Svalbard Warnings Or Dangers Tips by Saagar Top 5 Page for this destination
Svalbard Warnings and Dangers: 25 reviews and 26 photos
Very changeable weather on Svalbard
The weather on Svalbard is extreme, due to its northerly position. It is influences by the Siberian highs, the north Atlantic lows, and the sea and ice conditions in the vicinity of the islands and the North pole. That doesn't mean it is bad all the time, but it changes very fast. Forecasting and statistics for Svalbard on the link provided below:
Taking a break, gun at the ready
There are several outfitters that are ready to rent you a gun for polar bear protection. I did this in May 2008 at the outfitter Ingeniør G. Paulsen company down by the sea side in Longyearbyen.
Ideally you should have a gun licence or some other proof that you can use a gun, but they will take the time to show you how to do it if you cannot show any proof. However, if you are not mentally ready to fire a gun against a bear, do not rent a gun and do not venture into polar bear territory - a lame gun is false security. You can hire a local person with a gun to guide you.
The guns are mostly WW2 Mauser brand 30.06/7.62 mm high powered rifles in fairly bad condition - but they will work. Some shops and outfitters will rent you modern rifles of the same caliber that are somewhat less heavy and clumsy - at a higher fee. Anything less powerful is fairly useless against a polar bear.
When outside the settlement, load up with four cartridges, and secure, but no cartridge in the chamber. Then carry the gun on the shoulder or across the chest. Ingeniør Paulsen charges NOK 100 per day for a rifle and 10 bullets, and if you spend any bullet, they are NOK 20 a piece. It is considered bad taste to rattle off the bullets outside the hunting season as they also signify to others that you may be in trouble. There are rules of gun behaviour within the settled area of Longyearbyen. No bullets in the gun, and chamber open and ideally the loading arm and fire piston part removed.
If you are on a weekend trip, you need to pay NOK 50 extra for the company to pick up the gun from your hotel, as they are closed on Sundays and that's the only option of handing back the gun. Hotel receptions are used to this....
Other Contact: fax 79021810
Phone: 79 02 32 00
Ignorant Norwegians are not used to animals being carriers of rabies. The mainland is free from rabies, thus our innocense when it comes to these cuddly and seemingly tame polar foxes. They are naturally unafraid of people, so not necessarily rabies-infected...
For visitors more exposed to this it's probably not worth saying this, but due to the presence of rabies on Svalbard, stay well clear of polar foxes and any stray dogs you do not know the history of. Bringing pet dogs/cats in/out of Svalbard if for the same reason quite problematic. Leave your pet at home.
The rabies on Svalbard seems to be originating from the east - Siberian fox and wolf populations.
No particular vaccinations are required prior to arriving Svalbard, but if bitten, do go to Longyearbyen Hospital - they have capacity and antidotes to handle rabies.
On polar bear guard
Polar bears are at the apex of the Arctic food chain. That means in essence people are snacks, albeit, very boney for the most part.
Bears will have very little natural fear for people, most are curious but decide you do not look very tasty, only 1% are aggressive and right-out dangerous.
"Rules of Engagement" are available in brochures on arrival at Longyearbyen Airport.
You shouldn't leave the settlement without a gun or without the company of somebody with a gun. You can rent a rifle in Longyearbyen, costs about NOK 100,- per day, and you pay for bullets spent. If you have no shooting experience, you may be offered to take a quick course at cost..
On mine visits visitors would like to take photos...
But you will not be permitted to. The reason is the explosion danger. Coal mines have a fair amount of methane gas seeping out and it is highly volatile. A spark, a flash from you camera could in principle set it off, and that wouldn't be a bang you'd like to hear...
Head the advice...
Nice tonight, who knows tomorrow?
The weather at Svalbard is extremely harsh and erratic, and you should listen to local advice and warnings before venturing out too far from habitation. Long-term weather forecasts are of limited value here in the turbulent Barents Sea.
In preparation for your Svalbard trip you can in any case check out the weather as it is today: I have found 3 active web cams, one at the harbour of Longyearbyen, one from the University Center up in town, and the last one gives a view of Ny Ålesund up on the west coast.
Then you know how to dress before boarding the plane....
Ugly ISS building
Don't expect a nice, cozy, whitewashed Greek Island style community here.
Architecture in Longyearbyen is a fairly unknown concept - this is a company town first and foremost. Quick and dirty is a covering term for many of the buildings here (see illustration - this is the ISS HQ in town). On top of this industrial site habitation, all mining detritus and other ruins and trash from before 1946 are practically by law protected as a cultural heritage. So that bent and rusty I-bar just seemingly dropped from the sky might be a leftover from the WW2 Scharnhorst battleship bombardment of Longyearbyen.
Just come to terms with it - industrial trash is cultural heritage here.
But in my opinion that is absolutely no excuse for some of the new buildings that have shot up - like the one on my photo.
Another belted beast...
Even if you may take the advantage of using snowmobiles while here you may arrive to my conclusion that the noise, fumes and general "unquiet" they cause is a major nuisance in Longyearbyen.
Despite all the regulations on their use, the snowmobile scene is insane, to put it right.
However, there are limitations on where the snowmobiles are allowed to go, so places such as the side valleys of Adventdalen, Foxdalen and Bolterdalen and other places are snowmobile-free. You can go skiing in the quiet here.
The meeting place is at the lower part of town
Some organised tours will pick you up at your guest house or hotel. Others invite you to meet somewhere else for a pre-departure briefing and equipment/clothes check and distribution. Most operators give you very little info ahead. When days of more competition arrives to Svalbard, the companies will shape up in this respect, hopefully.
In the case of Spitsbergen Travel, likely the biggest company here, they have a funny name for their meeting place: "Spitsbergen Travel Tour Production". This is stated on the ticket/voucher you get for the tour, and you will really have to find out where this is and ensure you have sufficient time to get there. Every tour seem to have somebody lost or missing and invariably they wait outside Spitsbergen Travel office - wrong! Yet so logical.
To find Spitsbergen Travel Tour production you need to go past the Radisson SAS Polar Hotel and go down toward the sea -two blocks - in the direction of Longyearbyen taxi depot. The building to the left of the taxi folks' building, with the door that says "Ingeniør Paulsen" (sic) is the right one, enter here and proceed up to the 2nd floor - not marked. An easier sign outside is that of the weasel that may be parked outside. At some point Spitsbergen Travel will understand this is a mess and fix up their strategy of handling customers.
Other Contact: Ask locals and the SAS Hotel
You don't want to be underneath this...
The log at www.sysselmannen.svalbard.no and www.svalbard.net (link) have issued warnings against unusual avalanche danger on the slopes around Longyearbyen/Advent dalen, especially north-facing slopes, but also almost equally bad on east-, west- and aouth-facing slopes. There is reason for extreme caution.
The reports are followed by some practical advice provided by Longyearbyen Red Cross Association on http://svalbard.net/feltlogg/felt.php?mid=5 (in the Norwegian).
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