CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR SATURDAY: UNIS cancels summer classes, ‘doomsday vault’ meets COVID-19, MOSAiC updates, an hour of Sunday is ‘cancelled’ and more


This story will be updated throughout the day. Sure Mark, no problem. Photo of Tarjei Våtvik and his kids, Emmett and Liam, playing with blocks “Svalbard-style” taken by their mother, M Daiane Alvarenga Våtvik.

As if Longyearbyen hasn’t lost enough jobs, things to do and everything else due to the coronavirus pandemic, now we’re losing an hour of tomorrow.

That’s not COVID-19’s fault, of course, because Father Time was going to start Daylight Savings Time here at 2 a.m. Sunday regardless of how old he’s getting since he seems to have an immunity thing to the virus that still has no official cases in Svalbard as of 1 p.m. Saturday. But it is worth keeping in mind if, say, you’re hoping to go a community snowball fight scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday at a place to be announced presumably well before then.

So far it appears Svalbard is experiencing its third straight abnormally quiet weekend –and remember, while it might seem forever ago, Norway’s quarantine has only been in effect since two weeks old Fridays ago. But with local tourism and public officials increasingly conceding longer-term consequences such as the near-total loss of the summer cruise ship season, other entities such as The University Centre in Svalbard are announcing similar cancellations.

Today’s developments so far:

• UNIS has cancelled all courses scheduled to start between June 1 and July 10.

• The Svalbard Global Seed Vault “in times of global catastrophe, like the raging COVID-19 pandemic, stands as a quiet temple of security, protecting millions of back-ups of the world’s seed samples,” assures the UK newspaper The Independent. Also, “the Covid-19 pandemic poses no risk to the vault as there are no permanent staff at the Svalbard facility.”

• Updates on the six-month MOSAiC research project north of Svalbard, where the Polarstern is currently frozen in the sea ice and essentially cut off from the world because team members in the outside world scheduled to arrive are under quarantine and other restrictions, are published by Vice and the Daily Mail, among others.

• Pearl Jam’s new Gigaton album, whose cover features a Svalbard icefall, is giving those in self-isolation plenty of read, watch and listen to about the archipelago and climate change.

• Tio Moncho’s Mexican food truck is offering deliveries from 4-9 p.m.

Svalbard Delivery Service is offering deliveries from restaurants (49 kr.) and Svalbardbutikken (75 kr.) beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday.

A bell ringing at 5 p.m. Saturday is planned by Svalbard Church “as a sign of hope…(and) a sign of the church’s presence and prayers. Even when we can’t gather, we’re church together.”