Random weirdness for the week of April 10, 2018


The inside of an industrial building is the new fishing hot spot? A Stupid Criminal Trick involving a coat thief was foiled when he set an apartment on fire? Damn (by which we mean dammit why didn’t we get this first) The Official Local Paper Of Record Run-Of-The-Mill News got the scoop on some wild weirdness this week. Starting with the fishiest news, it seems the cod that have been abundant in local waters the past few years are finding their way into a pumphouse via 200-meter-long pipes that carrying water from about 25 meters beneath the surface to cool the turbines at Longyearbyen’s power plant. The pipes dump water into tanks  about three meters deep and when some divers arrived to do a periodic cleanup of sediments they found several large cod who were apparently very recent arrivals due to their healthy status. Frode Johannessen, one of the divers, caught a three-kilogram fish in about 30 seconds using a rod and hook during the reporter’s visit. “Thus, Svalbardposten has told the story of a whole new fishing spot in Longyearbyen, where neither boat nor fishing equipment is needed to get nice fish,” Christopher Engås wrote at the conclusion of his article. “However, both the permission and the goodwill of (the city’s power department) are required…”

Moving on to the other hot story, some not exactly super-sleuthing occurred Tuesday when a person complained to the police an expensive coat had been stolen from a hallway at Vei 238 during the night. “One of the things (police) noticed was the footsteps at the spot,” Engås wrote. “Pictures of the footsteps were taken so that the tracks were preserved. That would turn out to be wise. During the afternoon a fire alarm went off at Vei 232, which turned out to be yet another of those “dry cooking” fires by someone trying to make food while drunk that have been so common in recent years. But during the response, police detected smoke of another kind. “We noticed that the footsteps outside this dwelling matched the footsteps we had observed earlier in the day at the place where the expensive jacket was stolen,” Police Chief Lt. Irene Sætermoen told the newspaper. And, elementary, the coat was found nearby. A male visitor in his 30s is now facing criminal charges in both incidents, not to mention the hefty fines totaling more than 10,000 kroner imposed by police and the fire department for “dry cooking” incidents…

Obviously neither of that MSM madness has anything to do with the photo at the top of the page, so at long last this week here’s an actual original scoop we’ll call #hugmetoo. Guides Lene Jeanette Dyngeland and Jessica Bois offered free hugs to passerby outside Svalbardbutikken this week. They decided to spend an hour or two in the cold and windy weather because, as Bois put it, “everybody could use a little bit of happiness.” Well, not everyone it seems – some pedestrians veered wide of the women and at least one was observed reluctantly accepting an embrace only after one woman (we won’t say which) “forced herself” on him. But other than that and a terrified kid of the type that might be afraid of Santa Claus, it seemed to be Mission Accomplished in the not-Iraq sense. It’s not the first such freebie: Polar Permaculture founder Benjamin Vidmar – who definitely could use more happiness right now – offered two hours of hugs in almost the same spot three years ago.


It’s OK if I do it, not OK if you do: It’s a grand opera if he records it, but use someone else’s work with his project and there will be a mad scene. Photo by Kate Humble.

Finally, while last week’s weirdness included a gone-viral revelation that whales found in Svalbard are the jazz cats of the seas, it turns out another sea species here are masters of an even more elite genre. Chris Watson, a sound recorder for numerous well-known wildlife polar programs including “Frozen Planet,” says the most remarkable recording his many years is bearded seals under Svalbard’s ice. “I’ll never forget it: it was incredibly haunting and beautiful, and in a range very familiar to humans, almost operatic,” Watson told the Irish Examiner. “A professor from the Norwegian Polar Institute told me the sounds of the seals were traveling from 20 kilometers away.” Given that, it’s a bit odd what his worst sound experience is:”What gets on my goat is when a big, orchestral piece of music gets put over the sound I’ve recorded,” he told the newspaper.