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Home → July, 2024

Monthly Archives: July 2024 − News & Stories


Envi­ron­men­tal toxins near air­port must be remo­ved

The for­mer fire­drill area near Sval­bard air­port clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en has been a mat­ter of con­flict for years. The area is con­ta­mi­na­ted with “per- and poly­fluo­ro­al­kyl sub­s­tances” or short PFAS, which come as part of fire extin­gu­is­hing foam which was used in lar­ge quan­ti­ties on the fire­drill area over years. PFAS is harmful to both health and envi­ron­ment and it is hard­ly bro­ken own under natu­ral con­di­ti­ons. Hence, once released it stays in the envi­ron­ment for very long and it accu­mu­la­tes in the food chain.

The fire­drill area in ques­ti­on was aban­do­ned 24 years ago, but PFAS con­cenc­tra­ti­on levels in the soil are still high. Some of the con­ta­mi­na­ted soil was remo­ved in 2023, but more remains and fur­ther clean-up has been mat­ter of legal and public dis­pu­te for a long time. Avi­nor, the Nor­we­gi­an com­pa­ny that runs the air­port (and other ones in Nor­way), argued that effort and cos­ts are too high. But now, the Nor­we­gi­an minis­try for cli­ma­te and envi­ron­ment has deci­ded that the clean-up must be com­ple­ted.

Environmental toxins, Longyearbyen airport

Part of the con­ta­mi­na­ted soil near the hor­se riding cent­re clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port was remo­ved in August 2023.

Avi­nor has bud­get­ed 25 mil­li­on kro­ner (about 2.1 mil­li­on Euro) for the cle­a­nup pro­ject. Work is sche­du­led to start in August, accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Jørn Dyb­dahl, for­mer owner of the hor­se riding cent­re clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port, died in 2023 from can­cer. Dyb­dahl hims­elf suspec­ted the PFAS con­ta­mi­na­ti­on to be the reason for his fatal ill­ness.

Storfjord & Isbuk­ta

We knew that sai­ling could be a moving expe­ri­ence, some­thing that we got con­firm­ed again during the night. Later in the mor­ning, we were moved not only by the swell, but only by a won­derful encoun­ter with a cou­ple of hump­back wha­les in sou­thern Storfjord.

In the after­noon, we found some shel­ter in Isbuk­ta whe­re we also mana­ged to go for a walk. The choice was eit­her a rather bizar­re morai­ne land­scape or a gla­cier walk. Any­way, it was win­dy!

Pho­to gal­lery – Storfjord & Isbuk­ta – 13th July 2024

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

Barent­søya & Edgeøya

A night of sai­ling took us to Free­man­sund bet­ween the lar­ge islands of Barent­søya and Edgeøya in sou­the­as­tern Sval­bard. A won­derful area, high arc­tic in its very own way, very dif­fe­rent from Nordaustland’s very bar­ren polar desert eco­sys­tem.

Here, polar bears tend to chan­ge one’s plans even more fre­quent­ly than else­whe­re. No excep­ti­on today. In this very cha­rac­te­ristic land­scape with its wide, dark, pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins, the­re are colo­nies of kit­ti­wa­kes and arc­tic foxes are roa­ming the tun­dra. And the wide, green tun­dra is won­derful. Even when the sky is rather grey.

Pho­to gal­lery – Barent­søya & Edgeøya – 12th July 2024

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

Hin­lo­pen Strait (2)

Hin­lo­pen Strait … haven’t we just been the­re yes­ter­day? Yes, we have, but it is a big place. you could easi­ly spend a week the­re – bet­ter two! – wit­hout having been ever­y­whe­re in that huge and beau­tiful area.

So we picked some real­ly good places. Last night we still added a bunch of wal­ru­ses to a day that had alre­a­dy been bet­ter than good. Today, we star­ted the day at Von Otterøya, a stony pearl of high arc­tic land­scape. We retur­ned to the ship ear­lier than plan­ned becau­se the island tur­ned out to be alre­ay occu­p­ied by a polar bear, but at least we got some more time ashore than yes­ter­day in Wahl­enberg­fjord.

Brås­vell­breen is one of the seven won­ders of the arc­tic world, and we didn’t want to miss it eit­her. It is just an unbe­lie­va­ble place!

Pho­to gal­lery – Hin­lo­pen Strait (2) – 11th July 2024

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

Hin­lo­pen Strait

After the par­ti­al­ly wea­ther-bea­ten last cou­ple of days, today was our day in Hin­lo­pen Strait. Alt­hough – it star­ted with can­cel­ling the hike that we had been loo­king for­ward to, on a small island in Wahl­enberg­fjord. Two polar bears on the even smal­ler neigh­bou­ring island!

