Category Archives: Svalbard

WOMEN’S TIME TO SHINE: Sun returns to main part of Longyearbyen after nearly four months, thanks to persistence of ladies with lyrics, to highlight annual Solfestuka week

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Photo by Eva Grøndal

Every year on this date there’s “sun” ritual unique to Longyearbyen, even if it features chants, songs and other traditions seen in cultures for thousands of years. But on this particular year it’s the word “ritual” needing quotes around it, because it seems all those words of adoration and coaxing were necessary for an impact that was supernatural instead of just ceremonial.

The Polargospel children’s choir sang their tradition songs, emcee Vigdis Jensen performed the annually familiar “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles and just before 12:50 p.m. Tuesday the crowd of many hundreds began the usual chant that (translated in part into English) begins “Sun! Sun! Come Again!”

But after nearly four months without sunlight in the main part of Longyearbyen, still a ray was not to be seen on the cloudy southern horizon.

UNITY FOR UKRAINIANS – AND NEARLY FOR LOCAL RUSSIANS: Svalbard residents from both countries live, work and protest invasion together; but not all agree on how to show support

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Photo by Kristin Woxholth

Nazarii Khomych says her mother is making food for Ukrainian soldiers, her father is helping protect their city, and the threat of immediate danger is also present for other family members and friends. But she says a protest march and rally during a frigid Tuesday night in the world’s northernmost city still managed to bring warmth to them from afar.

RUSSIAN MISSILE TEST NEAR SVALBARD, CONCERN IN AREA’S RUSSIAN/UKRAINIAN COMMUNITIES AS INVASION UNDERWAY: Residents express hopelessness; governor plans to ’carry on’

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Photo from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov firing a test missile Saturday just east of Bjornøya from video by the Russian Defense Ministry

Among Russia’s many military maneuvers while preparing to invade Ukraine this week was testing a new hypersonic missile in waters bordering southeast Svalbard, whose residents are long-familiar with Vladimir Putin’s provocations and aggressions in trying to expand his zone of influence in the Arctic.

And similar to the rest of the world watching Russia’s rush to war in dismay, the sizeable population of Svalbard’s Russian and Ukrainian residents – many of whom have permanent homes in the Ukrainian provinces Putin is declaring “liberated” – are expressing concern mixed with a hopelessness that such feelings from afar can have any impact.

12 SNOWMOBILERS RESCUED FROM SEA ICE NEAR MOHNBUKTA: Tour group stranded on east coast due to surface water; all unharmed after rescue by governor’s helicopter

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Photo of student researchers snowmobiling at Mohnbukta prior to this weekend by Richard Hann/UNIS

A group of 10 snowmobilers plus two Longyearbyen residents trying to help them were recused by helicopter after becoming stranded on the sea ice along the east coast of Svalbard near Mohnbukta due to large amounts of surface water, The Governor of Svalbard announced Saturday.

Officials with the governor’s office noted such areas can look deceptively safe for travel, but driving on the ice should be avoided under such conditions.

A FUTURE-FOCUSED 10 FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: Svalbard seed vault gets 20,000+ samples, including new and rare species, from 10 countries to celebrate 14th birthday on Feb. 14

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Photo courtesy of the Global Crop Diversity Trust

As Valentine’s Day offerings go it was an eclectic bouquet, with the more than 20,000 seed samples ranging from rare Alpine-grown wheat from the 1920s to a “re-deposit” of the seeds a war-torn region needed when its crop facilities were destroyed.

SUN IS BACK AT LAST…SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING: It was behind clouds and mountains, but after nearly four months of night Longyearbyen gets 27 minutes of sunlight Tuesday

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Image from UNIS webcam

In one of those “naked underneath all those clothes” enticements, the sun revealed itself to Longyearbyen on Tuesday for the first time since late October – if 27 minutes of “exposure” behind a lot of clouds and mountains counts.

NEW COVID CASES REMAIN HIGH, BUT NEW RULES AFFECT WEEKLY COUNT: 15 cases during past week down from 31 the previous week, but fewer people now need tests

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Photo of Andreas Eriksson at Longyearbyen’s self-test station courtesy of Longyearbyen Lokalstyre

A total of 15 positive cases were registered in Longyearbyen during the past week, bringing the total for the year to 87, according to the city’s weekly update released Monday. It notes no people have been hospitalized this year, but a relatively high number of new cases is likely at least in the short term.

GET MORE SMARTER ABOUT SVALBARD: Annual two-week ’The History of Svalbard’ course at UNIS offering lectures, exams (and answers!) and other materials free online

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Painting by Abraham Storck, 1690 / Courtesy of Rijksmuseum Netherlands

Now that visiting Svalbard is finally getting back to something resembling normal after two years of Covid, those wanting to arrive informed can take advantage of one of the few pluses of the pandemic as a just completed and much-acclaimed two-week university history course about the archipelago’s history is available free online.

CUTTING MOST COVID-19 TESTS FOR SVALBARD: Permanent residents, and visitors who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus are exempt for travel from mainland

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Photo courtesy of Longyearbyen Lokalstyre

Two years after the beginning of Svalbard’s peak tourism season was destroyed by declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the archipelago is beginning the season with a renewed sign of optimism as nearly all virus-related travel rules for travel from the mainland are no longer in effect, the Norwegian government announced this week.

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: A 10,000-km voyage around Svalbard reveals an ecosystem facing ’terminal decline’ – and small moments of hope from Earth’s largest creatures

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Tord Karlsen / Arctic Sense Expedition

The summary of their four-month sea voyage is suicidally depressing, in the sense of portraying an imminent future of humans hastening their widespread life-ending pattern of destruction. But they also found hope in a few moments, such as a brief encounter with ten blue whales that convinced the researchers Earth’s biggest creatures are making a slow recovery that may have larger implications.