CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR THURSDAY: Spring environmental grants postponed until fall, library offers ‘book taxi,’ Fri./Sat. boat trips to Pyramiden and more


This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of “loading at coal pier still happening as normal this week” by Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik.

Svalbard remains free of officially diagnosed cases of coronavirus as the second week of a nationwide quarantine ends (and remains in effect until at least April 13).  But another of many widespread economic impacts hit Thursday as the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund announced it is delaying the consideration of tens of millions of kroner in requests scheduled in April until fall since funding for them is no longer certain.

However, for those isolated at home another volunteer service is being provided in the form of a “book taxi” on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, while those able/inclined to get out are being offered discount boat trips to Pyramiden (or as close as the sea ice allows) Friday and Saturday.


Herbs and other greens grown at Polar Permaculture’s greenhouse are being featured Thursday afternoons at Svalbardbutikken. The greenhouse is also among the many projects receiving support from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund. Photo courtesy of Polar Permaculture.

The delay of considering environmental grant applications submitted by Feb. 1 was announced in a letter by the fund’s board.

“The main income of Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund is from the environmental tax, which is automatically added to the airline and cruise carrier tickets,” the letter states. “In recent years, this income has been approx. NOK 20,000,000 annually. For 2020, the forecasts are unpredictable due to the corona situation.”

“All allocations from the fund are made within one year, are based on the income same year. Because we do not know how this year’s revenue will be, the board has decided to postpone the spring allocation to the fall of 2020. There will then be a new call, and a new opportunity to submit an application. Furthermore, all applications that were submitted this spring will be transferred to the fall.”

Other local coronavirus items of note:

• Longyearbyen Library is offering a “book taxi” from 3-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays as long as the quarantine shutdown order is in effect. Those with valid library cards can e-mail with their full name, card number if listed, address, mobile phone number, and books/items desired (online catalogue here, or a surprise package can be requested by listing ages/interests of people in household).

• The ski hill is open beginning at 2 p.m., with a limit of six youths per one-hour time period (a 3 p.m. session will be offered if the 2 p.m. is full). Registered at this Facebook post.

Svalbardbutikken is hosting a “farmer’s market” at 3 p.m. Thursday featuring basil and other locally-grown greens from Polar Permaculture.

Discounted boat trips from Longyearbyen to the ice edge at Pyramiden are being offered from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday by Henningsen Guiding and Transport. A minimum of eight passengers is required. There is a maximum and individual meals will be provided instead of a buffet for health safety reasons (card payments only). Price is 950 kr. for adults, 500 kr. for children.