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Yearly Archives: 2022 − News & Stories


Bell­sund-Isfjord

We star­ted the day in Van Mijenfjord, again with bril­li­ant suns­hi­ne. Lar­ge parts of the fjord are still fro­zen solid, and we spent quite some time mar­vel­ling at the ice edge.

Meander, Eiskante, Van Mijenfjord

SV Mean­der at the ice edge in Van Mijenfjord.

The after­noon brought a love­ly pas­sa­ge under sail up north to Isfjord, whe­re we were gree­ted by a polar bear soon after rea­ching the ancho­ring posi­ti­on.

Polar bear, Ymerbukta

Polar bear in Ymer­buk­ta.

Pho­to gal­lery Bell­sund-Isfjord

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

Bell­sund

Oh yes, first came the crossing from Bear Island. Well, we could have done with a bit of wind from ano­ther direc­tion – any other direc­tion – than from straight ahead. But we made it up here in the end, and that’s what counts.

Drift ice, Barents Sea

Drift ice in the Barents Sea, north of Bear Island.

Beau­ty all around us as soon as we ente­red Bell­sund. A first landing in the win­ter land­scape near Mid­ter­hu­ken. With polar bear (peaceful and beau­tiful).

Polar bear, Bellsund

Polar bear in Bell­sund.

The fjords are still lar­ge­ly fro­zen, it is still win­ter more than any­thing else. The shore­li­ne is blo­cked by ice in many places. Beau­tiful to see, and beau­tiful play­grounds for small boat crui­ses.

Meander, Bellsund

Mean­der near Akseløya.

Pho­to gal­lery Bell­sund

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

02nd May 2022 – Bear Island

Bear Island! It took us a while to get here, con­side­ring the con­stant nor­t­hern winds that we have had in quite a while now.

But on Sun­day evening we could see the island from a distance of more than 40 nau­ti­cal miles!

Barentssee

During the night we found out that lar­ge parts of the island are actual­ly sur­roun­ded by ice, which is a pret­ty rare event the­se days. The bay of Sør­ham­na whe­re we ori­gi­nal­ly inten­ded to anchor was blo­cked by ice, so this was not an opti­on and we ended up ancho­ring at the oppo­si­te and of Bear Island, near the nor­thwes­tern cor­ner.

Kapp Duner

The­re, we were able to get out with the ding­hy. It was the only place around the who­le island whe­re the rather dif­fi­cult com­bi­na­ti­on of swell, wind and ice allo­wed small boat ope­ra­ti­ons at all. It tur­ned out to be a litt­le crui­se that included a short landing on a beach – for sure not the lon­gest excur­si­on ever on this island, but wit­hout any doubt sweet, with the impres­si­ve rocky coast­li­ne part­ly cover­ed in ice, glit­te­ring in the sun! Stun­ning!

Kapp Duner

Later we con­tin­ued towards Spits­ber­gen, but the drift ice is fur­ther west than expec­ted and it keeps for­cing extra miles on us.

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

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!

Hammerfest

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.

Kåfjord

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.

Alta

Kåfjor­den.

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.

Alta

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.

Light win­ter in Spits­ber­gen

… at its best. “Light win­ter”, does that actual­ly trans­la­te? “Licht­win­ter” is not a com­mon word in Ger­man eit­her, but a won­derful one. Not “win­ter light” in terms of a less pro­no­un­ced cold sea­son, but a win­ter com­bi­ned with beau­tiful light. And that is exact­ly what you can get in Spits­ber­gen in late March. Unless the wea­ther is as it was around mid March this year. Quite ter­ri­ble at times. But then, win­ter came back with force, with tem­pe­ra­tu­es well below -20 degrees cen­ti­gra­de 🙂 ever­y­bo­dy who cares for out­door life in the Arc­tic could have a sple­ndid time.

Snow, Nordenskiöld Land

Wind-car­ved snow sur­face in Nor­dens­ki­öld Land.

And so did we. Beau­tiful arc­tic win­ter impres­si­ons. March can pro­du­ce won­derful light: during night­ti­me, it still gets more or less dark – alt­hough it is get­ting a bit thin on the ground with regards to nor­t­hern lights – so long sun­sets cast stun­ning light over the sno­wy land­scape. After the spring equin­ox, this year on March 20, the dark­ness of the night beg­ins to give way to the light of the mid­night sun. An won­derful time for anyo­ne who app­re­cia­tes poten­ti­al­ly fan­ta­stic light situa­tions, just as the late sum­mer.

