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Yearly Archives: 2022 − News & Stories


Wood­fjord – 20th July 2022

And again, we are lucky with wind and waves. In the sen­se that both of them are absent, making it pos­si­ble to visit the famous hut at Gråhu­ken (Chris­tia­ne Rit­ter: A woman in the polar night).

After small water­falls fal­ling over red rocks, sur­roun­ded by an ama­zing car­pet of tun­dra and flowers, we roun­ded the day off at Mona­co­b­reen. Which, by the way, has recent­ly advan­ced by seve­ral hundred meters. Almost hard to belie­ve, but such things still hap­pen occa­sio­nal­ly, even in times of glo­bal warm­ing.

Gal­lery – Wood­fjord – 20th July 2022

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

Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen – 19th July 2022

A rare beau­tiful day on the nor­thwest cor­ner of Spits­ber­gen, whe­re it usual­ly tends to be grey, win­dy and cold. Not­hing of that sort today. Ins­tead, stun­ning views over Dan­s­køya and later, more stun­ning views, wal­ru­ses and wha­ling histo­ry at Smee­ren­burg.
 

Danskehaugen
Smeerenburg

West coast – 18th July 2022

We were blown out of Kongsfjord, but the sails made it easi­ly pos­si­ble to turn it into a situa­ti­on of gre­at fun.

Ano­ther kind of gre­at fun came later in the after­noon when we were unex­pec­ted­ly able to make one of tho­se rare landings on the expo­sed outer coast. Fan­ta­stic wea­ther, stun­ning sce­n­ery … what else could you ask for?

And even more of it in the evening in Mag­da­le­nefjord. Wea­ther, sce­n­ery, cal­ving acti­vi­ty at the gla­cier … all at a maxi­mum!

Gal­lery – West coast – 18th July 2022

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

Kongsfjord – 17th July 2022

Wind and the pre­sence of other ships made things a bit uncer­tain in Ny-Åle­sund to begin with, but then we could spend a bril­li­ant mor­ning the­re, in Spitsbergen’s nor­t­hern­most sett­le­ment, curr­ent­ly also fre­quent­ly visi­ted by polar bears. We could see at least 3 of them on islands near town.

Later we explo­red inner Kongsfjord. One of the most beau­tiful parts of Spits­ber­gen, if you get the­re on a day like this.

Gal­lery – Kongsfjord – 17th July 2022

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

For­lands­und

Sin­ce last night, we have got not only as many as 19 pas­sen­gers on board, but also a new Cap­tain (Jona­than should have left a week ago – thank you for stay­ing that long!). Ama­zing! Full ahead, nor­thwards!

So we could enjoy the first day out­side Isfjord today 🙂 in For­lands­und. Stun­ning land­scape, stun­ning wea­ther, stun­ning wild­life! Just have a look at the pho­tos.

Gal­lery For­lands­und, 16th July 2022

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

Sveab­reen & Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Ever­y­bo­dy was hap­py to see some sun again final­ly, at Sveab­reen.

And ever­y­bo­dy was even more hap­py to wel­co­me some more peo­p­le on board in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Espe­ci­al­ly tho­se who came on board. They should have come almost a week ago! Well, bet­ter late than never – wel­co­me onboard!

It took some more time until ever­y­thing and ever­y­bo­dy were in place. We made good use of the time with a choice of hikes in the vici­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Below some impres­si­ons from our excur­si­on into Advent­da­len.

Gal­lery Sveab­reen & Advent­da­len, 14th/15th July 2022

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

Ekm­anfjord

Cora­hol­men is a perl of natu­re in Ekm­anfjord. A part of the island is a morai­ne land­scape, kind of what I ima­gi­ne it would look like on Mars. Not that I have been the­re. Just my fan­ta­sy. But any­way, Cora­hol­men is a fasci­na­ting island, even on a grey day like this. Stun­ning atmo­sphe­re!

The same appli­ed to Blo­mes­let­ta later. It was actual­ly so fog­gy that we wai­ted some time befo­re we went out again, streng­the­ned by some good cheese cake. A gre­at walk, gre­at views!

Gal­lery Ekm­anfjord: Cora­hol­men & Blo­mes­let­ta, 13th July 2022

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

Gips­da­len & Dia­ba­sod­den

As men­tio­ned befo­re, Isfjor­den has more than enough place for a week or ten days. Today we were in Sas­senfjord (a part of Isfjord, obvious­ly). The wea­ther remain­ed grey, but that didn’t kept us from get­ting out. We went for a love­ly hike in the beau­tiful, lar­ge Gips­da­len, whe­re Wil­liam S. Bruce loo­ked for coal in his days a long time ago, and later we paid a visit to the Brünich’s guil­l­emots at Dia­ba­sod­den.

