NO MASKING THIS SUNNY SPIRIT: First rays of sun return to Longyearbyen in four months as hundreds gather for Solfestuka celebration w/ only tiny COVID-19 cloud to put folks in a ‘zone’

NO MASKING THIS SUNNY SPIRIT: First rays of sun return to Longyearbyen in four months as hundreds gather for Solfestuka celebration w/ only tiny COVID-19 cloud to put folks in a ‘zone’

On a day so “mild” – a mere 12C with little wind – face masks weren’t necessary for Mother Nature’s non-viral presence (or required by human authorities), hundreds of locals and visitors More »

SHUTDOWN TO SNOWMOBILES AGAIN: Ban on motor traffic in three popular areas to protect wildlife OK’d by governor; strong protests by tourism, researchers, cabin owners, filmers, others

SHUTDOWN TO SNOWMOBILES AGAIN: Ban on motor traffic in three popular areas to protect wildlife OK’d by governor; strong protests by tourism, researchers, cabin owners, filmers, others

A ban on motorized traffic in three areas heavily populated by seals and polar bears will be in effect from March 15 to June 1, The Governor of Svalbard announced Thursday after More »

THIN HUNTING: Polar bear that attacked man this week weighed one-third less than normal for its age, expert says

THIN HUNTING: Polar bear that attacked man this week weighed one-third less than normal for its age, expert says

A polar bear that was fatally shot after attacking a man in East Svalbard on Tuesday was the six-year-old male son of a well-known female bear who has visited near Longyearbyen for More »

Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of March 1, 2021

Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of March 1, 2021

Emergency calls to the fire department decline in 2020 due largely to the loss of visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 22 foreigners from eight different countries received a total of 285,000 kroner More »

POLAR BEAR INJURES MAN IN EAST SVALBARD: Bear shot and killed after attack on two-person excursion to Mohnbukta

POLAR BEAR INJURES MAN IN EAST SVALBARD: Bear shot and killed after attack on two-person excursion to Mohnbukta

A man working on a film project was injured by a polar bear Tuesday morning during a scouting excursion with a co-worker to Mohnbukta in east Spitsbergen, according to The Governor of Svalbard. More »

 

‘CRIMINAL AND PUNISHABLE!’: Reception manager on COVID-19 infected Roald Amundsen quits, says Huritgruten put profits above crew and is ‘an organization controlled by fear mentality’

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Accusing Hurtigruten of “miserable ethical compliance,” a top manager on the cruise ship Roald Amundsen has resigned due to what he called “criminal and punishable” actions by the company regarding an outbreak of COVID-19 during two voyages to Svalbard last summer.

CELEBRATING THE 13TH OF ‘DOOMSDAY’ WITH WATERMELON AND STRAWBERRIES: Seed vault marks anniversary w/ small deposit, but officials say COVID-19 not affecting operations

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In a deed signalling, um, good news about doomsday, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrated its 13th birthday during the past week with a deposit of watermelon, strawberries, pumpkins and other global crops that – unlike the arrival of global people here – wasn’t affected by the viral apocalypse of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

40M KR. MORE IN EMERGENCY COVID-19 AID FOR SVALBARD? Finance committee unanimously recommends tourism-oriented package to Parliament, which will consider it Tuesday

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In what might called an instance of the “Progress Party” living up to its literal name, a proposal by local members for an additional 40 million kroner in emergency COVID-19 aid for Svalbard tourism companies affected by the pandemic was unanimously approved by Parliament’s Finance Committee on Friday and is scheduled to be considered by the full body on Tuesday.

‘NO-TRAVEL’ ADVISORY FOR SVALBARD LIFTED, FREE COVID-19 TESTS FOR PERMANENT RESIDENTS: Ministry decision overrides health directorate on travel; details of free tests not specified

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An advisory to avoid recreational travel to and from Svalbard was lifted by Norway’s government Friday. Also, while a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure is still required to travel to the archipelago, the test will be available free to permanent residents – but the specifics are unlikely to be known before next week.

Numerous other restrictions applicable nationwide are still being upheld and/or modified, including stopping the sale of alcohol at restaurants and pubs at 10 p.m. rather than midnight.

MISSILES LOADED FOR BEAR: Warning issued for Russian multiple-missile test in international waters just south of Bjørnøya, in response to U.S. deploying bombers to Norway

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Russia is planning to express its “dissatisfaction” with the U.S. deploying Air Force bombers to Norway for the first time by conducting a multiple-missile test sometime during the next week with the impact area in a block of open sea just south of Bjørnøya, according to official and media reports.

The test in what’s classified as the “bear gap” by Western defense entities is scheduled between Feb. 18-24, according to a “notice to airman” warning issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

SOME ‘NORMAL’ TRAVEL RESTRICTION NEWS, FOR A CHANGE: Heavy machinery now occupying ‘industrial’ path between Longyearbyen and Svea as dismantling of mine continues

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So it’s hard enough to get to Svalbard during peak snowmobiling season this year thanks to COVID-19 restrictions and it’s possible some of most-popular areas will be off-limits to scooters soon to protect wildlife. Time to add another steely blockade of sorts – heavy construction equipment along the main path between Longyearbyen and Svea as work crews continue a years-long dismantling of the mining settlement.

FAREWELL TO A FAMOUS ‘FOX’: Кеша, a mythological cat in Svalbard despite a 1992 ban, dies after a long and legendary life in Barentsburg where he was ‘mistaken’ for an Arctic fox

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One of Svalbard’s most loved and yet battle-scarred longtime residents, whose too-good-to-be-true mythological existence made him world famous, has departed for the happy bird-hunting grounds in the sky.

Кеша (“Kesha” in non-Cyrillic letters), a legendary occupant of the Russian settlement of Barentsburg – who contrary to “common knowledge” was not the only cat in the archipelago nor officially classified as an Arctic fox to prevent his exile due to a 1992 ban on felines – died on Jan. 20 at roughly the age of 14, according to human residents there.

A TRAFFIC BAN WHEN THERE’S LITTLE TRAFFIC? Governor again proposes closing popular snowmobile areas to motorized access; angry locals say reasons and impact are sickening

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Closing some of the most popular snowmobiling areas surrounding Longyearbyen to motorized traffic this year to protect wildlife hunting and breeding areas is again being proposed by The Governor of Svalbard, similar to closures enacted for the past three years.

Except this year there’s an epidemic of protests due to a huge and obvious difference: the amount of traffic is likely to be drastically lower due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has already decimated tour operators for the past year without even more hardships being piled on due to access restrictions.

The affected areas (see maps below) are Billefjorden, Tempelfjorden and Van Mijenfjorden, including Rindersbukta and Fridtjovhamna. The deadline to submit comments to the governor is Tuesday.

NEW QUICK COVID-19 TEST CENTER FOR SVALBARD TRAVELLERS: Drop-in station in Tromsø city center offers 550 kr. tests for people bound for Svalbard or Denmark

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People travelling to Svalbard still need that infuriating (to some) negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure, but the city of Tromsø is removing a bit of the financial and scheduling hassle as a new station in the center of town is offering walk-in vaccinations and negative certifications for the relatively low fee of 550 kroner – but only for those travelling to Svalbard or Denmark.

COVID-19 VACCINE UPDATE: Nearly 50 people in Longyearbyen have received at least one dose; all residents 65 and older expected to be finished soon; officials contacting next on list

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Although it took a few weeks for more than a literal few doses to arrive, a total of 49 people in Longyearbyen have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot as of Friday, according to Longyearbyen Hospital.