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Home → June, 2023

Monthly Archives: June 2023 − News & Stories


Advent­da­len to beco­me natu­re reser­ve

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.

Nature reserve lower Adventdalen

Lower Advent­da­len is plan­ned to beco­me a natu­re reser­ve.
Map © Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te.

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 in Adventdalen

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.

Odinshühnchen, Adventdalen

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.

Com­ment

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.

Nuclear power for Lon­gye­ar­by­en?

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.

Coal power plant Longyearbyen

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.

Nuclear power plant, Longyearbyen

This is how Lon­gye­ar­by­en might look like in the future,
accor­ding to the Nor­we­gi­an Frems­kritts­par­ti (pho­to com­po­si­ti­on, this aut­hor).

It would be Norway’s only nuclear power plant.

Com­ment

None 🙂

New pho­to- and pan­ora­ma pages

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 2023, Spitsbergen

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:

Vio­la­ti­on of sanc­tions found by Nor­we­gi­an cus­toms in Sval­bard

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.

Custom controls Spitsbergen: airport 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.

For­lands­und – Lon­gye­ar­by­en

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

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

Kongsfjord – 06th 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 …

Gal­lery – Kongsfjord – 06th june 2023

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

Engelskbuk­ta – Ny-Åle­sund – 05th June 2023

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

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

Bell­sund & Horn­sund – 02nd-4th 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.

Gal­lery – Bell­sund 02nd June 2023

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

Gal­lery – Horn­sund 03rd June 2023

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

Gal­lery – Hyt­te­vi­ka 04th June 2023

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

Bell­sund – 01st June 2023

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.

Gal­lery – Bell­sund – 01st June 2023

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

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