Gal­lery Gips­da­len & Dia­ba­sod­den, 12th July 2022

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

Ebba­d­a­len & Pyra­mi­den

A slight­ly grey day in nor­t­hern Bil­lefjord, in the beau­tiful Ebba­d­a­len and in Pyra­mi­den. Fasci­na­ting places, beau­tiful sce­n­ery, fri­end­ly reinde­er.

Gal­lery Ebba­d­a­len & Pyra­mi­den, 11th July 2022

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Skans­buk­ta

So Anti­gua is set­ting sail again in Spits­ber­gen in July – our first long trip (18 days!) with good old Anti­gua in 3 years (becau­se of Covid). Ama­zing …

But, alas, not ever­y­bo­dy could make it to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, becau­se of the SAS pilot strike. We still main­tain hope to pick some more peo­p­le up in a cou­ple of days time, but for now, we sail with 10 pas­sen­gers ins­tead of a good 30 …

But in any case, we sai­led! And we set cour­se for Skans­buk­ta, to start with. We will stay in Isfjor­den for a cou­ple of days, making sure that we can pick peo­p­le up at any time. No pro­blem at all, Isfjor­den is more than big enough to spend a week or even more.

Gal­lery Lon­gye­ar­by­en-Skans­buk­ta, 09th/10th July 2022

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

SAS pilots on strike

As if 2 years of Covid-19 were not enough for all who want to or who need to tra­vel: pilots of SAS are on strike sin­ce nego­tia­ti­ons sche­du­led until yes­ter­day (Mon­day) fai­led. Up to 250 SAS flights are expec­ted to be can­cel­led now every day as long as the strike lasts.

That includes flights to and from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

SAS strike

SAS, plea­se find a solu­ti­on, asap!

Rus­si­an deli­very stop­ped – Rus­sia reacts with irri­ta­ti­on and cyber­at­tacks

It is an issue that has kept Nor­way and Rus­sia busy alre­a­dy for some weeks: a deli­very for Barents­burg, said to include main­ly food, is kept on hold at the bor­der bet­ween Rus­sia and north Nor­way. The deli­very was to be trans­por­ted over land to Trom­sø and from the­re by ship to Barents­burg.

Barentsburg

Barents­burg during brigh­ter times (here in 2019).

But due to the sanc­tions intro­du­ced after the Rus­si­an war of aggres­si­on and des­truc­tion began in Febru­ary, Nor­way does not allow the goods into the coun­try. The Spits­ber­gen trea­ty gua­ran­tees all signa­to­ry par­ties – this includes Rus­sia – free access to Sval­bard, but accor­ding to Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties, this does not auto­ma­ti­cal­ly include the right to cho­se a rou­te through the Nor­we­gi­an main­land. Nor­we­gi­an offi­ci­als say that Rus­sia at any time has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ship goods from their own har­bours to Barents­burg. Sval­bard ports are not included in the ban on Rus­si­an ships in Nor­we­gi­an ports, and offi­ci­als indi­ca­te that Nor­way would con­sider an excemp­ti­on to the ban on Rus­si­an pla­nes on Nor­we­gi­an air­ports if the Rus­si­an side filed an appli­ca­ti­on for a flight to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The Rus­si­an reac­tion is main­ly irri­ta­ti­on, poli­ti­cal thre­ats – recent­ly, Rus­si­an repre­sen­ta­ti­ves have repea­ted­ly poin­ted out that Nor­way breaks the Spits­ber­gen trea­ty – and alle­gedly cyber­at­tacks. The­re have been seve­ral cyber­at­tacks on public Nor­we­gi­an web­sites recent­ly, which Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties asso­cia­te with Rus­si­an hacker groups, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten and other Nor­we­gi­an media chan­nels.

At some stage, Rus­si­an repre­sen­ta­ti­ves rai­sed con­cerns about a serious shorta­ge of sup­pli­es in Barents­burg, which was descri­bed as an over­re­ac­tion by Nor­way. Now it is said that the sup­p­ly in Barents­burg is sta­ble, due to deli­veries from other sources, accor­ding to NRK.

Bird flu detec­ted in Spits­ber­gen

Bird flu, also known as avi­an flu or avi­an influ­en­za, has been detec­ted in Spits­ber­gen in June for the first time. It is the first evi­dence for this virus in the Arc­tic.

Sci­en­tists expec­ted the arri­val of the bird flu virus in Sval­bard now becau­se of a major recent out­break of the dise­a­se amonst Bar­na­cle geese in Eng­land and Scot­land. Birds from this popu­la­ti­on migra­te up to Sval­bard to breed the­re during the sum­mer. You can see Bar­na­cle geese and others, main­ly pink-foo­ted geese, in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en in lar­ge num­bers in the ear­ly sum­mer befo­re they spread to the brea­ding are­as.

