Update! One person killed, four people injured in polar bear attack on Spitsbergen, NRK and VG reports

One person is reported dead, according to this VG article. The party of 13 that were attacked in their tent camp near the Von Post Glacier early this morning was british, and consisted of youths from British Schools Exploring Society.

Several persons were injured when a polar bear attacked people near the Von Post Glacier approximately 40 kilometers from Longyearbyen.

It has been a busy situation for ambulance personell at Longyearbyen, and assistance from the mainland was immediately sent northwards.

This article on nrk.no first broke the news of  the incident which was reported to the Sysselmann at Spitsbergen around 07:30 AM today, August 5th. The polar bear is now dead and health personell have arrived on site, the Sysselmann reports.

“We have received four patients. All of them have moderate to serious injuries, mainly head injuries”, says Jon Mathisen, director of the department for acute medicine at the University Hospital in Tromsø to VG Nett.

Liv Ødegaard, information consultant with the Sysselmann office, tells NRK that they don’t have a complete overview of the situation so far, including how seriously hurt the persons involved are.

“We can now confirm that they were camping there, but if they were tourists or scientists is too early to say. At this stage we have made a priority of getting the injured persons medical help”, Ødegaard said earlier this morning.

None of the involved people are identified so far, and the British department of foreign affairs does not have an overview of the situation yet.

Starvation and lack of food is the most common motivation for a polar bear to attack people say Jon Aas, scientist at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

“All polar bears are potentially dangerous, but there are higher numbers of young and starving bears involved in attacks”, Aas says.

Kjersti Norås, tourism coordinator on Spitsbergen says that the Von Post Glacier is a common site for tourists to visit. “You can go there on snowmobiles in the winter to get to Pyramiden”, she informs VG Nett.

It is recommended to carry guns when out in the field on Spitsbergen, and the company who met the bear have killed the animal themselves.

Since 1971, four people have been hurt and four people killed by polar bears on Spitsbergen, Margrete Nilsdatter Skaktavl Keyser states in her master thesis on the subject.

Polnytt comments:

When situations with polar bears arise, the only solution is to kill the animal if possible, or else get killed.

We should now ask ourselves: Is tourism on Spitsbergen OK? Perhaps travelling in these areas should be restricted to personell with real business in the area? Useful activities like science, hunting and industry? Perhaps we should keep tourists and adventurers off these pristine nature reserves?

Jonas Qvale

Russians restarted coal mining at Svalbard

Barents Observer 2010-11-08

The settlment of Barentsburg (photo: Barentsphoto.com)

Original article here

The Russian company Trust Arktikugol has restarted coal mining at the archipelago of Svalbard after a two and a half year break.

The production halt came after a fire in the local mine in 2008. Sea water was pumped into the mine to extinguish the fire, which subsequently destroyed equipment and required a major overhaul of production.

Production restart was further complicated by low coal prices, NRK reports.

In 2009, Svalbard had a population of 2,753, of which 423 were Russian and Ukrainian, Wikipedia informs. In Barentsburg, mining is the only livelihood, while the neighboring Norwegian settlement of Longyearbyen in addition to mining also has a well-developed tourist industry and a significant presence of polar researchers.

Svalbardlomvi -New species on the Red List

Original article (in norwegian) here

Det er færre polarlomvier både på Bjørnøya og på Spitsbergen. (Foto: Hallvard Strøm/Norsk Polarinstitutt)

(Line Nagell Ylvisåker/Svalbardposten, 12 November 2010) — The Svalbardlomvi (polar guillemot) is a new addition to “Norwegian Red List of Species 2010” which was published Tuesday [9 November]. Svalbard population has declined dramatically in recent years. 71 Svalbard species are classified as Red List species in the new list of Biodiversity Information. Five of them are new on the list that was last updated in 2006. Polar guillemots are one of them. “The polar guillemot has had a relatively sharp decline in population both on Spitsbergen and Bear Island,” says bird researcher Halvard Strøm at the Norwegian Polar Institute. He served on the expert group that worked with the Red List. The size of the polar guillemot population has decreased the last five to ten years. “The sharp decline indicates that there are things that we must be aware of,” said Strøm. Scientists are now trying to figure out what has caused the Svalbard population decline. “The reason may be changes in food supply, both on Svalbard and in winter quarters,” said Strøm.