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Yearly Archives: 2022 − News

Ath­lets from Bar­ents­burg and Lon­gye­ar­by­en met for com­pe­ti­ti­on

It should be a mat­ter of cour­se, but it isn’t at at time when the Rus­si­an war of aggres­si­on still rages in the Ukrai­ne: des­pi­te of all distrust bet­ween Rus­sia and the wes­tern world on various levels, ath­lets from Lon­gye­ar­by­en went to Bar­ents­burg on Sunday to meet the local ath­le­tes the­re for a sport com­pe­ti­ti­on. The sport­speop­le from Lon­gye­ar­by­en got trans­port to Bar­ents­burg with the governor’s ship Polar­sys­sel and got a friend­ly wel­co­me in Bar­ents­burg, befo­re they enga­ged in com­pe­ti­ti­ons wit­hin bad­min­ton, table ten­nis, chess, floo­r­ball, vol­ley­ball and foot­ball.

Football, Barentsburg

Foot­ball match in Bar­ents­burg (archi­ve image, 2019).

If you are inte­res­ted in the results, you can find them in more detail in Sval­bard­pos­ten but the bot­tom­li­ne adds an addi­tio­nal sur­pri­se to the who­le thing: the ath­lets from Lon­gye­ar­by­en won all com­pe­ti­ti­ons.

But the most important thing is obvious­ly that peop­le from both sides met in a peace­ful and even friend­ly way, roun­ding the event off with a ban­quet.

Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy: sci­ence or spy­ing?

Inter­na­tio­nal poli­tics tou­ch­ing Sval­bard remain hea­vi­ly affec­ted by the dif­fi­cult rela­ti­ons­hip to Rus­sia. Cur­r­ent­ly, a Rus­si­an app­li­ca­ti­on filed by the Rus­si­an embas­sy in Oslo on behalf of the Inti­tu­te for mari­ne bio­lo­gy in Mur­mansk is causing some dis­cus­sion amongst Nor­we­gi­an secu­ri­ty experts and poli­ti­ci­ans. The Mur­mansk insti­tu­te wants to car­ry out a rese­arch voya­ge with the ves­sel Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy from 15 Decem­ber 2022 to 10 Janu­a­ry 2023, with a major pro­por­ti­on of the time spent in Sval­bard waters.

Professor Molchanov, Longyearbyen

Rus­si­an ships were often char­ted by wes­tern com­pa­nies and insti­tu­ti­ons during bet­ter years in the past. Here we see MV Pro­fes­sor Mol­cha­nov in Advent­fjord – in 2013, years after she was released from char­ter con­tracts with wes­tern expe­di­ti­on crui­se com­pa­nies
(archi­ve image, illus­tra­ti­on only).

Experts have told the Nor­we­gi­an news web­site NRK that it would be nai­ve to assu­me that real sci­ence would be the only pur­po­se of the trip. Offi­cial­ly, the voya­ge is meant to gather water and bot­tom sam­ples in Sval­bard waters and the Bar­ents Sea and experts don’t doubt that this kind of rese­arch will actual­ly be car­ri­ed out – but not as the only mis­si­on of the Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy. Secu­ri­ty poli­tics experts say that the insti­tu­te for mari­ne bio­lo­gy in Mur­mansk has strong con­nec­tions to the Rus­si­an navy, inclu­ding a pro­gram­me to train wha­les and seals for mili­ta­ry pur­po­ses. They say that the insi­tu­te is “not an inno­cent sci­en­ti­fic play­er, but a civi­li­an insti­tu­ti­on with a strong mili­ta­ry aspect”, and one would have to expect the sche­du­led Sval­bard crui­se to inclu­de a non-sci­en­ti­fic com­po­nent. This might be any­whe­re wit­hin sabo­ta­ge and spy­ing or trans­port of mili­ta­ry goods and per­so­nell, for examp­le to Bar­ents­burg, which the ves­sel is sche­du­led to visit during the crui­se. This could be done tog­e­ther with a sci­en­ti­fic pro­gram­me which in its­elf inde­ed might be harm­less. In ear­lier years, the Dal­nie Zel­ent­sy was also used by wes­tern sci­en­tists, for examp­le from UNIS, for rese­arch in Sval­bard.

