Svalbard loses its only bank

News that Norway’s SpareBank1 was closing half of its 31 branches in Northern Norway hit the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard especially hard this week. Sparebank1 has been the only bank with a presence in Svalbard, and residents are unhappy. “This came as a complete surprise to us,” Trond Hellstad, chief of the bank branch in […]

Polar bear attacks man on Svalbard

UPDATED: Both a man from the Netherlands and a polar bear that attacked him during the night in a populated area of Svalbard were confirmed dead on Friday. The shocking attack occurred at a campground near Svalbard’s airport in Longyearbyen, and therefore inside an area generally considered to be safe. Officials on Svalbard were thus […]

Hurtigruten heads back to Svalbard

Norway’s venerable coastal passenger and cargo shipping line Hurtigruten has won government approval to sail around Svalbard again this summer. Justice Minister Monica Mæland approved the sailings, as long as the smaller expedition ships used for the cruises only take half as many passengers as usual. “Cruise is important for the tourism industry,” Mæland stated, […]

Svalbard tourism chills scientists

Growing numbers of tourists are leaving a worrisome footprint on Svalbard’s fragile environment, according to the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). In a new study, NINA proposes tougher regulation of tourism in the Arctic archipelago and of the cruise industry in particular. “The increasing tourism has clear negative effects,” NINA scientist Hogne Øian told […]

Søreide soon to meet Lavrov after all

Norway’s foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, will be heading for Moscow to meet with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, probably in June. Søreide reportedly has said she looks forward to visit Moscow, where the two will have plenty to discuss after months of rising tensions. Søreide made it clear last month that Norway wouldn’t agree to […]

Russia turns up the heat on Svalbard

Norway is resisting being drawn into a power struggle that’s heating up over important areas of the chilly Arctic. Russia, China and the US are all vying for more control in the region where Norway plays a major role through the Svalbard Treaty, which Russia accused Norway on Friday of violating. It’s the latest offense […]

Avalanche victims lacked location devices

Two German tourists killed in an avalanche on Svalbard Thursday were not equipped with electronic devices that could help them be located under the mounds of snow and ice. Both were found and dug out after an hour of searching, but emergency crews later had to declare both dead at the scene. The two avalanche […]

Svalbard worth more than ever

Nearly a million Norwegians have been sitting through hours of more “slow TV” this week on a daily basis, apparently mesmerized by the beauty and history of Svalbard. Sunday marks 100 years since a post-World War I treaty gave Norway sovereignty over the wild and scenic archipelago, where new underwater discoveries may make the area […]

Polar bear died under sedation

A polar bear that had been sedated and airlifted out of a populated area on Svalbard died last week while being flown by helicopter to an Arctic wilderness area on the Norwegian-run archipelago. Wildlife authorities were at a loss to explain the second polar bear death in as many months. “We don’t know why it […]

Russia complains about Svalbard

UPDATED: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asked for “bilateral consultations” with his Norwegian counterpart, Ine Eriksen Søreide, to discuss what Russia sees as limitations on its activities on Svalbard, the Arctic archipelago that’s subject to an international treaty but administered by Norway. It’s the latest sign of tension between Russia and Norway, which also […]