Adventdalen – or, to be more precice: its lower part – is to become a nature reserve. The proposal is now in the public hearing stage, available on the Sysselmester’s website. Until 15 October, all interested parties, organisations as well as individual persons, can give their input.
The process is about an area of 62 square kilometres, mainly tundra and the wide riverbed.
Adventdalen is one of Spitsbergen’s largest ice-free valleys with huge tundra areas and wetlands, that provide various habitats to a range of animal and plant species, including a number of rare ones. The protection of these habitats is the primary goal of the legal proposal.
The current proposal would, for most, not include significant changes, and that is probably exactly its point: to propose the current status quo. New infrastructure such as new roads, ways or buildings would be impossible. Existing buildings such as huts will enjoy grandfathering, including the possibility for minor repairs. Measures to maintain Isdammen (the drinking water lake) shall remain possible.
Tundra habitat in Adventdalen, here with mountain avens in flower.
The proposal does not include much in terms of restrictions for those who are on tour in the area, both private and guided tours. Most traffic is coming in shape of snow mobiles, obvioulsy during the winter season. Snow mobiles (and other motorised traffic) is, already now, only permitted on frozen, snow-covered ground (comment: controls on this might well be a bit stricter). These areas are used by birds only when the snow-melt has advanced quite a bit, so both uses, snow mobiles (and skiers, dog sledges …) are naturally separated in time, solving conflicts before they might come up.
Other kind of traffic on wheels will not be permitted on ground that is not snow-covered. This corresponds largely to today’s regulations and practice. It might, to some degree, limit the range of FatBikes which sometimes use dry river beds that are not covered by any vegetation.
Red-necked phalaropes in Adventdalen:
one of the more unusual species that can be found here.
As of today, dogs must be on a lead when outside. This is planned to become a bit stricter in the future, when leads must not be longer than 5 m during the breeding season.
Air traffic is to be restricted: no flights lower than 300 m, no landing, except SAR services and police or by special permission. The ban on flying will include drones in the new nature reserve.
The legal proposal is now in the hearing stage until 15 October 2023. After that, the law text will continue its journey through the institutions before it eventually may be turned into valid law.
One may get the impression that the proposed sanctuary / law will not change a lot. This is indeed the case, and this is good: based on the insight that the given status quo is actually pretty good – by far most of the area in question is intact, largely untouched arctic nature – the point is exactly to preserve the status quo. Activities that do not endanger the given status shall remain possible, even when some who quickly come up with strong opinions would rather prefer comprehensive bans on all sorts of activities, especially various sorts of traffic. There were not just a few in Longyearbyen who had feared exactly that in the upcoming Lower Adventdalen nature reserve, which until now is a very important area for snow mobile traffic – in the winter season, but not during the breeding season. Good thing that those who are in charge of the law proposal have realised this. There is no need to solve problems at the public’s expense if they just don’t exist.
Obviously, there are kinds of motorised traffic in Adventdalen, be it touristic, private or of any other sort, which one does not necessarily have to be fond of. But it needs more than that to justify far-reaching regulations. Comprehensive bans on activities that are important for many need to be well-founded. Not liking something is not good enough.
But what may easily put the environment – habitat, species diversity, … – at risk, such as new infrastructure and other significant artificial terrain changes, will not be possible anymore.
It is good to see that relevant institutions still today apparently are able to have a closer look at the local reality to understand the real needs of environmental protection, while listening to locals and others, wherever relevant, and not make peoples’ lives difficult without any real reason.
A nuclear power plant for Longyearbyen, a place with less than 3000 inhabitants?
That is indeed a creative idea.
Background is the discussion about the future of Longyearbyen’s energy supply, which is supposed to be reliable and (preferably) green. One may almost get the impression that this discussion is almost as old as Longyearbyen itself, and it has been issue on this page already more than once. Until now, Longyearbyen’s electricity and warmth comes from an outdated coal power plant, which definitely is neither reliable nor green.
Longyearbyen with coal power plant (circle).
The Norwegian Fremskrittsparti (“Progress party”, FrP) has now contributed to the debate with a fantastic idea, namely the request to consider nuclear power, according to Svalbardposten.
This is how Longyearbyen might look like in the future,
according to the Norwegian Fremskrittsparti (photo composition, this author).
The voyage with SV Antigua that we finished on 8th June was fantastic, amongst others due to the amazing weather that we had throughout the trip. So it is definitely worthwhile to join the trip by clicking through the photo galleries that you can access from this page (the actual galleries are on two pages that are linked on that first page).