Also other Rus­si­an “sci­en­ti­fic” ves­sels have recent­ly been seen near important Nor­we­gi­an infra­st­ruc­tu­re, for examp­le of the oil and gas indus­try, and experts expect the infor­ma­ti­on gathe­red by them to be poli­ti­cal rather than sci­en­ti­fic, at least in part. Ano­t­her pur­po­se of the­se acti­vi­ties may be to keep Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties such as the coast­guard busy to wear them out over time.

As a con­clu­si­on, the experts demand the rejec­tion of the app­li­ca­ti­on from Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­ci­ans, which is said to be legal­ly pos­si­ble withe the 12 mile zone of Sval­bard but more dif­fi­cult out­side.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: power sup­ply without coal from 2023

One thing is for sure: Lon­gye­ar­by­en needs a new ener­gy sys­tem. The old coal power plant is, well, exact­ly that: a) old and b) a coal power plant. On Wed­nes­day, an admi­nis­tra­ti­ve board wit­hin the com­mu­ni­ty admi­nis­tra­ti­on of Lon­gye­ar­by­en con­fir­med an ear­lier decisi­on of the com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil (Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re) to run Longyearbyen’s ener­gy sup­ply without coal from late 2023.

But anyo­ne who expects a modern, cli­ma­te-neu­tral ener­gy sup­ply is in for a disap­point­ment: to start with, ener­gy will be sup­plied by a die­sel-based power sta­ti­on, which will be an upgraded ver­si­on of today’s stand­by power plant. A cli­ma­te-neu­tral solu­ti­on is, howe­ver, who Lon­gye­ar­by­en wants and needs on the long term: green­house gas emis­si­ons are to be redu­ced by 70-80 % until 2030. The plan is to achie­ve this with a mix of tech­no­lo­gies likely to inclu­de pho­to­vol­taics, wind and bat­te­ry-based ener­gy sto­rage solu­ti­ons.

Coal power station, Longyearbyen

The coal power sta­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The dis­cus­sion about a new solu­ti­on is almost as old as the power plant its­elf.

But cli­ma­te pro­tec­tion is not the rea­son for the move from coal to die­sel. Accord­ing to Sval­bard­pos­ten, secu­ri­ty of sup­ply is one main rea­son. Power cuts are a rather well-known phe­no­me­non in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The latest one was just two days ago on Wed­nes­day in the late after­noon. It las­ted, with a bit of on and off, for 1.5 hours. Addi­tio­nal­ly it is said that the fur­ther ope­ra­ti­on of the coal power plant would requi­re incre­a­sing main­tai­nan­ce and finan­cial efforts, and the working con­di­ti­ons for the staff are not up to date.

Based on the expec­ted deve­lo­p­ment of ener­gy pri­ces, howe­ver, the chan­ge to die­sel is expec­ted to bring an incre­a­se of some­thing near 14 % to con­su­mers in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It does not sur­pri­se that Wednesday’s con­fir­ma­ti­on of the decisi­on was met with a loud deba­te in local social media groups in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re are many who are proud of Longyearbyen’s coal mining histo­ry and many doubt that impor­ted die­sel, bought on poten­ti­al­ly tur­bu­lent world mar­kets, is a bet­ter solu­ti­on than local coal.

Rus­sia and Nor­way agree on fishe­ry quo­tas for the Bar­ents Sea

Wes­tern coun­tries have redu­ced their con­nec­tions to Rus­sia to a mini­mum, but the­re are still a few open chan­nels in use and both sides are still able to make agree­ments that many will think of as sur­pri­sing: Nor­way and Rus­sia have sea­led an agree­ment on fishe­ry quo­tas for the Bar­ents Sea and the Nor­we­gi­an Sea, at the Bar­ents­ob­ser­ver reports.

Russian fishing vessel, Barents Sea

Rus­si­an fishing ves­sel in the Bar­ents Sea.

The Nor­we­gi­an-Rus­si­an Joint Fishe­ry Com­mis­si­on has been in exis­tence sin­ce 1976. It sets over­all quo­tas for eco­no­mi­c­al­ly important spe­ci­es such as cod, had­dock, cape­lin and hali­but and it defi­nes the share that the fishing fleets of the two coun­tries get. The indi­vi­du­al share is usual­ly near 50 % of the total quo­ta.

The quo­ta for cod was redu­ced now for two times in a row by 20 %.