So ins­tead of the hike, we got a won­derful wild­life obser­va­ti­on of a polar bear mother with her first-year cub who were wal­king across this litt­le island, lea­ving us with some unfor­gettable memo­ries!

Later, we got some more equal­ly unfor­gettable memo­ries at Alkef­jel­let, this huge colo­ny of Brünich’s guil­l­emots. Ama­zing!

Pho­to gal­lery – Hin­lo­pen Strait – 10th July 2024

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

Sjuøya­ne

After that very wet after­noon and evening in Murch­ison­fjord, the wind came. A lot of wind. The­re was cle­ar­ly not­hing to achie­ve in Murch­ison­fjord, so we tried our luck fur­ther north and set sail. Of cour­se it was blo­wing the­re as well, it was just blo­wing all over the place and it was not easy to find an ancho­ra­ge that work­ed, let alo­ne a chan­ce to go ashore.

Final­ly a win­dow ope­ned up for us at Sjuøya­ne, in the very fur­thest north of Sval­bard, and we got a magni­fi­cent landing on Phippsøya, the nor­t­hern­most “real island” in this part of the Arc­tic. We great­ly enjoy­ed it!

The drift ice east of Sjuøya­ne had drifted else­whe­re, the­re was just fog in that area and not­hing else. Well, we had real­ly made good use of our wea­ther win­dow!

Pho­to gal­lery – Sjuøya­ne – 08th/09th July 2024

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

Nord­aus­t­land: Kinn­vi­ka

Con­di­ti­ons were ide­al last night to cross nor­t­hern Hin­lo­pen Strait, hea­ding for Kinn­vi­ka in Murch­ison­fjord, Nord­aus­t­land. Next to the old Swe­dish-Fin­nish rese­arch sta­ti­on, we explo­red the bar­ren polar desert – what a con­trast to the com­pa­ra­tively rich vege­ta­ti­on we had seen the last cou­ple of days!

In the after­noon, the wea­ther fore­cast kept its pro­mi­se with strong winds and quite hea­vy snow and rain. The best place to be was obvious­ly in the cosy salon of the ship, lis­tening to some pre­sen­ta­ti­ons and enjoy­ing a good book. It seems to have been a wet place any­whe­re in Spits­ber­gen; in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, they actual­ly had to clo­se some roads becau­se of risks of floo­ding and ava­lan­ches!

Pho­to gal­lery – Nord­aus­t­land: Kinn­vi­ka – 07th July 2024

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

Sørd­als­flya & Gråhu­ken

The head­line might just as well be: Kreuz­rit­ter and Rit­ter­hüt­te, which trans­la­tes to “cru­sader” and “Ritter’s hut”.

Sørd­als­flya is part of Reins­dyr­flya, a lar­ge area of most­ly flat tun­dra land north of Lief­defjord. This is whe­re the Ger­man wea­ther sta­ti­on “Kreuz­rit­ter” was loca­ted during the second world war, from 1943-44.

Sin­ce then, Reins­dyr­flya has again been a peaceful place whe­re natu­re rules.

This is also the case at Gråhu­ken, in nor­t­hern­most Wood­fjord. Nobo­dy is win­tering the­re any­mo­re, let alo­ne hun­ting polar bears, but the hut the­re has seen many well-known win­te­rers from Hil­mar Nøis who built the hut to Chris­tia­ne Rit­ter, who win­tered the­re tog­e­ther with her hus­band Her­mann Rit­ter and the Nor­we­gi­an hun­ter Karl Niko­lai­sen in 1934-35. The win­tering resul­ted in the famous book “A woman in the polar night”. See­ing the hut was high on the wish­list for many on board – gre­at that it work­ed out!

The­re is, by the way, a page within this web­site (click here) dedi­ca­ted to the the “Rit­ter hut”, inclu­ding a vir­tu­al tour.

Pho­to gal­lery – Sørd­als­flya & Gråhu­ken – 06th July 2024

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

Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen: Dan­s­køya & Smee­ren­burg­fjord

The wea­ther at Spitsbergen’s nor­thwest cor­ner was as it so often is in that area, with tem­pe­ra­tures clo­se to free­zing, a stiff bree­ze and occa­sio­nal snow­fall. It was good to be dres­sed with all the out­door gear you can get, spend just a few hours out­side and then get back to a ship with cen­tral hea­ting and the next good meal on the table … so dif­fe­rent from con­di­ti­ons wha­lers had to endu­re in the­se waters 400 years ago.

Dan­s­køya offe­red the oppor­tu­ni­ty for some hiking, and at Smee­ren­burg­breen, the clouds lifted and gave way to views of stun­ning beau­ty. And when that polar bear had gone its way, we could go and have a look at Vir­go­ham­na, which is kind of an out­door muse­um of arc­tic explo­ra­ti­on, expe­di­ti­ons and dra­ma.