SV Antigua in Hornsund.
And while I was at it, I gave a face lift to several pages dedicated to places that we have been to on the recent trip. This is about the “Spitsbergen panorama pages”. The following pages got some significant improvements such as new panoramas, photo galleries and maps and it is definitely worth having a look and taking a little virtual trip to the Arctic:
After the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion of the Ukraine in February 2022, Norwegian customs officers were soon stationed in Longyearbyen. This was done because it was feared that Spitsbergen could be used to bypass sanctions against Russia. There is ship and airtraffic between both Russia and western countries and Spitsbergen, but no presence of custom authorities – until April 2022, when Norwegian customs were established in Longyearbyen.
Luggage in the airport of Longyearbyen: in earlier times, only the polar bear kept a watchful eye. Today, Norwegian custom officers are doing that.
Still, custom authorities are not (yet) too visible at Longyearbyen airport, but they are there and they do, for example controls, sample tests with drug sniffer dogs. Next to good relevant for the sanction regime, illegal drugs are an issue the custom authority wants to work on.
But the airport is not the only place for the Norwegian custom officers. The port, Barentsburg and ships in the 12 mile zone may and do get official visits, often with logistical support from the Sysselmester or the coast guard.
During such controls, officers found evidence for violation of sanctions against Russia, as Svalbardposten wrote.
Further details, including what was found and where and when, were not released.
One last excursion into the arctic tundra, in the wide coastal plains of Forlandsund. Enough snow to get the snow shoes out and enough snow-free land to go for a hike, whatever you wanted. Wide views, arctic silence. Lovely grey phalaropes at the beach.
Heaving anchor and sailing away from the anchor site was really sailing at its best. No engine involved. Like in the old days. Back then, a standard procedure to to the lack of alternatives; nowadays a rare experience. More and more sails went up until we made 8 knots and more, down Forlandsund and a few miles into Isfjord where the wind finally left us. A beautiful experience!
In the evening we went alongside in Longyearbyen. We were not the only ones, Meander was already there, Rembrandt van Rijn followed soon … almost a family meeting. Plus several bigger ships at the main pier and at anchor. Spirits were high, we could celebrate beautiful days that we had enjoyed together. The weather was obviously a major factor, but also thanks to all the people who made their contribution of one or the other kind, working wherever on the ship and on land, and those who joined us with good spirits and deep interest in and love for Spitsbergen’s arctic nature. Thank you so very much, and see you again soon!
Gallery: Forlandsund – Longyearbyen 07th june 2023
What a day! One of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful fjords under a completely blue sky. From the little hike up to Ossian Sarsfjellet, with panoramic views and a bird cliff, to the countless icebergs and the fast ice edge (not very solid anymore) in inner Kongsfjord. Amazing views of Kronebreen and the famous mountains Tre Kroner.
Oh yes, and a polar bear, enjoying a lazy summer day on a snow field near the beach. In a distance to Ny-Ålesund of just about 3 km …
The weather situation is incredible, mostly sunshine since the first day in Bellsund. Also here in Engelskbukta, in northern Forlandsund. While we had an arctic summer feeling yesterday further south in Hyttevika, here it looks and feels more like arctic winter, with snow – wet and heavy, though – all the way down to sea level. A good opportunity to get the snowshoes out and go for a little hike to and on Comfortlessbreen.
Later, we went alongside in Ny-Ålesund, the northernmost outpost of civilisation in Spitsbergen.
Gallery – Engelskbukta – Ny-Ålesund – 05th June 2023
The days were fully packed, not the slightest chance to write something for the blog any earlier. So a short summary will have to be enough now, the photos speak for themselves. We were so lucky with the weather, a lot of sun, little wind (and the wind we had was good for sailing). A number of landings and experiences that would have been good enough for a week, but we had it in less than three days. We spent a second day in Bellsund and then continued down south to Hornsund, were we had a day packed with landings and ship and Zodiac cruises all over the place. Hyttevika was then the place were we took off again to the north.
The start of the season „Spitsbergen under sail“ 2023. And what a start! During the first night we made some miles to the south and woke up in Bellsund to blue skies and bright sun glittering on the snow. But there was enough snow-free tundra in the lowlands to allow for a good walk. What a beautiful morning!
The afternoon continued beautifully. Somewhat surprising, we found a big herd of walruses, and then we followed the ice edge in Van Mijenfjord for a while.