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Home → May, 2023

Monthly Archives: May 2023 − News & Stories


New pla­cen­a­mes: Neger­pyn­ten beco­mes Svar­t­hu­ken

Three pla­cen­a­mes in the sou­the­ast of Edgeøya were chan­ged recent­ly by the Pla­cen­a­mes com­mis­si­on of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. Neger­pyn­ten, Negerf­jel­let and Negerd­a­len have rai­sed more than one eye­brow in recent years – more than 400 years after they first appeared in 1616 on Eng­lish maps, accor­ding to the stan­dard source “The Pla­cen­a­mes of Sval­bard”. The ori­gi­nal names pro­ba­b­ly refer­red to the dark appearance of the land­scape, which is con­nec­ted to the geo­lo­gy (Tri­as­sic sedi­ments).

Negerpynten and Negerfjellet become Svarthuken and Svarthukfjellet

Cape and moun­tain were until recent­ly known as Neger­pyn­ten and Negerf­jel­let.
With Svar­t­hu­ken and Svar­t­huk­fjel­let, they have now offi­ci­al­ly got con­sider­a­b­ly more agreeable desi­gna­ti­ons.

After gro­wing con­tro­ver­sies in recent years, the names were now offi­ci­al­ly chan­ged to Svar­t­hu­ken, Svar­t­huk­fjel­let and Svar­t­huk­da­len.

Karte: Negerpynten,  Negerfjellet

The old names on the offi­ci­al map (Topos­val­bard). © Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te.

Isbjørn II aground in Bore­buk­ta

The small pas­sen­ger ves­sel Isbjørn II ran aground on Mon­day in Bore­buk­ta. After a while, the Cap­tain deci­ded to make a May­day call and 11 pas­sen­gers and 4 crew mem­bers were evacua­ted by heli­c­op­ter. Nobo­dy was inju­red, all per­sons are well.

Isbjørn II

Isbørn II (archi­ve image, 2018).

The ship its­elf was towed to Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Tues­day. The ves­sel appears to be unda­ma­ged. A small amount of die­sel (or a simi­lar liquid) was initi­al­ly obser­ved on the water near the groun­ding site, but accor­ding to the Sys­sel­mes­ter, it was only a small volu­me that escaped into the envi­ron­ment wit­hout doing any harm. How exact­ly this could hap­pen is unclear, it may have hap­pen­ed in con­nec­tion to the strong lis­ting of the groun­ded ship during low tide.

Borebukta chart

The rele­vant area in Bore­buk­ta. The exact posi­ti­on of the groun­ding was not published.
Screen­shot of an elec­tro­nic chart, pro­ces­sed.

The case is remar­kab­le for seve­ral reasons. First of all, it is not to hap­pen at all in the first place. Second­ly, it is not the first time that Isbjørn II ran aground in this very posi­ti­on – the same thing had actual­ly hap­pen­ed befo­re in the very same place. And then, the­re are con­tra­dic­to­ry state­ments regar­ding the exact posi­ti­on of the groun­ding. The area appears to be well char­ted on modern sea charts. Some say, howe­ver, that the groun­ding hap­pen­ed in a posi­ti­on whe­re the chart indi­ca­tes a depth of 11 met­res (right part of the oval), a depth that – if cor­rect – would be safe for small ves­sels such as as Isbjørn II. Should this be cor­rect, then the chart, alt­hough see­mingly detail­ed and com­pi­led accor­ding to modern stan­dards, would be dan­ge­rous­ly faul­ty. But given cur­rent public infor­ma­ti­on, it can not be excluded eit­her that Isbørn II ran aground in shal­low waters near the small island (left part of the oval). In this case, navi­ga­ti­on errors would likely have play­ed an important role in the cur­rent inci­dent.

Next to Isbjørn II, the­re are seve­ral other boats that have kissed the bot­tom in this area sin­ce 2015 (and, pos­si­bly, befo­re). In at least one case, one invol­ved per­son said to have infor­med the Nor­we­gi­an coas­tal aut­ho­ri­ty, which is respon­si­ble for the charts, about faul­ty depth infor­ma­ti­on.

Wit­hout detail­ed know­ledge about the exact posi­ti­on of the groun­ding, it is impos­si­ble to judge what real­ly hap­pend and if the chart qua­li­ty actual­ly was a fac­tor or not.

