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Home → April, 2024

Monthly Archives: April 2024 − News

Sval­bard ski­ma­ra­thon in wind and cold

This year’s Sval­bard Ski­ma­ra­thon went off Satur­day mor­ning. Strong wind made the race a chall­enge for the 648 par­ti­ci­pan­ts and even threa­ten­ed to burst the event: the wea­ther ser­vice had issued an ava­lan­che war­ning for the gene­ral area, and Toda­len, the val­ley with the race track, is gene­ral­ly spea­king an area whe­re ava­lan­ches are known to occur.

Svalbard Skimarathon

The Sval­bard ski­ma­ra­thon went on Satur­day in Toda­len under chal­len­ging con­di­ti­ons:
strong wind and -12 degrees cen­ti­gra­de.

Ava­lan­che safe­ty was taken care of by a team of spe­cia­lists who sur­vey­ed the area just befo­re the race by heli­c­op­ter and on the ground, so the race could start with a delay of one hour. The ran­ge of par­ti­ci­pan­ts included pro­fes­sio­nals such as the Nor­we­gi­an Olym­pic cham­pi­on Olaf Tuf­te, ambi­tious ama­teurs and fami­lies with child­ren who could cho­se bet­ween half and full mara­thon.

Svalbard Skimarathon

Full distance Win­ner Pet­ter Sol­eng Skin­stad with a time of 2:19:11, fol­lo­wed by Eivind Vold.

For all of them the race was a signi­fi­cant chall­enge, con­side­ring the arc­tic wea­ther con­di­ti­ons and 400 met­res of alti­tu­de that had to be cover­ed up and down.

Svalbard Skimarathon, polar bear safety guard

At any other mara­thon else­whe­re, this would imme­dia­te­ly have cau­sed a major poli­ce ope­ra­ti­on. In this case, nobo­dy paid any par­ti­cu­lar atten­ti­on 🙂

Some more impres­si­ons from this year’s Sval­bard ski­ma­ra­thon.

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has got the power

Lon­gye­ar­by­en and its power: a never-ending sto­ry. This is not about hig­her powers, it is about elec­tri­ci­ty and long-distance hea­ting. But this is enough to wri­te a book about in this litt­le town in Advent­fjord (not for me as an aut­hor, thanks).

As visi­tors of this web­site will pro­ba­b­ly know (have a look here for a quick refres­her), Longyearbyen’s power sup­p­ly was based on coal for more than a cen­tu­ry. Last autumn, coal was repla­ced with die­sel. This is a tem­po­ra­ry solu­ti­on only, the idea is to install some­thing more envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly, ide­al­ly wit­hout CO2-emis­si­ons. But nobo­dy knows what exact­ly this should be alt­hough it is a ques­ti­on that has been deba­ted for years alre­a­dy. The idea of a nuclear power plant for this town with 2500 inha­bi­tants has recent­ly sur­faced again in a let­ter to the edi­tor of Sval­bard­pos­ten, the local news­pa­per.

Power plant Longyearbyen

The Power plant in Lon­gye­ar­by­en sup­pli­es peo­p­le with elec­tri­ci­ty, long-distance hea­ting and con­ver­sa­ti­on topics.

Tech­ni­cal issues and capa­ci­ty worries

The ope­ra­ti­on of the new die­sel gene­ra­tors, howe­ver, tur­ned out to be any­thing but smooth. The­re have been tech­ni­cal issues more than once, inclu­ding a hava­ry of one of the engi­nes that was simi­lar to an explo­si­on. One man got a good share of oil and engi­ne parts from short distance. Lucki­ly, he did not recei­ve any serious inju­ries. Major cus­to­mers who have got their own emer­gen­cy power sys­tems such as mine 7, the last coal mine near Lon­gye­ar­by­en still in ope­ra­ti­on, and KSat (the ope­ra­tor of the satel­li­te anten­nas on Pla­tå­berg) have been asked to use their capa­ci­ties to redu­ce the bur­den on Longyearbyen’s power plant.

Help from the Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry

A few weeks ago, Sys­sel­mes­ter (gover­nor) Lars Fau­se deci­ded that Longyearbyen’s power sup­p­ly sys­tem was not good enough, espe­ci­al­ly in the­se times of cold tem­pe­ra­tures, and he asked the Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry for help. They have capa­ci­ties to set up a power sup­p­ly sys­tem any­whe­re on short war­ning, and that is just what they did in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The mili­ta­ry gene­ra­tors now ser­ve as a back­up sys­tem in case the ori­gi­nal sys­tem should expe­ri­ence major trou­bles, it is not inten­ded to be used. But this is only a tem­po­ra­ry back­up and not a per­ma­nent solu­ti­on.

The Nor­we­gi­an air­force was heard say­ing that they could evacua­te Lon­gye­ar­by­en quick­ly at any time if nee­ded. This rather dra­stic mea­su­re could come into play in the event of a major inter­rup­ti­on of Longyearbyen’s power sup­p­ly, some­thing that could quick­ly lead to a dan­ge­rous situa­ti­on espe­ci­al­ly in the cold sea­son. Tem­pe­ra­tures have recent­ly often been under -20°C, and most hou­ses are poor­ly insu­la­ted. And almost all buil­dings in Lon­gye­ar­by­en rely on distant hea­ting. A col­lap­se of the distant hea­ting sys­tem would soon serious­ly affect the water sup­p­ly, which in its­elf is chal­len­ging enough even when hea­ting and power are no pro­blem. We have seen enough of that in recent weeks.

