Author Archives: Mark Sabbatini

GETTING SMASHED IN RECORD TIME? ’Stem’ of giant snow champaign glass on Operafjellet may break in June for first time ever due to heat; annual guessing game underway

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Screenshot of snow “glass” on Operafjellet on May 28 from Svalbardposten website

If the record-breaking pace of snow melt in Svalbard has people steamed, right now it seems at least one of them will be able to inebriate their sorrows with some (hopefully well-chilled) champaign in record time as well.

PRIDE OF SVALBARD ON SYTTENDE MAI: Annika Bengtsson wins citizen-of-year Tyfus statuette, Tine Westby Thorstad wins youth award; Barentsburg kids miss first ’post-Covid’ festivities

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Photo by Arild Olsen / Longyearbyen Lokalstyre

A day of traditional Syttende Mai festivities celebrating Norway’s independence and honoring Svalbard’s top citizens also was a day this year where national-level conflicts with Russia disrupted the camaraderie between citizens of two countries that traditionally exists regardless of troubles outside the archipelago.

ROYAL COUPLE GOES TO THE DOGS IN SVALBARD: Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit also tour avalanche area, focus on climate change during three-day trip

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Photo of Crown Prince Haakon, center, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit at Arctic Husky Travellers kennels by Sara Svanemyr, The Royal Court

It’s about as royal a three-day trip as any random tourist seeking a “real life” experience in Longyearbyen might hope for: meals and music with students, roaming coal mines with the workers, dogsledding, and literally topping off the tour at a top-secret mountaintop satellite facility.

Of course, this red-carpet rollout isn’t just for anyone. The tourists in this case were every much an attraction to locals as vice-versa as Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit participated in a packed schedule of gatherings focusing on how residents are faring during turbulent times and raise awareness about climate change.

TRANSPOLAR TRASH TRAVELS: Plastic pollution in remote Arctic wilderness areas as bad as urban locations anywhere else on Earth, scientists warn

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Photo of catamaran being pulled by Polarstern icebreaker during plastic pollution survey courtesy of Alfred Wegener Institute

Sparsely populated areas of the Arctic shows a similar level of pollution as dense towns and cities around the globe, according to a new study published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. This includes virtually all habitats, from beaches through layers of the water column to the seabed, and from pollutants including from fabrics, personal care products, packaging and other everyday materials.

WOMAN DIES IN SNOWMOBILE ACCIDENT ON LONGYEARBREEN: Visitor in private tour group killed Sunday afternoon after mishap at base of glacier south of Longyearbyen, officials say

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Map by the Norwegian Polar Institute

A Trondheim woman visiting Svalbard was killed Sunday afternoon in a snowmobile accident during a group trip on Longyearbreen, according to officials.

BARENTSBURG LEADER BLASTS ’FAKE NEWS’ ABOUT UKRAINE: Calls to expel Russia’s top diplomat in Norway after he supports ’special military operation’ against ’Nazi ideology’

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Russians, Ukrainians and Norwegians in Svalbard may be continuing their neighborly co-existence despite the invasion to the south, but the head of the Russian settlement of Barentsburg (and Russia’s top diplomat in Norway) is stirring up an outrage and calls for his expulsion after expressing his support for Russia’s “special military operation” and insisting Norwegian media reports are “fake news.”

Random weirdness for the week of March 29, 2022: Yet another UFO visits Svalbard, where people and NFTs are fleeing toward to be saved from the sun and pillagers

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UFO (hey, it’s unidentified to us) over seas of Svalbard via Google Earth

We’re not sure why it qualifies as news, even for a British tabloid, since UFOs and their occupants have a sizeable presence in Svalbard (source: internet), but a shoutout nonetheless to Edward Jones (not to be confused with the financial guru who’s high on coke) for spotting the latest invader in a Google Earth image of the seas near the coast. Of course there’s tons of naysayers saying it’s actually Jesus, Michael Jackson, Bobba Fett piloting Slave One (thus not an “unidentified” alien craft) or even a passing seagull…but in terms of getting headlines they’re not keeping up with the Jones’  version of The Truth.

RAINBOW DISCONNECTION: Greenpeace’s (in)famous ship Esperanza is retiring after two decades, including lots of Svalbard voyages that shamed the powerful and themselves

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Photo of Greenpeace ship Esperanza during a “seizure” of a Statoil rig near Bjørnøya courtesy of Greenpeace

They staged Svalbard’s first-known political protest by seizing the coal pier at the Svea coal mine – then got busted upon departure for having vast amounts of undeclared beer.

They shamed Norway’s government by exposing oil exploration tests in Svalbard that were hastily abandoned. But their seizure of an oil rig near Bjørnøya was laughed off by Statoil since it was dry and abandoned, and drilling had already moved further north.

MARCHING ON HIGH: New temperature record for month as Ny-Ålesund hits 5.5C on Wednesday – 17C above normal – and 42.6mm of rain falls; Longyearbyen also gets wet thaw

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Photo by Ine-Therese Pedersen / Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Surely there are upsides to mountainsides and streets being filled with tons of flowing slush during a torrential rain. But for experts and mere mortals opining about a record heat wave hitting Svalbard on Wednesday the only optimism was about returning to typical subzero winter conditions – and even that brings its own deluge of problems.

GAS PAINS: Fuel in Longyearbyen tops 10 kroner a liter in wake of Ukraine invasion – which is 17 kroner cheaper than on the mainland, but locals are still griping it’s too expensive

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(Editor’s “call it karma” note: As this story was being written Svalbard Auto posted a notice on Facebook that its payment terminal is out of order, so gas cannot be purchased at all during non-business hours. The station is scheduled to be open extended hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.)

Gas is selling for an unprecedented high of 27 kroner a liter in some mainland locations and the price is expected to continue increasing due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As such, there’s grumbling among media and motorists about why gas and diesel at Longyearbyen’s only station is barely above 10 kroner a liter, given Svalbard’s remoteness and all.

As it turns out, Longyearbyen residents are also grumbling about the 10 kroner a liter gas, because it’s higher than they’re used to paying.