Sea fog & sunset, Adventfjord

The light of the low sun and sea fog over Advent­fjord on a cold day,
with the air­port in the back­ground.

We made good use of the­se stun­ning days. Here are some impres­si­ons of the light win­ter in Spits­ber­gen in the second half of March bet­ween east coast, Advent­fjord and Van Mijenfjord:

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

Wea­ther kalei­do­scope

The wea­ther last week was most­ly any­thing but plea­sant, as I wro­te alre­a­dy in the pre­vious artic­le on this site. On Fri­day, a polar low pres­su­re moved across Spits­ber­gen and pro­du­ced a rather asto­nis­hing series of wea­ther chan­ges within a short peri­od of time: the rain stop­ped and ins­tead we final­ly got a bit of snow again, and the tem­pe­ra­tures drop­ped below free­zing again. Not much, but bet­ter than not­hing.

Skitour, Adventdalen

A first litt­le excur­si­on into Advent­da­len after the recent warm wea­ther spell.

That was final­ly some­thing useful.

But it was a mat­ter of a few hours until we got the next inte­res­t­ing wea­ther event in shape of a snow storm well bey­ond the ever­y­day com­bi­na­ti­on of wind and snow in the­se lati­tu­des. I don’t know what wind speed we had, but being out­side was quite chal­len­ging and to some degree actual­ly dan­ge­rous: see­ing and breathing were dif­fi­cult in this tur­bu­lent whirl of wind and snow, the storm could just blow you off your feet at times and items were blown around and could have hit you. The storm did actual­ly cau­se some minor dama­ge also to items that had been stan­ding out­side for years alre­a­dy.

Snow storm, Longyearbyen

Snow storm in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

But this rather inte­res­t­ing wea­ther expe­ri­ence did not last long, and alre­a­dy on Satur­day we could to some degree enjoy what most would pic­tu­re for them­sel­ves when they think about the arc­tic win­ter. But the snow con­di­ti­ons in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en have inde­ed suf­fe­r­ed a lot during the last week’s warm tem­pe­ra­tures and rain.

May­be we get some more snow now. Fin­gers crossed

Elveneset, Sassenfjord

Win­ter sce­n­ery at Elve­ne­set in Sas­senfjord on Satur­day.

It has always been and remains an inte­res­t­ing phe­no­me­non that tha­wing wea­ther and snow melt always hit Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the near sur­roun­dings befo­re they make them­sel­ves felt else­whe­re. It is here that the snow melt always comes weeks befo­re it does so in other places. You can almost rely on having fine win­ter con­di­ti­ons e.g. in Sas­send­a­len when the snow has tur­ned into slush and rivers have bro­ken up in and around Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Once you have left Lon­gye­ar­by­en and lower Advent­da­len behind you, it looks like not­hing has hap­pen­ed.

Some impres­si­ons from the­se (wea­ther-wise) rather tur­bu­lent days:

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

… bad times: rain and mel­ting snow in the win­ter

Well, “bad times” is cle­ar­ly a very rela­ti­ve descrip­ti­on of life in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. We are having a good life. No bombs are fal­ling from the sky. Just rain. But, hey … rain! In March! And far too much, and a lar­ge pro­por­ti­on of the white beau­ty around is is just mel­ted and flown away during the last cou­ple of days.

A strong low pres­su­re sys­tem fur­ther south in the north Atlan­tic has pum­ped a lot of warm air up north. This warm air incur­si­on brings wind, rain and mel­ting tem­pe­ra­tures. Far more of all of the­se than we actual­ly app­re­cia­te.

Our litt­le world up here is mel­ting.

Longyearbyen: rain and melting snow in the winter

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: rain and melt­wa­ter turn streets into litt­le lakes.

This was at least our impres­si­on for seve­ral days, whe­re­ver you tur­ned the eye. Water was fal­ling down from the sky, water tur­ned the snow grey, then dark and final­ly into water, crea­ting lakes on flat tun­dra are­as. Water bro­ke through the snow in rivers that should remain fro­zen for seve­ral months still.

