Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of May 19, 2015


Large rescue exercise shows vulnerabilities, report finds 
Svalbard generally has well-trained emergency rescue and medical personnel, but their relatively low number and lack of equipment is a significant vulnerability if a large-scale disaster occurs, according to a report by The Governor of Svalbard assessing a massive rescue exercise last November. The 50-page report, which assesses a staged rescue of 85 passengers after an explosion and a fire on a cruise ship near Longyearbyen, notes Svalbard’s isolation adds to the vulnerability. “They are therefore at the mercy of getting quick and comprehensive medical professional assistance from the mainland,” the report states. The evaluation also criticized official responses to media inquires, noting that while the initial stages of a crisis are are often chaotic, there was a “strikingly poor ability to confer the status of health status on the second day of the exercise.”

Glitch forces officials to reset all clocks at weather stations  
The Norwegian Meteorological Institute will need to visit all nine of its stations in Svalbard to manually reset the clocks there after an automated process failed. Iridium Communications Inc., while performing a centrally controlled change, set the clocks for an incorrect time, according a letter from the institute to The Governor of Svalbard. “The reduction in the value of the measurement data is significant. We can not fix this without visits at each station,” states the letter, which also asks the governor to provide helicopter transport to stations that cannot be reached by boat.   The Norwegian Coast Guard has agreed to provide transport for up to five days in mid-June and possibly in August, but the the limited number of days and possible sea ice in June may prevent the ship from reaching some stations.

Researchers to track whales’ winter migration movements
The Norwegian Polar Institute will tag blue and fin whales in Svalbard this fall to in the hope tracking their winter migration patterns will explain a recent increase in their population, which researcher say is needed to help mange the once-endangered mammals.