‘ILLEGAL/RECKLESS DRIVING NOT COVERED BY DAMAGE WAIVER’: Tourists take rental truck beyond road in Bjørndalen, abandon it when it becomes stuck; now also face criminal fines

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Photo by Thomas Nilsen

Instant classic for the “don’t this if you’re a tourist in Svalbard” list: Visitors who drove a rental truck beyond the road onto the soggy tundra in Bjørndalen to “see wild animals in their proper element” got hopelessly stuck in mud and abandoned the vehicle without reporting it. So in addition to some hefty extra rental penalties they’re now facing criminal charges (and fines) for illegal driving that also violates environmental protection laws.

The abandoned vehicle from Arctic Autorent, stuck 150 meters beyond the end of the road, was reported by hikers Saturday afternoon to The Governor of Svalbard. The driver was subsequently tracked down by police and admitted the violations, according to Svalbardposten.

“The reason for the illegal off-road driving was the tourists’ desire to see wild animals in their proper element,” the newspaper reported. “Polar foxes were mentioned. Whether the wish was fulfilled, the police report says nothing about.”

The vehicle will remain stuck until at least Monday its removal request can be approved by the governor’s environmental protection division.

“He needs to pay for cost of any damage to the car and saving of the car,” Thomas Nilsen, managing director of Arctic Autorent, stated in an online interview. “How much it is I don’t know, but it will not be cheap. And then he will probably get a huge fine from (the governor).”

Still, it’s hardly the most egregious example of dimwitted driving in Svalbard recently: A Ukrainian man was fined 15,000 kroner by the governor in 2018 for driving out onto the ice near Pyramiden to get a close-up look at polar bears doing their spring hunting.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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