Rub­ber boots were the best choice for a litt­le walk. It hap­pens quick­ly that you make one wrong step and your foot dis­ap­pears in a deep hole of slush, a very cold and unp­lea­sant mix­tu­re of snow and melt­wa­ter. On the other hand, it can be slip­pery and smooth as glass just a step fur­ther. It is very popu­lar in Nor­way to use spikes. A gre­at inven­ti­on, they have cer­tain­ly saved many peo­p­le from bro­ken legs and what not.

Longyearbyen: rain and melting snow in the winter

Drai­na­ges had to be crea­ted in many places to pre­vent the rivers from floo­ding.
Nor­mal rou­ti­ne in May and June, but very uncom­mon in March.

For any­thing fur­ther away, any tours out into the arc­tic win­ter­won­der­land of Spits­ber­gen in the late win­ter: it is pret­ty much the only reasonable opti­on to wait until Spits­ber­gen actual­ly is a win­ter­won­der­land again. It wasn’t for days on end, and it still isn’t at the time of wri­ting. Win­ter will bey­ond any doubt return. It is not gone, it is just taking a break. It will be col­der again, the rivers will free­ze again, lakes will turn into ice.

The ques­ti­on is if we get enough snow again to tour reason­ab­ly out the­re in the wild, fil­ling the many dark gaps whe­re the tun­dra is now free of snow. Let’s hope so, in the inte­rest of all who are coming up here with dreams of the arc­tic win­ter. The­re are many of them in March and April.

Spitsbergen: rain and melting snow in the winter

Snow mobi­le rou­tes have tur­ned into slus­hy snow swamps and lakes. If you dri­ve here, you risk get­ting stuck and dama­ging the vege­ta­ti­on under the slush.

Until the snow melt comes in May and finis­hes this win­tern for good.

Adventdalen: damaged tundra

It is, for good reason, not allo­wed to dri­ve on natu­ral ground unless it is fro­zen AND snow-cover­ed. The­re are tho­se who take a libe­ral approach to this rule at the end of the sea­son or during warm wea­ther spells, to put it mild­ly – alt­hough it is legal­ly bin­ding. The result looks like this and it will take many years wit­hout fur­ther dis­tur­ban­ce to for the vege­ta­ti­on to reco­ver (Advent­da­len, next to the road. Pic­tu­re taken in june 2019).

The ques­ti­on will ine­vi­ta­b­ly come up: is this now wea­ther or cli­ma­te chan­ge? My short ans­wer: it has aspects of both. Wea­ther and cli­ma­te are hard to sepa­ra­te when it comes to any given meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal event. Both are just dif­fe­rent per­spec­ti­ves, dif­fe­rent time sca­les, for pret­ty much the same coll­ec­tion of phe­no­me­na which altog­e­ther descri­be the atmo­sphe­re, espe­ci­al­ly its lower lay­ers (that’s whe­re we usual­ly are). Such as tem­pe­ra­tu­re, pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on, wind, air pres­su­re and humi­di­ty, to name some of the most important ones. Wea­ther is what you can see, feel and mea­su­re here and now. If you coll­ect the same data over many years and turn them into aver­a­ges and other sta­tis­ti­cal values, then you take the cli­ma­te per­spec­ti­ve.

So, in this given case, it is hard to say if it would have hap­pend wit­hout cli­ma­te chan­ge. Sci­ence has made important advan­ces in recent years regar­ding such ques­ti­ons, so it would be inte­res­t­ing to hear an expert’s opi­ni­on or even see the results of sci­en­ti­fic model­ling of this week’s warm air incur­si­on in Spits­ber­gen.

All I can do here is try to come up with some more or less edu­ca­ted gues­sing. The ten­den­ci­es that cli­ma­te chan­ge crea­te for this part of the Arc­tic appear to be pret­ty clear: more fre­quent wea­ther chan­ges, more strong wind, more pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on, espe­ci­al­ly more rain in the win­ter.

The­re are tho­se who will say now that win­ter rain was not com­ple­te­ly unhe­ard of 100 years ago, and yes, that is true. But both the fre­quen­cy and the inten­si­ty of the­se events are incre­asing now, and cur­rent cli­ma­te chan­ge makes an important con­tri­bu­ti­on to this deve­lo­p­ment, or rather: the decisi­ve one.