Nor­way and Rus­sia also agreed to con­ti­nue their coope­ra­ti­on wit­hin the sci­en­ti­fic moni­to­ring of fish stocks and rela­ted admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

As a con­se­quence of Russia’s war against the Ukrai­ne, Nor­way has clo­sed most ports for Rus­si­an fishing ves­sels. Only Trom­so, Båtsfjord and Kirkenes remain acces­si­ble for Rus­si­an ships, which are regu­lar­ly sub­ject to minu­te con­trols in the­se ports. Rus­sia has announ­ced to ter­mi­na­te the coope­ra­ti­on with Nor­way in case the government in Oslo deci­des on fur­ther restric­tions. On the other side, Nor­we­gi­an fisher­men com­p­lain about fre­quent clo­sings of lar­ge are­as in the Rus­si­an sec­tor of the­se waters due to mili­ta­ry exer­ci­ses. This often hap­pens on short noti­ce, which trou­bles the fishi­ung fleet.

Rus­si­an espio­na­ge in Nor­way inclu­ding Sval­bard

Russia’s hybrid war against the west has star­ted to hit Nor­way, inclu­ding the country’s arc­tic islands of Sval­bard. Dro­nes of unknown ori­gin have in recent weeks been seen fly­ing near important infra­st­ruc­tu­re inclu­ding tech­no­lo­gy of the oil and gas indus­try. In some cases, this has inclu­ded dro­nes fly­ing several thousand metres high, well bey­ond the ran­ge of small con­su­mer-type dro­nes that are used for examp­le by ama­teur pho­to­graph­ers. Today (Tues­day, 25 Octo­ber) a man was arres­ted in Trom­sø, as NRK repor­ted. The man is suspec­ted of espio­na­ge under fal­se iden­ti­ty for a Rus­si­an intel­li­gence ser­vice.

Drone Spitsbergen

Dro­nes can be used for a wide ran­ge of pur­po­ses, from inno­cent pho­to­gra­phy through sci­en­ti­fic work, SAR and poli­ce ope­ra­ti­ons up to espio­na­ge, mili­ta­ry ope­ra­ti­ons and bomb ter­ror. The pho­to shows a public demons­tra­ti­on of dro­nes used by the Sys­sel­mes­ter of Sval­bard for admin­stra­ti­ve pur­po­ses and SAR and poli­ce ope­ra­ti­ons.

Ano­t­her man was arres­ted becau­se of ille­gal dro­ne flights in Sval­bard. Accord­ing to Bar­ents­ob­ser­ver, the man has con­nec­tions to Putin’s envi­ron­ment. He is suspec­ted of having made ille­gal dro­ne pho­tos that are cur­r­ent­ly under poli­ce inves­ti­ga­ti­on. The­re are several no fly zones in Sval­bard, such as the 5 km safe­ty zones sur­roun­ding the air­ports. Addi­tio­nal­ly, Nor­way does not allow Rus­si­an citi­zens to fly dro­nes any­whe­re in Nor­we­gi­an air­space as a reac­tion to the Rus­si­an war in the Ukrai­ne. A lawy­er of the suspec­ted man has indi­ca­ted to pos­si­b­ly chal­len­ge this ban becau­se of the Sval­bard Treaty’s requi­re­ment of equal tre­at­ment, but if such a move would be suc­cess­ful in court is an open ques­ti­on at best.

Such Rus­si­an acti­vi­ties are likely inten­ded to crea­te fee­lings of uncer­tain­ty, con­fu­si­on and fear in other coun­tries.

Mine 7: coal mining until 2025

Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in mine 7 in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en will be con­ti­nued until 2025, as the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK) exp­lai­ned in a press release. The rea­son is the chan­ged geo­po­li­ti­cal situa­ti­on and its impli­ca­ti­ons for glo­bal ener­gy mar­kets.

Mine 7

Mine 7 is loca­ted on a moun­tain in Advent­da­len.

Ear­lier, 2023 was set as the last year of Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Spits­ber­gen. One main rea­son to main­tain coal pro­duc­tion is, so far, the sup­ply for the local coal power plant, but the com­mu­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en aims at fin­ding a new power solu­ti­on and has not rene­wed the con­tract with the mining com­pa­ny bey­ond 2023.

But the demand for coal on the inter­na­tio­nal mar­kets is high and so are the pri­ces. Hence, SNSK could secu­re good con­tracts until 2025. For many years, the Cla­ri­ant group has been the main cus­to­mer for Nor­we­gi­an coal from Spits­ber­gen, and will remain so until 2025.

