Svalbard Daily Planet for the week of Aug. 11-18, 2019


More tensions with Russia as a key ocean research project and a much-anticipated Hurtigruten cruise east of Svalbard are in peril, weather delays the removal of the wrecked Northguider trawler from north Svalbard, Svalbard called “good practices” example as cruises to other small Arctic communities cause problems, start of annual whaling season brings annual protests, Store Norske coal to aid climate research before mines are dismantled, and more stories from media around the world you may have missed.Sunday, Aug. 18


Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen docks in Longyearbyen on Aug. 8 before embarking on a cruise around Svalbard that will be featured in an NRK “Minute By Minute” broadcast in February. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

Russian bans Norwegian Hurtigruten cruise ship from Franz Josef Land in another blow to those seeking cooperation in the northern Barents Sea region 

Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen cruise ship has been banned from entering Russia waters two weeks before the first-ever scheduled voyage to the Franz Josef Land archipelago east of Svalbard, a blow to officials from both countries who arranged and heavily promoted two initial trips, Klassekampen reports. Hurtigruten was told Russian military exercise activities will be in the area at the time of the planned voyages. The company would have been the third non-Russian cruise liner to sail to Franz Josef Land, which at 80° to 82° north is further north than Svalbard, with Russia hoping to lure some of the increasingly heavy tourist traffic visiting their Norwegian counterpart. Unlike Posiedon Expeditions, which travels from Svalbard to Franz Josef Land, Hurtigruten was supposed to sail from the Russian city of Murmansk

Saturday, Aug. 17


The entire Barents Sea area, including Svalbard, is being mapped annually by Russian and Norwegian researchers, but an old Russia ship that broke down last year and being used again this year is hindering the project. Map by Norwegian Marine Research Institute.

Russia and Norway cooperating on major Barents Sea ecosystem project – except a 35-year old wrecked vessel stands in the way

Norwegian and Russian marine researchers have kickstarted this year’s major joint ecosystem mapping in the Barents Sea, including all of the Svalbard. Ships on Wednesday set out with course for the waters that are of great importance for both countries’ fishing industries, The Independent Barents Observer reports. In the course of the next six weeks, the researchers will carry out major ecosystem mapping all over the region. It is the 15th expedition of the kind, and results will be of big importance for the quota advices later to be discussed in the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission. But this year’s ecosystem mapping might not run smoothly because from the 35-year-old Vilnyus is taking part. The ship has a technical breakdown and was not able to complete its tasks last year, thus preventing a complete mapping for the first time. Officials are worried the ship is no longer reliable and Norwegian officials say they may need to enter Russian waters to ensure a complete mapping, permission for which is still being sought.

Friday, Aug. 16 


A salvage ship works to remove the Northguider trawler from a strait in Hinlopen in north Svalbard before weather forced a temporary hold to the operation this week. Photo by the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

Weather delays removal of long-stranded Northguider trawler
The Norwegian Coastal Administration states Smit Salvage has temporarily demobilized the vessels it was using to remove the Northguider trawler from north Svalbard and returned to Longyearbyen due to the ice conditions north of the salvage site. Strong winds in recent days have caused the drift ice to move and the salvage company fears the ice will wrap encompass the vessels. Officials are monitoring ice conditions and plan to return to Hinlopen as soon as the situation permits. The trawler has been stranded since last December after suffering mechanical and structural failures, and is now listing heavily after a winter in the extreme conditions.

Thursday, Aug. 15

Young scientists embrace Svalbard ‘climate lab,’ but professors say attitude not shared by policymakers

An increasing number of young people are flocking to Svalbard to study the rapidly changes making it wetter, warmer and greener. “We are able to do many things that others in the Arctic can’t,” said Hanne Hvidtfeldt Christiansen, head of the Arctic Geology Division at The University Centre in Svalbard. “(We can) live and learn about what happens on the very spot where it happens.” But when the Norwegian government released details of its High North Strategy this week neither the climate nor the big changes in the High North were mentioned, said Kerim Nisancioglu, professor and head of research at the Bjerknes Centre at the University of Bergen.

Wednesday, Aug. 14


Colorful Inuit huts line the shore among rocks and snow in the fjord of a suburb of Nuuk, Greenland. Photo by Vadim Nefedoff.

Arctic cruises accused of leaving small settlements in the cold; Svalbard cited as example of ‘good practice’

A lust for adventure tourism is driving a rise in the number of cruise ships touring the Arctic, but local people are not seeing the benefits, experts said on Tuesday, after an explorer raised fears over “party ships” in the region. Indigenous communities are being “overwhelmed” by ships that drop up to 1,000 passengers in small villages but offer no employment opportunities, said Kuupik Vandersee Kleist, an advisor to the Inuit Circumpolar Council.”They arrive with their own guides. Villagers might be able to sell a little bit of local art – bone carvings or driftwood, but that is not sufficient to balance the harm they are doing.” However, Tero Vauraste of the Arctic Economic Council, which promotes responsible development, said are were examples of good practice, especially around the Greenland and Svalbard area, with ships imposing strict rules when entering indigenous areas and even organizing litter picks of rubbish washed ashore.

Tuesday, Aug. 13

German research ship heads toward Svalbard to begin year-long ecosystem project in Arctic seas

Researchers aboard the Germany’s Polarstern are on their way to the Norwegian Arctic to begin a year-long voyage investigating all aspects of the ecosystem, from the water’s surface to the ocean depths, in order to determine the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in the Arctic. The ship is scheduled to reach Tromsø in mid-September, after which it will head toward the Fram Strait between Svalbard and Greenland to begin a multitude of projects including high-resolution mapping of the seabed using a robotic sub able to descend to 2,600 meters deep. The Polarstern will spent much of the year frozen into and drifting with the Arctic ice, collecting information for more than 70 supporting entities and using experts from 19 countries.

Monday, Aug. 12


A whale is harvested aboard a boat during Norway’s hunting season in 2016 in the NRK documentary “Slaget om kvalen.” Screencap from NRK video.

Anti-whaling groups protest Norway killing species to feed animals on fur farms

With Norway’s whale hunting season approaching groups opposed to the practice are highlighting the sale of the meat to feed animals for Norway’s fur industry. Norway has killed more whales than any other country since 2012 and a 2014 analysis showed more than 113 tons of whale meat (equivalent to the amount of marketable meat from 75 minke whales) was delivered that year to the largest manufacturer of animal feed for the Norwegian fur industry, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency and Animal Welfare Institute. Up to 880 minke whales will be killed this year as part of the hunt, according to the agencies. Svalbard is among the areas where whale hunts take place, although less than 10 percent of the catch has occurred in the area in recent years.

Sunday, Aug. 11

Svalbard coal to aid climate change research while mines are dismantled

Furthering the understanding of climate change’s impact on the Arctic is the goal of a new project that will study samples of coal from three Store Norske mines in Svalbard, two of which are in the process of being dismantled. “The coal at Svalbard represents a scientific resource that we must take care of,” Malte Jochmann, a PhD fellow at The University Centre in Svalbard and senior geologist at Store Norske, told Most of the coal in Svalbard’s mines is from the Paleocene era about 60 million years, deposited in several distinct layers that may reveal how significant solar and other natural events altered the area’s climate over that vast period of time.