Random weirdness for the week of July 30, 2019


“What’s black, white and red all over? Not a newspaper – but a polar bear mother and her cub having lunch.” Not entirely a new joke for Svalbard, but that first sentence in a Daily Mail story about photographer Andy Rouse encountering the pair of bears during a cruise July 15 is fitting after they ate a fresh-killed seal while he watched. He told the U.K. newspaper the baby cub ate so much that he was barely able to walk, with the pair laying down nearby after their feed for a snooze. “It was an amazing experience to see the cub learning such an important life skill,” he said, adding “we laughed as it was obviously such a huge effort for it to get back up the hill to its mother whereupon it fell soundly asleep…”


Heroic husky: The modern-day Canine Nemo, captured in all the glorious artistic technology present when his more famous human predecessor sailed the seas near here 140 years ago. Painting by Lisa Goren.

Very hardcore fans of “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” might recall it briefly mentions Spitsbergen at the end just before the three intruders make their near-fatal escape at a not-quite-known spot in the northern Norwegian seas (they actually washed ashore on the Lofoton Islands). Which is enough of a bit of trivia (barely) merit a mention in what we’ll call The Modern Svalbard Adventures of Nemo the Superhero, as told by intrepid interloper Lisa Goren during her relatively short sojourn of his explorations here. In this case Nemo was a dog who assisted guides in scouting out shore stops for polar bears while Goren and 26 other artists were participating in a residency expedition in the archipelago. But Nemo took on mythological qualities for our author, who “didn’t realize how uncomfortable I’d be with the idea of a bear over my shoulder or just behind my back.” In her entry at thebark.com she notes “we weren’t allowed to give him treats or disturb him while he was checking the place out for bears. Believe me, I wanted to get down on my hands and knees and give Nemo a truckload of treats so he’d focus on protecting me, but I played by the rules. Still, I could predictably be found closest to the triangle point that Nemo guarded.” She described his presence as an experiment, which seems a bit odd since dogs with a nose for polar bears are hardly a new presence on plenty of commercial and private trips, but since we didn’t really grok all the nuances of the Nautilus and its 1860s technology (and had to read a subsequent novel to learn the fate and origins of Captain Nemo himself) we’ll let it slide…

In more sobering news, Svalbard’s biggest drinking game is over for another year as the stem of the giant “champagne glass” of snow on Operfjellet was severed on July 28, a rather rapid occurrence since heavy snows the past winter led some to speculate it might not “break” at all this year. Woe be to any who made that their guess in The Local Paper of Reveler’s annual contest where the person picking the correct date wins a bottle of  champagne. What makes this year’s contest so weird is just how “normal” it was given the staggering rate of climate change lately, since July 28 is the most common “break” date during the contest’s 14 years. The earliest date was July 12 in 2013 and the latest Aug. 31 in 2012 (ponder what the weather was like those two years, if you will). The winner, incidentally, hasn’t been announced yet in case you were thinking of feeding the newspaper’s website in the hope it might be a friend of yours (or make quickly)…