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 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.
By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be ordered 🙂 it is a photo book with the title “Norwegens arktischer Norden (3): Die Bäreninsel und Jan Mayen”, with German text Click here for further details!
Lofoten, Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen from the air - Photobook: Norway's arctic islands. The text in this book is German, but there is very little text, so I am sure that you will enjoy it regardless which languages you read (or not).
The companion book for the Svalbardhytter poster. The poster visualises the diversity of Spitsbergen‘s huts and their stories in a range of Arctic landscapes. The book tells the stories of the huts in three languages.
Comprehensive guidebook about Spitsbergen. Background (wildlife, plants, geology, history etc.), practical information including travelling seasons, how to travel, description of settlements, routes and regions.
Join an exciting journey with dog, skis and tent through the wintery wastes of East Greenland! We were five guys and a dog when we started in Ittoqqortoormiit, the northernmost one of two settlements on Greenland’s east coast.
12 postcards which come in a beautifully designed tray. Beautiful images from South Georgia across Antarctica from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Ross Sea and up to Macquarie Island and Campbell Island.