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Yearly Archives: 2024 − News & Stories


Pro­per­ty for sale in Recher­chefjord

It is almost temp­ting to wri­te “Spits­ber­gen about to beco­me Chi­ne­se”, but no, that is not the level we are working at here. That would be non­sen­se, alt­hough you might almost have belie­ved it, loo­king at some recent head­lines.

Pro­per­ty in Sval­bard: that’s how it star­ted

We have to go back to the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry for a moment. Spits­ber­gen was no man’s land and com­pa­nies, many small and a few lar­ger ones, came and clai­med rights, thin­king mining would be a way to make a for­tu­ne up north. Most com­pa­nies were far too small and did not have the expe­ri­ence or the funds to start mining at indus­tri­al level, but some did, such as John Mun­ro Longyear’s Arc­tic Coal Com­pa­ny which foun­ded Lon­gye­ar­by­en (then known as Lon­gyear City) in 1906.

Recherchefjord

60 sqa­re km of pro­per­ty are now on offer in Recher­chefjord – for 300 mil­li­on Euro.

Many of the small com­pa­nies quick­ly ran out of money, and some of them sold their claims to others. Many of the claims were over­lap­ping. It took years to sort this mess out, a pro­cess that was requi­red to be finis­hed befo­re the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty could enter force in 1925.

Com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to sell their various pro­per­ties also after 1925, and so did suc­ces­sors and heirs. Often it had beco­me clear that the­re would never be any mining or other kind of land use befo­re land or claims would be sold. Usual­ly the Nor­we­gi­an sta­te secu­red pro­per­ties and mining rights to get Svalbard’s land are­as under con­trol. By now, 99 % of Svalbard’s ground are owned by the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment. The Rus­si­an sta­te-owned mining com­pa­ny Trust Arc­ti­cu­gol owns some smal­ler land are­as in Isfjord (Barents­burg, Colesdalen/Grumant, Pyra­mi­den, Erd­mann­flya) – and then the­re is Kul­spids AS, one of many com­pa­nies that were foun­ded in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry to explo­re and exploit mine­ral resour­ces.

Kul­spids AS

Kul­spids AS secu­red a land area of 60 squa­re kilo­me­t­res in inner Recher­chefjord. Asbes­tos is one mine­ral found in the area and mining was attempt­ed, but not suc­cessful. Kul­spids AS still exists and still owns the pro­per­ty, which today’s owners of the com­pa­ny now want to turn into money, as was initi­al­ly repor­ted by Bloom­berg. The sto­ry was quick­ly picked up by various Nor­we­gi­an media inclu­ding NRK.

“All bidders wel­co­me” is the seller’s mes­sa­ge, addres­sing indi­vi­du­als, com­pa­nies and govern­ments ali­ke. It is poin­ted out that also govern­ments such as the ones in Chi­na or Rus­sia could buy the pro­per­ty, if a pri­ce could only be agreed on. And of cour­se the geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce of arc­tic are­as in gene­ral is also high­ligh­ted by Kul­spids AS repre­sen­ta­ti­ve.

Geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce – or not

Wha­te­ver the geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce actual­ly might include is, hower, unclear: any new owner, as well as the cur­rent one, has to com­ply with the Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal law and the Spits­ber­gen (Sval­bard) Trea­ty. This makes pret­ty much any kind of land use impos­si­ble. No future owner, inclu­ding the govern­ment of Chi­na (or Rus­sia, for that sake) would legal­ly be able to build a hotel, a har­bour, a rese­arch sta­ti­on, a mine or a mili­ta­ry base. Nobo­dy would even legal­ly be able to dri­ve a snow mobi­le wit­hout spe­cial per­mis­si­on from Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties, which would be dif­fi­cult to get. The geo­po­li­ti­cal signi­fi­can­ce of the pro­per­ty bey­ond pres­ti­ge is hence doubtful.