So, chan­ces are that we would not have had this week’s warm air incur­si­on up here wit­hout cli­ma­te chan­ge, or at least that it would have been much less inten­se. We have had days of rain and tem­pe­ra­tures up to around 5 degrees cen­ti­gra­de – abo­ve free­zing! In March! I still can’t real­ly belie­ve it.

Also locals who have seen many Spits­ber­gen win­ters watch the wea­ther with asto­nis­ment and very litt­le amu­se­ment the­se days. And tho­se who came up exact­ly this week to enjoy the arc­tic win­ter­won­der­land – well, what can I say. My pity is with them.

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

Good times …

Spits­ber­gen during the light win­ter, as it should be. Snow, ice and cold. The infa­mous warm air incur­si­ons with tem­pe­ra­tures abo­ve free­zing, rain and mel­ting snow had not yet occur­red this win­ter, to the delight of man and beast ali­ke.

Adventdalen, Pingos

Spits­ber­gen win­ter: pin­gos in Advent­da­len

Also to our delight, and we made good use of the oppor­tu­ni­ty, enjoy­ing the beau­ty of natu­re and life in gene­ral in Longyearbyens’s clo­ser and slight­ly more distant sur­roun­dings, on well known and les­ser well known rou­tes.

You always keep lear­ning in the Arc­tic. I found out that using a snow-cover­ed pile of stones at the foot of a steep slo­pe isn’t a good tool to stop a snow mobi­le after a rapid downhill des­cent. Lea­ving the snow mobi­le with the (hel­met-cover­ed) head first through the wind screen isn’t the world’s best idea eit­her. Not that I couldn’t have thought of that befo­re 😉 it wasn’t on one of the usu­al rou­tes.

But minor adven­tures like that just hap­pen when you are out in the arc­tic wild­ner­ness, and as long as not­hing real­ly hap­pens, bey­ond what can be fixed with a quick and easy repair, all is good. We enjoy­ed tho­se days. Here some impres­si­ons of the­se tours bet­ween Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Nord­manns­fon­na and Tem­pel­fjord:

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

Local tou­rism orga­ni­sa­ti­on asks mem­bers not to spend money in Rus­si­an sett­le­ments

Against the back­ground of Putin’s aggres­si­ve war in the Ukrai­ne, the local tou­rism inter-trade orga­ni­sa­ti­on Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd encou­ra­ged the mem­ber com­pa­nies not to spend money in the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen, Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den.

Barentsburg: brewery

Popu­lar in the past, now con­tro­ver­si­al: the bre­werey in Barents­burg.

It was just a few days ago that Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd initi­al­ly made a dif­fe­rent decis­i­on, arguing that boy­cotts and sanc­tions should be mea­su­res bet­ween govern­ments and sta­tes, but not on a local level. The recent tur­n­around came becau­se many poin­ted out that the inco­me gene­ra­ted in the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments bene­fits the owner of the sett­le­ments inclu­ding all tou­ristic offers and ser­vices: the Rus­si­an sta­te-owned Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol, or in other words: the Rus­si­an govern­ment, which now leads a bru­tal and ille­gal war in the Ukrai­ne.

Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd does not advi­se against tours to Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den, just from spen­ding money the­re. Tours espe­ci­al­ly to Barents­burg used to be very popu­lar befo­re the recent lar­ge-sca­le Rus­si­an inva­si­on star­ted. The­se excur­si­ons usual­ly included a local meal and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to buy sou­ve­nirs, inclu­ding local­ly made ones. Many tour ope­ra­tors will now stop this prac­ti­ce.

But not all: also the new decis­i­on is con­tro­ver­si­al. The­re are tho­se tour ope­ra­tors who argue that such boy­cotts will hit the wrong peo­p­le, name­ly the local popu­la­ti­on – which includes many Ukrai­ni­ans – rather than the regime in Moscow.

Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd makes only recom­men­da­ti­ons to the mem­ber com­pa­nies, but the­se recom­men­da­ti­ons are not bin­ding. Every tour ope­ra­tor will deci­de indi­vi­du­al­ly if they will con­ti­nue tours to the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments and if they con­ti­nue to buy and pay for local ser­vices.

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