Author Archives: Mark Sabbatini

JOYLESS JOYRIDE: ATV stolen from Polar X near beach Sunday morning turns up at Svalbardbutikken; police seeking tips

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Legally speaking, a rare vehicle theft in Longyearbyen when a multi-passenger ATV was reported missing early Sunday morning from Polar X at Sjøområdet. But the reason such thefts are rare is because it’s hard to actually steal and possess a vehicle since there’s no roads out of town to flee on, so police are seeking tips about the culprit after the ATV showed up a while later in the Svalbardbutikken parking lot.

POPULAR POLAR PIONEERS PURGE POSSESSIONS: Two women globally famous for their two ‘Hearts In The Ice’ winterovers share historic and intimate gear w/ locals at rummage sale

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After gaining worldwide fame and hundreds of thousands of followers by being the first women to winterover in a remote cabin in Svalbard – twice, in fact – it seems like and Sunniva Sorby and Hilde Fålun Strøm could cash in big-time by selling their pioneering possessions on eBay after returning to civilization a week ago.

But instead locals in Longyearbyen got to explore a bunch of bargains on polar-worthy gear – along with some titivating freebies such as sports bras – as the “Hearts In The Ice” women hosted a rummage sale Monday at, somewhat ironically, a conference room at the luxury Funken hotel.

DARKNESS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT: This is how the “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse looked at 78° north in Longyearbyen, blocking an extra-high 71% of the sun now up 24 hours a day

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Photos by Sophie Condon

To the naked eye, especially for those unaware, the mostly clear skies in Longyearbyen at midday Thursday looked pretty much the same as they do 24 hours a day during the three-and-a-half-month long polar summer.

But those with the right filters got to see most of the sun blotted out (about 71 percent) in the world’s northernmost town at 78 degrees latitude north during four-hour “Ring of Fire” annular eclipse.

EXTRA-BIG STORE MEANS EXTRA EFFORT: Svalbardbutikken customers getting longer end-to-end trek and self-serve checkouts; workers finishing expansion and ATM/cash plans

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Some shoppers might find themselves wanting some whine with that cheese, since buying some fine vino to go with that funky-smelling taleggio now requires a traveller-worthy trek – or more precisely an end-to-end trip at the vastly expanded Svalbardbutikken that debuted at its full size Monday.

And before too long those weary wine consumers will get the chance to expend even more effort (but, hey, even more calories burned), doing a short work shift as their own checkout clerk.

90 PERCENT OF NORMAL: Guest lodging in Svalbard can be nearly full, up from 60-70 percent, as COVID-19 recovery continues; some rooms still kept vacant in case of quarantine

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Hotels and other guest lodging in Svalbard can now be booked to 90 percent capacity, up from the current limit of 60 to 70 percent, as widespread vaccinations are helping the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Norway’s government announced Friday.

THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR GUNS (IF YOU’RE BORROWING THEM): New law effective June 1 requires people to have a license for specific firearms they borrow from others

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The ease of borrowing a gun from somebody in Svalbard, which basically just means telling the owner you’re fit to do so, will come to an end June 1 when a nationwide law requiring the borrower to have a permit specific to the type of weapons goes into effect.

ANOTHER FOREIGN FREEZEOUT FOR SVALBARD COVID-19 AID? 65M kr. in grants available for tourism companies, but some say Norwegian ownership/longevity requirements discriminate

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The good news is Svalbard tourism companies have until the end of the month to apply for a portion of 65 million kroner in grants to help those hurt by the loss of tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bad news is this latest and most generous of several assistance packages to date comes with strict nationality/residency requirement that some say discriminately – and illegally –  shuts out companies that have operated here for many years.

YET ANOTHER SVALBARD VIDEO GETS TIKTOK HOWLING: Cabin dweller using dog to deliver mail to neighbor on Syttende Mai gets more than 3.5 million views in less than two days

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Well this is Grim (quite literally): It seems Norway’s national holiday is going to the dogs. Or, more specifically, one dog in the most remote part of the country that is winning over millions worldwide by delivering the mail across vast snowfields while everyone else was eating ice cream and drinking beer.

LONGYEARBYEN’S CITIZENS OF THE YEAR: Educator Tor Selnes wins Tyfus Statuette; acrobat/musician Sigri Klausen Markussen wins youth scholarship during May 17 gala

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Screenshot of Nina Westby Thorstad performing with Sirkus Svalbardo from video by Longyearbyen Lokalstyre

A dazzling live video postcard of music, stories and awards culminated the world’s northernmost town’s traditional celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day, as the community for a second straight year turned COVID-19 restrictions into creative opportunities for the world to share.

LONGYEARBYEN’S AVERAGE TEMPERATURE NOW 2.8C WARMER: Update to 30-year average is 4.5C warmer during coldest months, 1.5C higher during warmest months

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Those who called Longyearbyen’s infamous 111-month streak of above-average temperatures during most of the 2010s a lot statistically outdated hot air are proving to be prophetic, as an update to the official 30-year average at Svalbard Airport show the mean annual temperature is now -3.9C, compared to the average of -6.7C used for the past three decades.