In 2021 – befo­re the Rus­si­an war against the Ukrai­ne star­ted, SNSK incre­a­sed its tur­no­ver to 93 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner, com­pa­red to 48 mil­li­on kro­ner in 2020 – without chan­ges of the annu­al pro­duc­tion.

The­re are cur­r­ent­ly bet­ween 40 and 45 peop­le working in mine 7. SNSK plans to incre­a­se the num­ber of employees in mine 7 to 52, with an annu­al pro­duc­tion of 125,000 tons.

Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol exclu­ded from Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd

The local tou­rism asso­cia­ti­on Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd has exclu­ded Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol from its mem­bers. This was deci­ded today (12 Octo­ber) during a board mee­ting.

Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol is a com­pa­ny owned by the Rus­si­an sta­te. The Trust owns and runs Bar­ents­burg and all acti­vi­ties the­re, inclu­ding tou­rism.

Trust Arcticugol

Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol, here in Pyra­mi­den: exclu­ded from Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd and Visit Sval­bard.

One con­se­quence is that the offe­rings of Goa­rc­ti­ca, the Trust’s daugh­ter com­pa­ny for tou­rims, are not avail­ab­le any­mo­re on Visit Sval­bard, an important boo­king plat­form for local tour ope­ra­tors.

The rea­son is the Rus­si­an war of aggres­si­on in and against the Ukrai­ne. Chair­man Ron­ny Strøm­nes poin­ted out that it was not pos­si­ble any­mo­re to remain pas­si­ve, con­si­de­ring the Rus­si­an inva­si­on and seve­re vio­la­ti­ons of public inter­na­tio­nal law and human rights. Strøm­nes empha­si­zed that today’s decisi­on is direc­ted against the Rus­si­an government and not against the peop­le in Bar­ents­burg. He expres­sed hope that the future deve­lo­p­ment will make nor­mal rela­ti­ons­hips pos­si­ble again, inclu­ding a rene­wed mem­bers­hip of Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol in Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd.

Goa­rc­ti­ca, the Trust’s tou­rism branch, publis­hed a video on social media showing how the lights are being tur­ned off in various loca­ti­ons in Bar­ents­burg.

Rus­sia, Nor­way, Sval­bard and deep sea cable

One could almost laugh if it wasn’t actual­ly so serious and sad, and with such a dra­ma­tic geo­po­li­ti­cal back­ground: the­re is, on one side, a small coun­try that more or less regu­lar­ly sends a coast­guard or navy ship to remo­te parts of its waters to show pre­sence and to patrol the­se waters.

And on the other hand, the­re is a huge coun­try in the neigh­bour­hood, that has been pro­vo­king the who­le regi­on and many coun­tries bey­ond that with tools wit­hin mili­ta­ry and other are­as, inclu­ding inter­net trolls, cyber attacks and so on and so forth, up to sabo­ta­ge of public infra­st­ruc­tu­re.

The big coun­try obvious­ly thinks it has all the right of the world to do all this, or they just pre­tend it must have been someo­ne else.

At the same time, the same big coun­try claims that the navy pre­sence of the small coun­try is an inac­cep­ta­ble pro­vo­ka­ti­on and a bre­ach of important inter­na­tio­nal trea­ties.

This is, of cour­se, a very much sim­pli­fied and, to some degree, pole­mic sum­ma­ry of the cur­rent events. But just the fact that it seems safe to assu­me that all rea­ders will know which coun­tries this is about is tale-tel­ling.

Coastguard, Svalbard

Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard ship in Sval­bard waters.

So, what hap­pen­ed now? Recent­ly, Rus­sia accu­sed Nor­way once again to have breached the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty (often refer­red to as the Sval­bard Trea­ty) with their mili­ta­ry pre­sence in Sval­bard. It is the regu­lar pre­sence of Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard ships and occa­sio­na­ly a fri­ga­te in Sval­bard waters that alle­ged­ly irri­ta­tes Rus­sia. With this back­ground, it would be an idea to have a look at what the abo­ve-men­tio­ned trea­ty acc­tual­ly says, but on the other hand, who in Moscow cares about what is actual­ly writ­ten in a trea­ty? But just in case someo­ne else­whe­re is inte­res­ted, this is the rele­vant Arti­cle 9 of the trea­ty: “… Nor­way under­ta­kes not to crea­te nor to allow the estab­lish­ment of any naval base in the ter­ri­to­ries spe­ci­fied in Arti­cle 1 and not to con­struct any for­ti­fi­ca­ti­on in the said ter­ri­to­ries, which may never be used for war­li­ke pur­po­ses”.