Barnacle geese, Ny-Ålesund

Bar­na­cle geese are poten­ti­al car­ri­ers of the bird flu virus (here in Ny-Åle­sund).

The bird flu virus was now found in a dead glau­cous gull that was found near the har­bour in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, as NRK reports.

Bird flu is high­ly infec­tious and very dan­ge­rous for birds, both wild and dome­stic ones. Experts fear poten­ti­al­ly dis­as­trous con­se­quen­ces for dome­stic bird stocks in main­land Nor­way and wild bird popu­la­ti­ons both the­re and in Sval­bard.

Report to the Sys­sel­mes­ter if you find a dead bird or an ali­ve one that shows stran­ge beha­viour, but do not touch or hand­le dead birds or bird drop­pings. The risk of an infec­tion for humans, howe­ver, is descri­bed as low.

Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment dis­pos­s­es­ses for­eig­ners of local voting rights

After a long and con­tro­ver­si­al poli­ti­cal pro­cess, the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment in Oslo has now made the decis­i­on that non-Nor­we­gi­an inha­bi­tants of Lon­gye­ar­by­en will lose the voting right (acti­ve and pas­si­ve) on a com­mu­ni­ty level. Only tho­se “for­eig­ners” (peo­p­le wit­hout Nor­we­gi­an pass­ports) who have lived at least 3 years in a main­land com­mu­ni­ty will be able to vote or to be elec­ted into the com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil (Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re).

This appli­es to appro­xi­m­ate­ly 700 inha­bi­tants of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re is curr­ent­ly one mem­ber of Lokals­ty­re who has a pass­port other than Nor­we­gi­an (Oli­via Eric­son from Swe­den), accor­ding to NRK.

This had been a very con­tro­ver­si­al and, for some, emo­tio­nal deba­te which was alre­a­dy sub­ject of seve­ral ear­lier con­tri­bu­ti­ons on this page; read the pre­vious artic­le (click here) for more back­ground, e.g. on the histo­ry of local demo­cra­cy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

It is safe to assu­me that most non-Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens have not spent 3 years as a regis­tered inha­bi­tant of a Nor­we­gi­an main­land com­mu­ni­ty. Many locals who have spent a major part of their lives in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will not be allo­wed to vote during the next local elec­tions (in 2023) and they may not be elec­ted into Lokals­ty­re.

The recent govern­men­tal decis­i­on frus­tra­tes many who are con­cer­ned; many feel like second-class citi­zens now, as Sval­bard­pos­ten reports.

Minis­ter of jus­ti­ce Emi­lie Enger Mehl gives the fol­lo­wing expl­ana­to­ry state­ment (quo­ted from the press release of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment, link abo­ve, my own trans­la­ti­on): “The con­nec­tion to the main­land makes sure that tho­se who mana­ge the com­mu­ni­ty at any time have good know­ledge and a good under­stan­ding of Sval­bard poli­tics and the (poli­ti­cal) frame­work that is appli­ed to Sval­bard … con­sidera­ble resour­ces are trans­fer­red every year from the main­land to sup­port public ser­vices and infra­struc­tu­re. Inha­bi­tants with main­land con­nec­tion will often have con­tri­bu­ted to the­se finan­ces. The requi­re­ment for a main­land con­nec­tion is also to be seen in this light.”

Norwegian Longyearbyen and voting rights

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is beco­ming more Nor­we­gi­an. Exclu­si­on of non-Nor­we­gi­an inha­bi­tants from local demo­cra­cy is a pri­ce that the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment is appear­ent­ly wil­ling to pay.

Com­ment

So far so clear: tho­se who (poten­ti­al­ly) have paid are to deci­de; tho­se who have paid poten­ti­al­ly less (local taxes are low) and to not have the right pass­port are excluded from poli­ti­cal par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on whe­re it real­ly mat­ters.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re is a com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil and no more than that. Lokalstyre’s decis­i­ons con­cern local traf­fic, kin­der­gar­ten, school, other local infra­struc­tu­re – just what a com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil gene­ral­ly does, and no more than that. Lokals­ty­re does not have any influence in natio­nal legis­la­ti­on – bey­ond try­ing to be heard, which too often does not hap­pen, other­wi­se the decis­i­on in ques­ti­on would not have hap­pen­ed as it did. Lokals­ty­re does not make decis­i­ons con­cer­ning Sval­bard out­side the com­mu­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

So one may ask what kind of pro­blem the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment assu­mes to sol­ve. Or, same ques­ti­on in other words: what are they afraid of? So far, Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re is firm­ly in Nor­we­gi­an hands. The­re is curr­ent­ly exact­ly one local coun­cil mem­ber who is not Nor­we­gi­an, and that is Oli­via Eric­son from Swe­den. Who is afraid of Oli­via? And even if, one future day, Danes and Swe­des, Ger­mans and Thai would make up a visi­ble pro­por­ti­on of Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re and thus have a say in mat­ters con­cer­ning local road buil­ding of kin­der­gar­ten – so what?