Black labour in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Employ­ment rela­ti­ons in the grey or even black zone do also exist in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Recent­ly, the regio­nal employ­ment pro­tec­tion agen­cy made con­trols in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and, in a num­ber of cases, found evi­dence for black labour. Employees con­cer­ned are main­ly of non-Nor­we­gi­an ori­gin, and often employ­ed in house clea­ning. Employees were found to have work­ed more hours than they were (offi­ci­al­ly) get­ting paid for, and wages were often well below usu­al levels. Accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten, 50 kro­ner (curr­ent­ly appro­xi­m­ate­ly 4.25 Euro9 were paid per hour, while Nor­we­gi­an stan­dard wages would be at least 205 kro­ner (17.42 Euro).

The employ­ment pro­tec­tion agen­cy can only rise atten­ti­on and bring cases to the atten­ti­on of rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties, such as the tax aut­ho­ri­ty. Ano­ther dif­fi­cul­ty is that some rele­vant Nor­we­gi­an legis­la­ti­on is not in force in Sval­bard. Due to the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty sys­tem, not all Nor­we­gi­an laws are auto­ma­ti­cal­ly in force in Sval­bard, but they have to be brought into force expli­cit­ly by Nor­we­gi­an legis­la­tors.

The­re are, of cour­se, house clea­ning busi­nesses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en that take care well of their employees and respect both legis­la­ti­on and reasonable ethi­cal stan­dards. Some of the­se com­pa­nies are now rai­sing cri­ti­cism against their grey-zone com­pe­ti­tors and against the lack of enthu­si­asm on behalf of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment. Gus­tav Hals­vik, direc­tor of ISS, is quo­ted say­ing that he thinks of the lack of action of Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties as public racism, con­side­ring that Nor­we­gi­an employees are hard­ly con­cer­ned.

Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen: black labour

Black labourn exists in Lon­gye­ar­by­en not only within house clea­ning, but for exam­p­le also in the cate­ring trade. The cook of this deli­cious meal was most likely not get­ting paid accor­ding to stan­dard wages!

Simi­lar pro­blems are known to exist in Lon­gye­ar­by­en also in indus­tries such as trans­por­ta­ti­on, buil­ding and restau­rants.

Longyearbyen’s popu­la­ti­on is gro­wing and beco­ming more Nor­we­gi­an

Sta­tis­tics Nor­way (sta­tis­tisk sen­tral­by­rå, SSB) have published new data describ­ing Svalbard’s popu­la­ti­on. As of Janu­ary 01, 2023, a total resi­dent popu­la­ti­on of 2,897 peo­p­le was regis­tered in Spitsbergen’s five sett­le­ment, start­ing with 10 folks in the Polish rese­arch sta­ti­on in Horn­sund.

Most peo­p­le live in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Ny-Åle­sund, which are coun­ted tog­e­ther in the offi­ci­al sta­tis­tics. The­se sett­le­ments had a total popu­la­ti­on of 2,530 as of the begin­ning of 2023. During the fall of 2022, this num­ber had increased: 234 peo­p­le who had moved away were move than com­pen­sa­ted by 352 who moved to Lon­gye­ar­by­en (and Ny-Åle­sund, but most of them will defi­ni­te­ly have moved to Lon­gye­ar­by­en).

The­se figu­res indi­ca­te high fluc­tua­ti­on: near­ly 10 per cent of the total popu­la­ti­on have moved in and out in just half a year. High fluc­tua­ti­on has always been a cha­rac­te­ristic of Longyearbyen’s popu­la­ti­on. Many come on con­tract and lea­ve again as soon as the work is done, for exam­p­le when a buil­ding pro­ject is finis­hed or when the sea­son is over.

Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen: population

Longyearbyen’s popu­la­ti­on in ear­ly 2023:
some went away, more moved in.

The sta­tis­tics give away some more inte­res­t­ing details: the per­cen­ta­ge of women has increased slight­ly up to 47.1 %. Also the per­cen­ta­ge of Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens has increased a litt­le bit, but over the years it has been sta­ble and clo­se to 65 %. Among­st the non-Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens, the pro­por­ti­on of peo­p­le from EU-count­ries out­side Scan­di­na­via has grown a litt­le bit.

At the same time, the per­cen­ta­ge of child­ren and young peo­p­le has decreased. Espe­ci­al­ly when con­side­ring young child­ren (youn­ger than school age), the decrease is quite pro­no­un­ced, from 170 in 2013 to only 109 in 2023. During the same peri­od, the age group 20-44 has seen the stron­gest increase, from 49 % to 54 %.

Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den

Also the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments of Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den are cover­ed by the Nor­we­gi­an sta­tis­tics. Also here, both are coun­ted tog­e­ther, but the­re is not real­ly a per­ma­nent popu­la­ti­on in Pyra­mi­den, whe­re only a small group of a few dozen peo­p­le are pre­sent for peri­ods of usual­ly a cou­ple of months or so to keep the place run­ning.

Sta­tis­tics show a record popu­la­ti­on also in Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den, but with 357 peo­p­le in Janu­ary 2023, it is a nega­ti­ve one – never have fewer peo­p­le been regis­tered in Spitsbergen’s Rus­si­an sett­le­ments. Accor­ding to for­mer head of Trust Arktikugol’s tou­rism sec­tion in Barents­burg Timo­fey Rogoz­hin as quo­ted by The Barents Obser­ver, most Ukrai­ni­ans have left sin­ce the begin­ning of the Rus­si­an war. Until ear­ly 2022, a high per­cen­ta­ge of coal miners and others in Barents­burg were from the Ukrai­ne.

Vic­to­ry day cele­bra­ted in Barents­burg with lar­ge mili­ta­ry-style para­de

Vic­to­ry day cele­bra­ti­ons to com­me­mo­ra­te the Soviet Union’s vic­to­ry over Nazi Ger­ma­ny were held not only in Rus­sia, but also in Barents­burg. Such cele­bra­ti­ons have tra­di­tio­nal­ly been held the­re also in pre­vious years, but they used to be of a civi­li­an and cul­tu­ral cha­rac­ter.

This time, things went a dif­fe­rent way. A lar­ge para­de was held with all available and sui­ta­ble vehic­les – cars, snow mobi­les and even a heli­c­op­ter. Lar­ge flags and other Rus­si­an sym­bols, inclu­ding ones of mili­ta­ry cha­rac­ter, were shown in lar­ge num­bers. This is in strong con­trast to pre­vious years.

Tag des Sieges, Barentsburg

Vic­to­ry day (2023) in Barents­burg: more of a mili­ta­ry-style pro­pa­gan­da event
(pho­to: Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol social media).

A few weeks ago, the Nor­we­gi­an news plat­form NRK reve­a­led con­nec­tions of the gene­ral con­sul in Barents­burg to the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry secret ser­vice GRU.

Seve­ral lar­ge com­pa­nies in Lon­gye­ar­by­en inclu­ding Hur­tig­ru­ten Sval­bard and Visit Sval­bard have encou­ra­ged their employees not to visit Barents­burg, refer­ring to pri­va­te visits. Using local wifi is dis­cou­ra­ged in Barents­burg becau­se of data safe­ty con­side­ra­ti­ons, and care is advi­sed when using mobi­le pho­ne net­work. Both Nor­we­gi­an and Rus­si­an mobi­le net­work are available in and around Barents­burg, but mobi­le pho­nes may auto­ma­ti­cal­ly con­nect to Rus­si­an net­work when Nor­we­gi­an covera­ge is unavailable, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Nusfjord and the last miles to Bodø

A gre­at final day of a gre­at voya­ge, regard­less of the wea­ther, which was as it often is in the­se lati­tu­des: grey and win­dy, with occa­sio­nal rain- and snow show­ers. We spent the mor­ning in Nusfjord, one of the most famous litt­le old vil­la­ges in Lofo­ten. For good reason. It is a beau­tiful place.

In the after­noon, we got the one thing that we had been miss­ing so far on this trip: real sai­ling. The main engi­ne was off for the com­ple­te open water crossing from Lofo­ten to the main­land coast. We made 7-8 knots under sail (and, most­ly, sun). Beau­tiful! So we rea­ched Bodø easi­ly on Tues­day evening, and ever­y­bo­dy went his or her way on Wed­nes­day.

It had been gre­at, it had been fun! And I thank ever­y­bo­dy who was invol­ved. Safe jour­ney, home or else­whe­re! And for Mario and his good peo­p­le on SV Mean­der, safe sai­ling and fair winds en rou­te up to Spits­ber­gen! See you again soon 🙂

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

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News-Listing live generated at 2023/June/04 at 15:16:52 Uhr (GMT+1)
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