Pho­to gal­lery – nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen: Dan­s­køya & Smee­ren­burg­fjord – 05th July 2024

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

Kross­fjord: Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta & Lil­lie­höök­breen

A day in Kross­fjord, again with the best of wea­ther. Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta tur­ned out to be well shel­te­red from the stiff bree­ze that was blo­wing in the main arm of the fjord. We could enjoy a wide ran­ge of nature’s won­ders, from the bird cliff which included a few rare puf­fins and even a very rare razor­bill, to the “han­ging gar­dens” with a beau­tiful flower car­pet inclu­ding some rare spe­ci­es such as polar dan­de­l­ion (Tar­a­xa­cum arc­ti­cum) and Arc­tic alpi­ne fle­a­ba­ne (Eri­ge­ron humi­lis) and final­ly the gla­cier at the head of the bay.

Tal­king about gla­ciers: the migh­ty Lil­lie­höök­breen is one of Krossfjord’s scenic high­lights, despi­te of a sub­stan­ti­al mass loss during recent deca­des.

Pho­to gal­lery – Kross­fjord: Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta & Lil­lie­höök­breen – 04th July 2024

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

Kongsfjord: Ossi­an Sars­fjel­let & Blom­strand­hal­vøya

We enjoy­ed the day in Kongsfjord, whe­re we expec­ted the best wea­ther available. We didn’t reg­ret it!

Ossi­an Sars­fjel­let has some gre­at views over Kongsfjord, a mixed sea­bird colo­ny of Brünich’s guil­l­emots and kit­ti­wa­kes and last but not least an impres­si­ve spe­ci­es ran­ge of flowers, inclu­ding some rare ones such as arni­ca angusti­fo­lia.

Blom­strand­hal­vøya is one of Kongsfjord’s beau­tiful clas­sics, from the old marb­le mine of Ny Lon­don / Marb­le Island to the ele­va­ted parts such as Brat­lie­kol­len which has a sple­ndid pan­o­r­amic view of Kongsfjord.

Pho­to gal­lery – Kongsfjord: Ossi­an Sars­fjel­let & Blom­strand­hal­vøya – 03rd July 2024

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

From For­lands­und to Ny-Åle­sund

Things hap­pen­ed quick­ly, the wea­ther was gre­at so made as much as pos­si­ble out of the day. Wal­ru­ses were high on the wish­list. We found them in For­lands­und, tog­e­ther with a lot of kit­ti­wa­kes. A love­ly com­bi­na­ti­on 🙂

We con­tin­ued to Ny-Åle­sund, grab­bing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to have the place to our­sel­ves wit­hout any lar­ge ship the­re. Nice!

Pho­to gal­lery – From For­lands­und to Ny-Åle­sund – 02nd July 2024

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

Taking off again – with SV Mean­der

Today we took off again, this time with SV Mean­der! 18 days of Spits­ber­gen, that’s a lot. We are loo­king for­ward to the adven­ture!

And it was a good start: we enjoy­ed a love­ly litt­le evening crui­se in Ymer­buk­ta, enjoy­ing the evening light at the gla­cier of Esmark­breen.

And as we were just about to call it a day, we sud­den­ly saw a polar bear fami­ly at Alk­hor­net 🙂

Pho­to gal­lery – From Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Ymer­buk­ta and Alk­hor­net – 01st July 2024

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

Fine of 20,000 kro­ner for dis­tur­bing polar bears

Two gui­des of a French ship each got a fine of 20,000 kro­ner (about 1750 Euro) for having dis­tur­bed polar bears. The inci­dent hap­pen­ed on 23rd June in Mos­sel­buk­ta in north Spits­ber­gen. Two polar bears, a mother with her cub, were eating on a dead wha­le. The gui­des dro­ve Zodiacs with pas­sen­gers towards the bears in a way that cau­sed them to move away from the wha­le car­cass, accor­ding to a press release by the Sys­sel­mes­ter.

Polar bears and whale carcass

Polar bears enjoy­ing a wha­le car­cass (archi­ve image, Hin­lo­pen Strait 2023).

Accor­ding to § 30 of the Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal law (Sval­bard mil­jø­l­ov), „it is for­bidden to lure, to feed, to fol­low polar bears or to take any other action that may lead to dis­tur­ban­ce or dan­ger for peo­p­le or the polar bear(s)” (author’s trans­la­ti­on).

The­re will be new rules from 2025. Then, a mini­mum distance of 500 met­res (until 30 June) respec­tively 300 met­res (from 1st July) will be requi­red by law.

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News-Listing live generated at 2024/July/18 at 01:04:07 Uhr (GMT+1)
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