That is actual­ly pret­ty clear and strai­ght­for­ward. And so are any con­clu­si­ons one might draw from the text. Nor­way doesn’t do anything that is in con­flict with arc­ti­cle 9. Full stop. End of this part of the sto­ry. The rest is just pro­vo­ka­ti­on.

Ano­t­her sto­ry is that of the deep sea cables. This is, if at all, then only at a very quick, first, super­fi­cial glance inde­pen­dent from the first sto­ry. The­re are cables that con­nect Lon­gye­ar­by­en to main­land Nor­way, to pro­vi­de fast and reli­able – that is the idea, at least – com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on for ever­ything from pho­ne­calls and ever­y­day inter­net use to satel­li­te data from Sval­Sat, the satel­li­te anten­na field near Lon­gye­ar­by­en which is of gre­at impor­t­ance for many inter­na­tio­nal users inclu­ding orga­ni­sa­ti­ons such as ESA and NASA and others. One of the­se cables – the­re are two, for safe­ty rea­sons – was dama­ged in Janu­a­ry (click here to read more about that). Soon it was estab­lis­hed that the dama­ge was done by humans and not by natu­ral pro­ces­ses.

Recent­ly, the move­ments of a cer­tain Rus­si­an fish traw­ler were deba­ted in media such as NRK. A ship known by the name Mel­kart-5 cros­sed the posi­ti­on abo­ve the cables in the area of the dama­ge more than 100 times wit­hin a few days. Bey­ond that, the­re is an impres­si­ve list of move­ments of this ship and its ten­der near pla­ces such as Nor­we­gi­an oil and gas fiel­ds, pipe­lines and a bridge near Kirkenes that is regu­lar­ly used during Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry exer­ci­ses. In addi­ti­on, the­re are long peri­ods, whe­re no signal of the ship’s AIS was recei­ved any­whe­re at all.

Russian fishing vessels, Svalbard

Rus­si­an fishing ves­sels han­ding over car­go in Sval­bard waters.

The­se are the facts. Anything bey­ond this is spe­cu­la­ti­on, con­si­de­ring cur­rent public know­ledge.

Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties inclu­ding the Sys­sel­mes­ter of Sval­bard have expres­sed reg­ret that legis­la­ti­on to pro­tect sea floor infra­st­ruc­tu­re dates back to the stone age of the­se instal­la­ti­ons and does not pro­vi­de use­ful legal tools today.

The Spits­ber­gen dou­ble calen­der 2023 is avail­ab­le, with Bear Island and Jan May­en

The brand new Spits­ber­gen dou­ble calen­der 2023 is avail­ab­le! “Dou­ble calen­dar” means that the 12 calen­der she­ets are used on both sides, and addi­tio­nal­ly to the twel­ve beau­ti­ful Spits­ber­gen pho­tos you get ano­t­her twel­ve calen­der pages which are dedi­ca­ted to Bear Island an Jan May­en (six she­ets for each one of them). As always, my new Spits­ber­gen dou­ble calen­der has a com­ple­te­ly new selec­tion of pho­to­graphs and it comes in two sizes, A3 (lar­ger) and A5 (smal­ler). Click here for fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on and orde­ring.

P.S. save money by buy­ing several copies: if you order two or more, then the pri­ce per copy is lower. Christ­mas is on the way, and the­re is always someone’s bir­th­day com­ing up 🙂

Frost: queen without land or a cri­mi­nal polar bear?

As if an ani­mal such as a polar bear could be a cri­mi­nal. But the­re are tho­se in Lon­gye­ar­by­en who say that Frost is a cri­mi­nal polar bear.

Accord­ing to polar bear sci­en­tist Jon Aars, “Frost” is a fema­le polar bear, age almost 17 years, cap­tu­red and mar­ked by the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te for the first time in 2009 in Wij­defjord and known to sci­en­tists as N23992. In later years, Frost got cubs a num­ber of times: twins in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – the rapid seri­es indi­ca­ted that she must have lost her off­spring at least the first two times – and again twins in 2015 and 2017 and a sin­gle fema­le cub both in 2020 and 2022. Frost is a well-known polar bear for sci­en­tists, who have caught and mar­ked her repeated­ly.