Con­side­ring the abo­ve, rese­ar­cher Andre­as Øst­ha­gen of the Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen Insti­tu­te recom­mends the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment to remain calm and not make a very expen­si­ve panic purcha­se, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten. The mini­mum bid is set at the proud amount of 3.5 bil­li­on (yes, bil­li­on!) Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner – curr­ent­ly about 300 mil­li­on Euro. For com­pa­ri­son: at the latest com­pa­ra­ble trans­fer in 2014, when a lar­ge pro­per­ty on the north side of Advent­fjord was sold, the pri­ce was near one tenth of today’s mini­mum bid. Even then, the pri­ce was con­tro­ver­si­al – and mining or other land use would at least in theo­ry have been pos­si­ble, con­side­ring the pro­per­ty sold in 2014 was not part of any natio­nal park or other spe­ci­al­ly pro­tec­ted area.

Hence, it seems fair to assu­me that poin­ting at any geo­po­li­ti­cal or other importance of the pro­per­ty in Recher­chefjord or at poten­ti­al buy­ers such as Chi­na pri­ma­ri­ly ser­ve as a tool to push the pri­ce and to increase the pres­su­re on the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment to secu­re the land for Nor­way. Not­hing is so far known about any buy­ers actual­ly being inte­res­ted or any serious bids.

Mean­while, a spo­kesper­son of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment said that the govern­ment had actual­ly made an offer in the past which was con­side­red gene­rous con­side­ring that the pro­per­ty does not come with any land use poten­ti­al. The offer was tur­ned down by Kul­spids AS. It was also said that becau­se of an old con­tract bet­ween the govern­ment and Kul­spids AS, the pro­per­ty can not be sold wit­hout govern­ment appr­oval.

In any case, this is the very last major land area in Sval­bard still in pri­va­te hands. Once it is sold, the time of major pro­per­ties chan­ging from one owner to ano­ther will be over. The­re are very few other, small pri­va­te pro­per­ties in Sval­bard. In tho­se cases whe­re for exam­p­le a pri­va­te per­son owns a house in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the pro­per­ty as such does not include the land the house is stan­ding on – this is alre­a­dy govern­ment pro­per­ty.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en locals: join Mean­der for a trip to Kongsfjord and Ny-Åle­sund!

From 23 May (Thurs­day) evening to 26 May (Sun­day) evening, that is.

The best things in life often come as a sur­pri­se. That’s how it is here and now: unex­pec­ted­ly, sai­ling ship Mean­der has some days off in May. Stay­ing in port is bor­ing, so we rather sail and have some fun – locals only, at a cost-cove­ring pri­ce!

Our idea is to sche­du­le a 3 day trip, aiming for Ny-Åle­sund and a look around in Kongsfjord, with seve­ral stops on the way the­re and back. Such as loo­king for wal­ru­ses in For­lands­und, crui­sing in Kongsfjord and making a landing or two some­whe­re in the­se waters as it fits. This is our plan A; of cour­se, ice and wea­ther may have a say in this as well.

SV Meander, Svalbard 2023

SV Mean­der last year on Spitsbergen’s north side.

Have a look at this pdf for all fur­ther details. Or email Mean­der‘s cap­tain and owner Mario direct­ly at info(at)sailing-expeditions.com if you are inte­res­ted.

This season’s first tri­plog: with SV Mean­der from Alta to Bodø

The 2024 arc­tic sai­son has begun! We spent 10 days with SV Mean­der sai­ling in north Nor­way from Alta to Bodø. If you fol­low my tra­vel blog on the­se pages then you know all about it and you have alre­a­dy seen a lot of pic­tures. Now the tri­plog is available. The tri­plog its­elf is in Ger­man, but it comes with ple­nty of pho­tos well sor­ted in 3 gal­le­ries. Start here.

SV Meander, Norway 2024

SV Mean­der in Troll­fjord.

