CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR MONDAY: ‘Hearts In The Ice’ take on the big city and summer, Svalbard Vet again offers 24/7 emergency help, Trollsteinen ski trip for youths

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Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sorby are able to watch TV coverage of their cabin adventures during a short stop in Longyearbyen last week. Screenshot from Facebook video by Hearts In The Ice.

Like many others are the world, Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sorby emerged from a lengthy self-isloation and reacquainted themselves with the once-normal experiences of meeting friends in cafes and preparing for future travels. But unlike the discontent masses who’ve spent a few weeks in their homes, the two woman emerged after nine months in a rustic and remote cabin in Svalbard – and their “travel”is returning there for more months of isolation throughout the summer.

Strøm and Sorby,who successfully completed the first female-only overwintering in a trapper’s cabin in Svalbard, were scheduled to end their “Hearts In The Ice” project last week. But the coronavirus pandemic disrupted their logistics and plans, and since it’s not possible for a boat to return them and their gear home they’re now planning to continue their adventure that started last August beyond a full year.

“Suddenly, the polar night, visiting polar bears and winter storms seems so far away,” they wrote in a post on their official Facebook page early last week that contains a two-minute highlight video of their experiences to date. “But we look at these videos, pinch ourselves in the arm, and think ‘Wow, what an adventure we’ve been a part of.'”

While Strøm and Sorby don’t have electricity or running water at their cabin at Bamsebu, they have been sharing their experiences with the world via their website, various social media and in virtual classrooms with students worldwide. Much of their few days in Longyearbyen is being spent reaching out to those students, friends and others who were supposed to meet them here this week to celebrate the end of the project, and media and others via livestreaming events.

“What an amazing week this has been!” they wrote in a Facebook post before departing town for their cabin at the end of the week. “We’ve cried tears of joy, for seeing a few of our closest family and friends again. Tears of happiness, during the massive #zoommeeting we had on Thursday with all the dear people that should’ve joined us on our pick-up. Tears of sadness, for understanding the situation the world has been forced into. Tears of hope, for maybe this situation can cause a change for the better. As we return to #Bamsebu we want to thank you all for the positive feedback, messages and calls, and thank you for following our important #citizenscience work!”

In other news/announcements:

The city issued a reminder that applications for coronavirus assistance for laid-off employees from non-EU/EEA countries can still be submitted for the grant period of April 19-May 18, but should be done quickly since ID checks are scheduled May 14-15.

Svalbard Vet is again available for 24-hour emergencies by calling

A guided glacier/ski excursion to the top of Trollsteinen and down for youths in grades nine and up is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Register in advance at the Facebook link. Maximum of 10 participants.

• Signups for this week’s outdoor training sessions by Svalbard Sports Adventures are being accepted.

A “glacier, dinner and safari” cruise is being offered from 4:30-11 p.m. Tuesday.

Svalbard Church will be open for candle lightings and silent reflection at 1 p.m. Thursday. Maximum of 20 people allowed inside at a time.

• The Governor of Svalbard’s statement about meetings now taking place among local entities regarding the relaxing of rules to allow tourism and other businesses to resume at least limited operations has been translated into English.

• Along those lines, Svalbardposten reports Visit Svalbard Director Ronny Strømnes is conducting local discussions and communicating with national officials with a June 1 target date for limited tourism in mind, and hopes a firm date and details will be announced this week.

• And, following a social media inquiry/complaint by a local resident during the weekend who was much ridiculed for it, Svalbardbutikken announced its self-serve bread-slicing machine is finally available again for the first time in a couple of months (keep one meter distance).