Polar bear and hut in Adventfjord

Polar bear and hut in Advent­fjord.
It is not known if this polar bear actual­ly is Frost.

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, Frost and her sib­lings have many times had con­ta­ct to sett­le­ments, huts and humans, some­ti­mes with tra­gic con­se­quen­ces. In 2014, one of her twins from 2013 died in Bill­efjord under cir­cum­s­tan­ces not ful­ly reve­a­led but in clo­se tem­po­ral con­nec­tion to a sci­en­ti­fic ana­es­the­tiz­a­ti­on. The other one of the­se two unfor­tu­n­a­te twins was shot after it had been in a camp in Tem­pel­fjord in 2015, whe­re one per­son recei­ved minor inju­ries. The sad cli­max was, howe­ver, reached when one of Frost’s descen­dants kil­led cam­ping place mana­ger Johan Jaco­bus „Job“ Koot­te in his tent on the cam­ping place in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on 28 August, 2020. The polar bear was shot.

Frost got her popu­lar name in the docu­men­ta­ry “Queen without land” made by the Nor­we­gi­an film maker Asge­ir Hel­ge­stad.

Polar bear family, Billefjord

Polar bear fami­ly in Bill­efjord, Sep­tem­ber 2021.
It is unli­kely that this is frost, becau­se she got a sin­gle cub in 2020.

Frost appears to spend most of her time in Isfjord, with occa­sio­nal visits to inner Wij­defjord. She has appeared many times in the vicini­ty of the sett­le­ments, Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Pyra­mi­den, and occa­sio­nal­ly pro­bab­ly also wit­hin them. And she seems to have got used to brea­king into huts and tra­shing them in search for food, as hap­pen­ed recent­ly to the hut of Gre­en­dog, a com­mer­cial dogyard in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The Sys­sel­mes­ter (government representative/police) usual­ly tri­es to sca­re polar bears away with fla­re guns, heli­co­p­ters of snow mobi­les. If this doesn’t work, ana­es­the­tiz­a­ti­on and a flight to a remo­te place wit­hin Sval­bard are amongst the remai­ning opti­ons. But this has alrea­dy been done with Frost, only to see her com­ing back a while later. More robust, but non-let­hal deter­ring methods such as rub­ber bul­lets or pep­per spray or a “polar bear pri­son” as in Chur­chill, whe­re bears are kept for a while with only water and no food to teach them that get­ting too clo­se to sett­le­ments and humans is not a good thing, are appar­ent­ly not in the arse­nal of Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties.

Which means that a dead­ly rif­le shot soon comes into con­si­de­ra­ti­on. This was now pro­po­sed for Frost by Longyearbyen’s mayor, Arild Olsen, who said that Frost has beco­me a dan­ger to the public. But such a decisi­on can not be made by Longyearbyen’s mayor. Only the Sys­sel­mes­ter, cur­r­ent­ly Lars Fau­se, has the power to deci­de on this. Fau­se, howe­ver, said that the law does not per­mit the pre­ven­ti­ve shoo­ting of a bear. Ins­tead, it allows this final step only in case of dan­ger to human life; in excep­tio­nal cases also to pro­tect major mate­ri­al values.

But Fau­se said he alrea­dy made up is mind what to do when a polar bear comes clo­se to, for examp­le, the way to school of Longyearbyen’s child­ren.

St. Jonsfjord – Isfjord … and: end of sea­son

Stor­my times! What a luck that we have got wea­ther­for­casts the­se days, which are not always as good as one might wish but nevertheless give us a clue when trou­ble is on its way so we can usual­ly find our way around it, pro­vi­ded we have got enough time. So for now, we spent a rather grey, but nevertheless very inte­res­ting and good morning in St. Jonsfjord. Then we sai­led down For­landsund and into Isfjord, which was a bit of a bum­py road, but wit­hin rea­son (some of tho­se less acquain­ted to wind, seas and small ships may have a dif­fe­rent view on this, though).

