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Daily Archives: 29. July 2022 − News & Stories


The (almost) ever­y­day mad­ness con­ti­nues

It is nice to be some­whe­re remo­te, far away from civi­liz­a­ti­on and off­line, as we were on board SV Anti­gua until Wed­nes­day (27th July). Without any con­nec­tion to the out­side world other than satel­li­te-based com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, far from fit for real inter­net.

Back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, this all chan­ges. The world news are most­ly depres­sing, but obvious­ly not what this page is about. Com­pa­red to much of what is going on in the world, Spits­ber­gen is and remains a peace­ful place without major trou­bles. But still, things hap­pen here and many of them are not gre­at at all.

One can only won­der what was got into some peop­le who are working wit­hin tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen, stee­ring ships or boats or being in respon­si­ble posi­ti­ons on them. Two French expe­di­ti­on ships (or small crui­se ships, wha­te­ver you pre­fer) got their guns remo­ved recent­ly becau­se they did not have the requi­red papers. About 50 wea­pons in total! That can inde­ed rai­se an eye­brow or two. At least, mista­kes made in this case were made on paper and not during navi­ga­ti­on on the bridge or in the field, whe­re major mista­kes can have ent­i­re­ly dif­fe­rent con­se­quen­ces.

As will beco­me clear in this case, in case anyo­ne may won­der. After the groun­ding of the Vir­go in Fuglefjord a cou­p­le of weeks ago, the Oce­an Atlan­tic, a major expe­di­ti­on ship (or: see abo­ve) ope­ra­ted by Alba­tross Expe­di­ti­ons, touched the ground (or ice?) some­whe­re. The inci­dent was serious enough to have cau­sed dama­ge to the hull, invol­ving ingres­si­on of water. And as if that had not yet been enough, the crew did not deem it necessa­ry to inform the Nor­we­gi­an mari­ti­me aut­ho­ri­ty, who could have dis­patched res­cue for­ces to be on stand-by in the vicini­ty of the Oce­an Explo­rer in case of an esca­la­ti­on. It is pro­bab­ly need­less to say that such a report to the mari­ti­me aut­ho­ri­ty would have been requi­red by law, and talk of luck that the situa­ti­on did not dete­rio­ra­te. The crew on board was able to con­trol the situa­ti­on. Nevertheless, someo­ne on board felt uncom­for­ta­ble enough to make a pho­ne call at some sta­ge, and soon the Oce­an Atlan­tic was escor­ted to Lon­gye­ar­by­en by a Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard ves­sel. Now the ship is ancho­red in Advent­fjord, awai­t­ing inspec­tion. Ear­lier con­trols this year had alrea­dy reve­a­led more than 20 serious secu­ri­ty flaws.

Com­ment: inc­redu­lous shaking of the head.

Ocean Atlantic, Longyearbyen

Oce­an Atlan­tic in the port of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Less dra­ma­tic, but nevertheless serious and making one won­der, is the inci­dent whe­re a Zodiac fleet belon­ging to Hon­di­us went to a small island in Kongsfjord to give their pas­sen­gers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see a polar bear. Wit­nes­ses claim that the boats were clo­se enough to cau­se dis­tur­ban­ce of the ani­mal or even put peop­le or the bear at risk, but this may be a mat­ter of con­tro­ver­si­al deba­te; it is said that the boats were “at one time wit­hin 50 meters”, a distance that does not at all necessa­ri­ly (but may) invol­ve dis­tur­ban­ce or even risk to life and limb of man or beast. It is not pos­si­ble to say more about this aspect of the inci­dent without fur­ther know­ledge of rele­vant details.

But one thing is clear, unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly: the island in ques­ti­on is part of a bird sanc­tua­ry. From 15th May to 15th August, a mini­mum distance of 300 metres from the island’s (and neigh­bou­ring islands) shores are requi­red for all traf­fic, inclu­ding boats. This regu­la­ti­on has been in for­ce for deca­des.

Com­ment: also here, one can only won­der how this could hap­pen. The only explana­ti­on this aut­hor can think of is an asto­nis­hing lack of know­ledge regar­ding rele­vant regu­la­ti­ons. This should not have hap­pen­ed to the expe­di­ti­on staff of a ship ope­ra­ted by a com­a­pa­ny with deca­des of regio­nal expe­ri­ence, an opi­ni­on shared by the chief ope­ra­ting offi­cer of the com­pa­ny in ques­ti­on as repor­ted by Sval­bard­pos­ten. The inci­dent is likely the deba­te about a cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on sche­me for gui­des, some­thing which in its­elf is not necessa­ry a bad thing at all, alt­hough this deba­te is not necessa­ri­ly going a fruit­ful way eit­her, but that is ano­t­her issue.

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News-Listing live generated at 2022/September/29 at 08:58:01 Uhr (GMT+1)
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