced that this mea­su­re is not plan­ned to be per­ma­nent, but will be main­tai­ned as long as the­re is a need.

Polar bear war­ning sys­tem to be released

Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties have announ­ced a polar bear war­ning sys­tem in coope­ra­ti­on with the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and Elon Musk’s satel­li­te-based com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on sys­tem Star­link.

As a first step, the who­le popu­la­ti­on of Spitsbergen’s polar bears will recei­ved micro­chips pro­vi­ded by Bill Gates. The­se chips include a micro-sen­der that sends signals that will be picked up by the Star­link satel­li­tes and for­ward­ed to through ground sta­ti­ons to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te in real time. As a result, the posi­ti­on of each and every sin­gle polar bear in Spits­ber­gen will be known at any time.

Polar bear with sender

Fema­le polar bear with tra­cker. The new gene­ra­ti­on of sen­ders will be much smal­ler, which is also expec­ted to signi­fi­cant­ly impro­ve the well-being of the ani­mals.

The public, howe­ver, will not have access to the data set as such, but users can down­load an app that works in a simi­lar way as the coro­na-warn-apps, informing the user when a polar bear is in the vici­ni­ty. Fee-pay­ing users of the pro ver­si­on can even use a func­tion to let the micro­chips instal­led in the ears of the bear blink bright­ly, to make it easier to see the approa­ching bear in the field – a fea­ture espe­ci­al­ly useful during the polar night. All ver­si­ons of the app will pro­du­ce a loud war­ning signal when a polar bear approa­ches within 5 met­res.

In the future it is plan­ned to deve­lop the sys­tem fur­ther so that the beha­viour of polar bears can be con­trol­led through the app, for exam­p­le to make aggres­si­ve polar bears turn around and walk away peaceful­ly.

The first ver­si­on of the app is curr­ent­ly under deve­lo­p­ment. The release of the final ver­si­on is sche­du­led for April 01, 2222. It will then not be available here in the Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com web­shop.


News-Listing live generated at 2024/May/26 at 06:21:08 Uhr (GMT+1)