We spent our last full day all the way in Isfjord, name­ly in Bill­efjord. Which was also pret­ty win­dy, but that didn’t keep us from spen­ding a beau­ti­ful day the­re befo­re it was time to set cour­se for Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Whe­re this voya­ge came to its end. A beau­ti­ful voya­ge, full of inte­res­ting and exci­ting expe­ri­en­ces in the arc­tic autumn, if some­thing such as this actual­ly exists (it is, actual­ly, a rather short tran­si­ti­on from sum­mer to win­ter). We did and saw so much, the­re were so many high­lights, such as the sun­ny day in Lomfjord or the lan­ding on Mof­fen with the curious wal­ru­ses, to men­ti­on just two out of many.

A huge thanks to ever­y­bo­dy who has con­tri­bu­t­ed to all this, to ever­ything that we could see and do in safe­ty and good spi­rits! All of you who joi­ned us for the­se exci­ting days, my good fel­low col­leagues Dani­el, Ire­ne and Mar­ty­na and of cour­se Cap­tain Jona­than and his good crew! You were fan­tastic, and I am loo­king for­ward to future trips with all of you!

This is, as far as I am con­cer­ned, the end of the arc­tic sai­ling sea­son 2022. A long seri­es of very good, ama­zing, inten­se voya­ges on various small and very small sai­ling ships, from Mean­der to Anti­gua and Arc­ti­ca II and back again. I am thank­ful for every sin­gle day of it!

Gal­le­ry – St. Jonsfjord to Isfjord – 19th – 22th Sep­tem­ber 2022

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

Polar bear inci­dent in Ekmanfjord

Today (Wed­nes­day, 08th August), a per­son was inju­red and a polar bear kil­led during an acci­dent at Sve­a­ne­set in Ekmanfjord.

Not much is known so far in public, but a polar bear came into a camp with 25 French tou­rists. A woman recei­ved inju­ries to her arm, but her con­di­ti­ons appears not to be life threa­tening.

The polar bear was shot at during the event and it is now repor­ted dead.

Fur­ther details are not avail­ab­le at the moment.

Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua: Pho­tos & short online dia­ry

Last week we finis­hed the latest arc­tic voya­ge with SV Anti­gua in Spits­ber­gen. Now the­re are several pages with pho­to gal­le­ries and short nar­ra­ti­ons avail­ab­le to illus­tra­te this beau­ti­ful jour­ney. It is a pri­vi­le­ge to expe­ri­ence this and it is a plea­su­re to share it here with ever­y­bo­dy who might be curious – it was an ama­zing trip and it is cer­tain­ly worth having a look at the pic­tures. Click here to start.

Antigua, Magdalenefjord

Anti­gua in Mag­da­le­n­efjord, on a beau­ti­ful mid July evening.


P.S. if you pre­fer to expe­ri­ence Spits­ber­gen yourself (whon wouldn’t?), then you can join us in Sep­tem­ber becau­se a cabin on Anti­gua is avail­ab­le again after a can­cel­la­ti­on. Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on or get in touch, ide­al­ly direct­ly with Geo­gra­phi­sche Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft (Ger­man spea­king depar­tu­re, so you should at least be able to under­stand some Ger­man).

Sveagru­va: air con­nec­tion is histo­ry

In 2017, it was deci­ded that the for­mer coal mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va would be aban­do­ned and actual­ly most­ly phy­si­cal­ly clea­ned up and remo­ved. A mile­stone was reached recent­ly, on 01st August, when the final flight took off from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Sveagru­va and back. This 20 minu­te air con­nec­tion has been the life­li­ne for Sveagru­va for deca­des, more than 40,000 flights are said to have been ope­ra­ted.

Aircraft, Sveagruva

Air­p­lai­ne on the run­way of Sveagru­va.

Now, the litt­le air­port of Sveagru­va will be remo­ved. About 70 peop­le will work on this and other parts of the cleanup pro­ject for the next cou­p­le of mon­ths. During this time, they will live not live in the for­mer sett­le­ment any­mo­re, but on sup­ply ships.

Next year, a small work for­ce of 8 is sche­du­led to do the last bits and pie­ces of the cleanup, accord­ing to Sval­bard­pos­ten.

The for­mer coal mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va, inclu­ding the mines of Lunck­ef­jel­let and Sveagru­va, is well docu­men­ted on this web­site (click here).

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.


News-Listing live generated at 2022/December/03 at 03:29:26 Uhr (GMT+1)