Last year, a local coun­cil mem­ber of Høy­re (“Right”) said some­thing like “This is about secu­ri­ty. Thus, we can not make any com­pro­mi­se.”

It would be inte­res­t­ing to know more about whe­re poli­ti­ci­ans from the quo­ted local coun­cil mem­ber up to Minis­ter of jus­ti­ce Emi­lie Enger Mehl see Nor­we­gi­an secu­ri­ty threa­ten­ed.

Let’s just assu­me they would be able to give a con­vin­cing ans­wert to this ques­ti­on (not­ing that not­hing points to this actual­ly being the case): the cur­rent decis­i­on is, at best, pre­ven­ti­ve. As men­tio­ned, the­re is curr­ent­ly exact­ly one local coun­cil mem­ber who is not Nor­we­gi­an, and not­hing points towards an incre­asing trend of inter­na­tio­nal diver­si­ty in Lokals­ty­re.

For this pre­ven­ti­ve mea­su­re, the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment is wil­ling to pay a high pri­ce – or rather, to let others pay the pri­ce: the exclu­si­on of a lar­ge group from local demo­cra­cy. Many of tho­se feel like second class citi­zens now.

Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­ci­ans usual­ly not let an oppor­tu­ni­ty pass unu­sed to point out that Sval­bard and Lon­gye­ar­by­en are Nor­we­gi­an (and I haven’t heard anyo­ne ques­tio­ning this, with some excep­ti­ons of bizar­re claims made by Sovjet/Russian poli­ti­ci­ans, but that’s a total­ly dif­fe­rent issue and by no means rele­vent in a local demo­cra­cy con­text). But sud­den­ly, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not Nor­we­gi­an enough to give tho­se who have been living the­re for years good know­ledge of the Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­cal frame­work for Sval­bard poli­cy? That is, in my opi­ni­on, bizar­re.

Jus­tiz­mi­nis­te­rin Mehl said (author’s trans­la­ti­on): “Nobo­dy is excluded from the demo­cra­tic pro­cess, but you must have lived on the main­land for 3 years to be elec­ted into Lokals­ty­re.” (Sval­bard­pos­ten).

It is hard to say what is more worry­ing. That the govern­ment plain­ly igno­res most of the opi­ni­ons being rai­sed during the public hea­ring – the voices from Lon­gye­ar­by­en whe­re by far sin­ging the same song of demo­cra­cy and poli­ti­cal par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on.

Or that Mehl pre­tends that nobo­dy is excluded from the demo­cra­tic pro­cess while this is exact­ly what hap­pens, which is eit­her a con­cer­ning lack of know­ledge or plain­ly fal­se. The­re are very few non-Nor­we­gi­an inha­bi­tants of Lon­gye­ar­by­en who have spent at least 3 years as regis­tered inha­bi­tants of a main­land com­mu­ni­ty. And the desi­re to do this has pro­ba­b­ly not grown for many whom the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has now given the fin­ger. This may be per­cei­ved as a strong descrip­ti­on of the recent decis­i­on, but this is exact­ly how tho­se who are direct­ly con­cer­ned may well feel about it (so does this aut­hor, in any case).

Which other modern, demo­cra­tic, Euro­pean coun­try has retrei­ved lco­al voting rights from for­eign inha­bi­tants who used to have the­se rights befo­re, some for many years? This decis­i­on apper­as poli­ti­cal­ly dis­gus­ting, right-wing natio­na­list and xeno­pho­bic. With this decis­i­on, the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has joi­n­ed a cir­cle of Euro­pean gover­nemnts whe­re, I am sure, they do not wish to see them­sel­ves.

MS Vir­go back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

MS Vir­go, which hit a rock in Fuglefjord, is back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. She is said to have done the pas­sa­ge under her own power, but accom­pa­nied by the coast­guard to assist if nee­ded.

Coast­guard divers made an attempt to repair the hull dama­ge tem­po­r­a­ri­ly, but it is said that this did not work. Polar­sys­sel, the governor’s ves­sel, pum­ped fuel from Vir­go‘s dama­ged tank.

MS Virgo, Longyearbyen

MS Vir­go in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, today (Thurs­day) mor­ning.

The­re is no fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on available at the moment, not­hing about the ext­ent of dama­ge, the volu­me of die­sel that may have been lost in Fuglefjord and escaped into the envi­ron­ment or why and how exact­ly the groun­ding hap­pen­ed.

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