It is cer­tain­ly worth cli­cking through the pho­tos. We were very lucky on this trip, with a lot of suns­hi­ne and no real­ly bad wea­ther, almost a bit unty­pi­cal for the area and that time of year, still late win­ter. And yes, the wha­les … but just have a look at the pic­tures.

Good SV Mean­der will keep sai­ling in north Nor­way also in the future, both in spring and in the late sea­son, in Novem­ber, when we count on see­ing nor­t­hern lights and orcas. Visit Sai­ling Expedition’s web­site for more infor­ma­ti­on.

The next tri­plog will come in June, after the trip with Anti­gua 31 May – 08 June.

Polar cir­cle, Salts­trau­men and Kjer­rin­gøy

A ship is cle­ar­ly the best way to tra­vel in a coun­try with a coast­li­ne as Nor­way has ⛵️👍😎 as we did it the last cou­ple of days with SV Mean­der. But belie­ve it or not, the­re are other opti­ons. To round this chap­ter of my tra­vels off, we had a good look around Bodø, from Salt­fjel­let with the polar cir­cle in the south to Salts­trau­men and Kjer­rin­gøy in the north. Beau­tiful places, some of which I am sure we will visit under sail as soon as the oppor­tu­ni­ty comes up.

A high­light for me was the sight­ing of moo­se – we don’t have them in Spits­ber­gen. We saw as many as nine of them just one evening! And no, that does not include the three reinde­er in the first image with hoo­fed ani­mals in the gal­lery below 😄.

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

Engeløy-Bodø

Now, on the last full day of the trip, north Nor­way pre­sen­ted its­elf the way it is gene­ral­ly known: grey and a bit wet. Not bad at all, no wind and hea­vy rain, just some mois­tu­re. Quite refres­hing actual­ly after all tho­se sun­ny days.

After landing with the din­gi on the beach of Bø, whe­re we were gree­ted by a red fox, we fol­lo­wed a way to an area of rocky hills. Next to a sea eagle and some love­ly views, we found remains of a rather dark chap­ter of histo­ry. During the second world war, the Ger­man occu­p­iers built a huge coas­tal bat­tery known as “Bat­te­rie Dietl” here on Engeløya, an equi­va­lent of simi­lar for­ti­fi­ca­ti­on with some huge can­nons clo­se to Har­stad in Ves­terå­len.

In the after­noon, we had 48 miles to Bodø ahead of us and a series of pre­sen­ta­ti­ons of board. Then, in the har­bour of Bodø, the trip came to and end. It was a gre­at one, bles­sed with a lot of good wea­ther and wild­life – my thanks you all who were part of it in wha­te­ver way! The tri­plog will soon fol­low on a dedi­ca­ted page within the sec­tion – sur­pri­se! – tri­plogs and pho­to gal­le­ries.

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

Ships and rocks …

… are by no means a good com­bi­na­ti­on. That is gene­ral­ly well known, but nevert­hel­ess, some­ti­mes it hap­pens that both meet.

It hap­pen­ed actual­ly twice in Spits­ber­gen in April, short­ly after the begin­ning of the sea­son. To start with the good news: none of the­se inci­den­ces invol­ved serious con­se­quen­ces for life and limb or the envi­ron­ment.

The French ves­sel Polar­front hit the ground clo­se to the coast at Dia­ba­sod­den in Isfjord. Soon it recei­ved help from the coast guard, who evacua­ted the 12 pas­sen­gers and later pul­led Polar­front off the shal­low. The ship could sail back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en under its own steam. No dama­ge was found upon later inspec­tion. Inves­ti­ga­ti­ons have not been finis­hed yet, but “inat­ten­ti­ve navi­ga­ti­on” is suspec­ted rather than tech­ni­cal reasons.

Polarfront

Polar­front (archi­ve image).

Ano­ther case hap­pen­ed also in April, when Viking­fjord ran aground clo­se to the shore in Mag­da­le­nefjord. 22 per­sons were on board, inclu­ding 12 pas­sen­gers. Viking­fjord came afloat again with high water, appar­ent­ly wit­hout any dama­ge.

