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Bjørnøya Meteo (Bear Island weather station)

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Bjørnøya Meteo / Radio: wea­ther and for­mer coas­tal radio sta­ti­on

The Nor­we­gi­an wea­ther sta­ti­on „Bjørnøya Meteo“ is situa­ted at Her­wig­ham­na on the north coast of Bear Island. It was cal­led Bjørnøya Radio, but in times of satel­li­te-based com­mu­ca­ti­ons, the func­tion of a coas­tal radio sta­ti­on is not that important any­mo­re and the work as a wea­ther sta­ti­on is more important. The sta­ti­on is now accord­in­gly cal­led „Bjørnøya Meteo“ (short for meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on = wea­ther sta­ti­on) rather than Bjørnøya Radio.

The bay Her­wig­ham­na is the only natu­ral har­bour on the north coast of Bear Island – at least in a wider sen­se, as it is too small for all but the smal­lest boats and it does not pro­vi­de much shel­ter. The ori­gi­nal wea­ther sta­ti­on was on the same site as the coal mining sett­le­ment Tun­heim on the nor­the­ast side of the island, but it was moved to the new loca­ti­on in 1947 (the new buil­dings were rea­dy in Octo­ber 1946, but then it was too late in the sea­son to move). It was important to have the wea­ther sta­ti­on on the flat north part of the island, as far away as pos­si­ble from the moun­tains, to avoid local dis­tur­ban­ce of the wea­ther obser­va­tions.

Bjørnøya Meteo: the wea­ther sta­ti­on after the war

The sta­ti­on buil­ding from 1946 is main­ly a back­up nowa­days. More modern buil­dings have been built to house the per­son­nel of 11 peop­le who take care of the dai­ly rou­ti­nes: a cook, tech­ni­ci­ans, meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal assi­stants. Wea­ther obser­va­tions are made several times a day accord­ing to inter­na­tio­nal stan­dards, inclu­ding wea­ther bal­loon ascents.

A sta­ti­on like the one on Bear Island is often per­cei­ved as a sci­en­ti­fic sta­ti­on, but that is not what it real­ly is. Of cour­se it is occa­sio­nal­ly used as a logisti­cal base by sci­en­tists who work on the island, but rese­arch is not the dai­ly work of the regu­lar staff. Most mea­su­re­ments are for wea­ther fore­cas­ting sys­tems (of cour­se they are also used by sci­en­tists, but that is not the main pur­po­se of most data, and the­re are some data which have a sci­en­ti­fic back­ground, for examp­le to moni­tor envi­ron­men­tal toxins – unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly an important issue in the Arc­tic).

The­re are usual­ly 11 peop­le, men and women, working at Bjørnøya Meteo on half year con­tracts. It is not uncom­mon to return several times over the years.

Bjørnøya Meteo: step­ping stone in the Bar­ents Sea

On 28 March 1954 a Nor­we­gi­an pos­tal pla­ne cras­hed on Bear Island. It had drop­ped mail bags over Isfjord Radio, Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Ny-Åle­sund and Hopen, befo­re it flew low over Bjørnøya Radio (as the sta­ti­on was still cal­led back then) near 15 p.m. Short­ly after­wards, it cras­hed into the ground about 5 km south of the sta­ti­on in poor visi­bi­li­ty. Only one out of nine men on board sur­vi­ved. On 01 Novem­ber 1984 a litt­le monu­ment with the name of the casu­al­ties was unvei­led tog­e­ther with the twis­ted pro­pel­ler clo­se to the main buil­ding of the sta­ti­on.

Today, Bjørnøya Meteo is regu­lar­ly visi­ted by the Nor­we­gi­an coast guard and occa­sio­nal­ly by the Sys­sel­man­nen. With its fuel depot, it ser­ves as an important step­ping stone for both insti­tu­ti­ons’ heli­co­p­ter logistics bet­ween Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the Nor­we­gi­an main­land as well as for search and res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons in the Bar­ents Sea.

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last modification: 2019-03-16 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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