Pri­ce increase to be expec­ted

Nobo­dy knows for sure what Longyearbyen’s power sup­p­ly of the future will look like. But the­re is litt­le doubt that it will be expen­si­ve. Litt­le Lon­gye­ar­by­en will hard­ly be able to pay the bill on its own and finan­cial aid from Oslo is likely to play a major role. Nevert­hel­ess, an increase in pri­ces is expec­ted (they are tal­king about this while I am wri­ting) – start­ing on a level that is alre­a­dy pret­ty high.

Die­sel power plant wit­hout per­mis­si­on

To make things even “bet­ter”, the die­sel power plant that is now in ope­ra­ti­on is run­ning wit­hout the neces­sa­ry per­mis­si­ons. The ope­ra­tor, a com­pa­ny owned by the com­mu­ni­ty, appears to have assu­med that the old licen­se for the coal power plant would be suf­fi­ci­ent also for the die­sel gene­ra­tors, also based on the assump­ti­on that emis­si­ons would now be lower. The­re appears to be some uncer­tain­ty about wether or not this is actual­ly the case, but hig­her aut­ho­ri­ties have now made it clear that the ope­ra­ti­on of the power plant requi­res per­mis­si­on which is not yet in place. At least, aut­ho­ri­ties have remark­ed that the­re is awa­re­ness of the importance of the power plant for Lon­gye­ar­by­en and a forced shut­down is not to be expec­ted on short noti­ce (but theo­re­ti­cal­ly pos­si­ble).

Power plant Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen’s power plant: “lega­li­se it” 😅
With a subt­le hint to an enti­re­ly dif­fe­rent deba­te.
Pho­to­mon­ta­ge by Wol­fang Hüb­ner-Zach, wit­hout any per­so­nal inte­rest in the mat­ter that is added to the ori­gi­nal pho­to.

Rea­dy for yet ano­ther fun fact? The­re was a die­sel power plant in Sveagru­va, the for­mer mining sett­le­ment in Van Mijenfjord that has under­go­ne a major cle­a­nup in recent years. The­re are tho­se who knew it and who say that it would have ser­ved Lon­gye­ar­by­en per­fect­ly well.

The old Svea power plant has recent­ly been tur­ned into scrap metal.

At least the gene­ra­tors from Lun­ckef­jel­let, Sveagruva’s most recent mine that never ente­red the stage of pro­duc­ti­ve pro­duc­tion, are now envi­sa­ged to replace the abo­ve-men­tio­ned mili­ta­ry gene­ra­tors and ser­ve as a back­up for Longyearbyen’s main sys­tem.

New fish spe­ci­es found in Eskerd­a­len

Most peo­p­le would pro­ba­b­ly not expect to find any fish at all in Spitsbergen’s rivers and lakes which are fro­zen most of the year. Arc­tic char is quite well known, a fish simi­lar to sal­mon, and pink sal­mon, an inva­si­ve spe­ci­es that has arri­ved in Sval­bard in recent years. Both are main­ly found in lar­ger lakes and lag­gons and rivers that con­nect the­se waters with the sea.

Fish in Spitsbergen's rivers, arctic char and pink salmon

Fish in Spitsbergen’s rivers, arc­tic char and pink sal­mon.

If you do a trip to the east from Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the win­ter, for exam­p­le to Tem­pel­fjord or the east coast, you will pass a litt­le water­fall in Eskerd­a­len, known as Esker­fos­sen. It is a popu­lar place for a litt­le rest.

Eskerfossen, winter

The water­fall Esker­fos­sen in win­ter.

Curr­ent­ly you can see some­thing pret­ty unu­su­al at Esker­fos­sen: the­re are seve­ral fishes in the most­ly clear ice, just under the sur­face.

Eskerfossen with fishes

Esker­fos­sen with fishes.

It is not just the the view of fishes in the ice of a water­fall is more than just a litt­le unu­su­al. Bey­ond that, it is a spe­ci­es that is so far unknown from Spitsbergen’s waters.

Is it a new spe­ci­es? An inva­si­ve one, or was evo­lu­ti­on incre­di­bly fast this time? Is it con­nec­ted to cli­ma­te chan­ge? The Rus­si­ans? Ali­ens? ..?

Fisch im Eskerfossen

Fish in Esker­fos­sen. Image tur­ned 90 degrees for easier vie­w­ing.

The ans­wer to this pro­blem is cer­tain­ly much easier than that: this remar­kab­le dis­co­very was made on April 2, and it is well known which day comes befo­re April 2.

It appears safe to assu­me that, other than Esker­fos­sen, the free­zer in Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken (the super­mar­ket) is most likely the only place whe­re this spe­ci­es can be found in Sval­bard 😄

With this slight­ly delay­ed April fool’s day joke (the ori­gi­nal crea­tor of which is unknown to me) I wish ever­y­bo­dy a hap­py remai­ning April!

View into Tempelfjord

View into Tem­pel­fjord from Fred­heim, 12 km north of Esker­fos­sen.


News-Listing live generated at 2024/May/29 at 05:00:27 Uhr (GMT+1)