Yet ano­ther inci­dent hap­pen­ed at the west coast when a fire bro­ke out on the sai­ling ship Lin­den. The fire could be brought under con­trol and the ship sai­led to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for inspec­tion.

Com­ment

Nobo­dy who takes part in any kind of traf­fic should ever say he or she would never be invol­ved in an acci­dent, such as groun­ding when it comes to ship­ping. Nevert­hel­ess, when a ship runs aground at some pace pret­ty clo­se to the shore within gene­ral­ly well-known and well-char­ted waters, it may rai­se more than an eye­brow. Inves­ti­ga­ti­ons still need to be car­ri­ed out, but it seems to be a fair assump­ti­on that the­se invi­dents might well have been avo­ided with careful, pro­per navi­ga­ti­on. Lucki­ly, the­se cases remain­ed wit­hout con­se­quen­ces for health and life of peo­p­le or dama­ge to the envi­ron­ment. What remains is pro­ba­b­ly eco­no­mic­al trou­ble for the respec­ti­ve ship owners and tour oer­a­tors and poli­ti­cal dama­ge that might well later con­cern ever­y­bo­dy who is sai­ling in the­se waters.

Tranøy-Engeløy

The wind had picked up quite a bit, but we could expo­re Tranøy art park in spen­did suns­hi­ne. Over a long peri­od they have added a pie­ce of art every year in dif­fe­rent places, so it takes you ever­y­whe­re across the who­le place, inclu­ding some hid­den gems.

Later wind and sails took us to ano­ther hid­den gem, name­ly the bay of Bøvi­ka on the island of Engeløy with a beau­tiful wide sand beach and a stun­ning sun­set.

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

Hen­nings­vær-Skro­va

Hen­nings­vær is one of the most beau­tiful and well-known places in Lofo­ten, an old fishing vil­la­ge situa­ted on seve­ral small sker­ries. That’s whe­re we spent the mor­ning, tur­ning our atten­ti­on to the geo­lo­gy (2.85 bil­li­on years old rocks), dried cod and rela­ted histo­ry and the many love­ly gene­ral impres­si­ons that that place has. And, of cour­se, don’t for­get about the culina­ry high­lights!

Later we set cour­se for Skro­va, having skip­ped the idea of visi­ting the islands fur­ther south in Lofo­ten becau­se of the wea­ther fore­cast. This tur­ned out to be a lucky move, as we found a lar­ge pod of orcas near Skro­va. Ama­zing – who would have expec­ted orcas in this area in late April? A beau­tiful encoun­ter.

Then we still had Skro­va wai­ting for us, with the love­ly litt­le vil­la­ge, the moun­tain and some beau­tiful white bea­ches.

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

Troll­fjord-Diger­mu­len

Days on end with sun, hard­ly any clouds! Incre­di­ble. The won­derful sce­n­ery of Raft­sund and Troll­fjord in bril­li­ant suns­hi­ne. Of cour­se we made good use of it and spend some time play­ing in Troll­fjord.

Suns­hi­ne also in the after­noon. We made a stop at Diger­mu­len and made a gre­at hike up to Kei­ser­var­den. Wal­king in the deep, hea­vy snow was a bit tough, but the reward came in shape of an ama­zing pan­o­r­amic view.

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

Sperm wha­les

Yes, sperm wha­les! Con­side­ring the wea­ther, this was the day. Litt­le wind and calm seas at open sea off Ande­nes. So we had been steam­ing that way during the night to be in posi­ti­on in the mor­ning, with depth of 1000 met­res under the ship.

It took a litt­le while, but then … yes, then we saw sperm wha­les. Seve­ral ones. Stun­ning!

Later, we used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stretch legs a litt­le bit in Ande­nes. Polar muse­um, light­house, sand beach, sun …

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

Trom­sø

Trom­sø! What shall I say, this beau­tiful city is well known. We had deci­ded to spend a who­le day here, some­thing that would also fit well with our plans for the days to come. And the­re is so much to do and to see in Trom­sø.

Start­ing with the stun­ning evening light on our arri­val the night befo­re. Ama­zing, Trom­sø just loo­ked as if it was on fire!

To start with, I went to Trom­sø Muse­um (“Nor­ges ark­tis­ke Uni­ver­si­tets­mu­se­um”) near the south end of the island. For years, I wan­ted to see the “ter­rel­la”, Chris­ti­an Birkeland’s expe­ri­ment whe­re he famously crea­ted the first arti­fi­ci­al nor­t­hern light in his labo­ra­to­ry. The ter­rel­la (“litt­le earth” had been in the museum’s archi­ves for ages and now it is on dis­play again. Some­what hid­den and wit­hout any expl­ana­ti­on men­tio­ning the name of Chris­ti­an Bir­keland or the term “ter­rel­la”. But anway … I’ve seen it … I’ve seen the light 🤩 and that’s some­thing I’ve real­ly been wan­ting to do for some time, being the nor­t­hern light fan I am.

But that was just one thing. As said, the­re is so much to see and to do in Trom­sø.

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

Skjer­vøy

The love­ly litt­le island of Skjer­vøy in Kvæn­an­gen is home to the town of the same name, the lar­gest one in the regi­on with near 2400 inha­bi­tants. Skjervøy’s moment of fame was on 20 August 1896 when Fram show­ed up, Fri­dt­jof Nansen’s ship of the famous 3 year ice drift across the Arc­tic Oce­an. Nan­sen hims­elf was not on board, howe­ver. He and his com­pa­n­ion Johan­sen had left Fram the year befo­re, try­ing to ski to the north pole – which they didn’t reach – and after a win­ter on Franz Josef Land they had retur­ned to Var­dø fur­ther east in north Nor­way a week befo­re Fram‘s arri­val in Skjer­vøy.

Old sto­ries. What most of us got more exci­ted about was a hike up the moun­tain Lai­laf­jel­let. Beau­tiful! Not the hig­hest moun­tain in the area with a mere 205 met­res, but that’s enough to give you a stun­ning pan­o­r­amic view.

The pas­sa­ge towards Trom­sø later the same day came with some gre­at scenic impres­si­ons.

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

From Øks­fjord to Skjer­vøy

It’s been ano­ther long day and I am not into spen­ding a lot of time with the com­pu­ter now, so some pho­tos and a very few words will do … from the beau­tiful mor­ning in Øks­fjord to the arri­val in Skjer­vøy in the evening in snow­fall.

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

Under sails through Alta­fjord

We star­ted this year’s sea­son “Arc­tic under sails” with SV Mean­der in Alta in north Nor­way! And we took “under sails” lite­ral­ly. The wea­ther was gre­at, with a fresh, cold bree­ze and the sun shi­ning from a blue sky.

Of cour­se it didn’t take long until the sails went up. What a start, under sail in Alta­fjord and Stjern­sund!

We finis­hed the day along­side in Øks­fjord with a litt­le walk around the bay or to the fro­zen lake.

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

Tem­pel­fjord in the light win­ter

Some fresh impres­si­ons from Tem­pel­fjord, show­ing a bit of the beau­ty of this arc­tic win­ter­won­der­world. It had been pret­ty cold in recent weeks and more of the fjords are fro­zen than other­wi­se in recent years, in times of cli­ma­te chan­ge. That is both good and beau­tiful and it is also very con­ve­ni­ent for tra­vel­ling at this time of year, you can walk and dri­ve (as far as still allo­wed) on the fjord ice. Safe­ty is an issue of cour­se, fjord ice can be very dan­ge­rous. But when strong enough, it is gre­at. We could ski across the ice to the gla­ciers in inner Tem­pel­fjord, Tunab­reen and Von Post­breen. What a beau­tiful icy world.

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

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