Norway fines French Arctic adventurer

A Norwegian court on Tuesday slapped the leader of a French maritime expedition with a fine of 30,000 kroner (3,300 euros, $3,500) for violating the regulations of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

Norway fines French Arctic adventurer
Longyearbyen, Svalbard. File photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Gilles Elkaim was convicted of violating several local rules including anchoring in a forbidden nature reserve, failing to notify the authorities of his stops in protected areas, and travelling with dogs without necessary veterinary authorisation.

A court in Tromsø, located in northern Norway, also ruled the 56-year-old Frenchman must reimburse legal costs of 10,000 kroner (1,090 euros, $1,180).

“It's a safe bet that we will appeal the decision if it's not favourable, “Elkaim had told AFP in a written message on Monday, slamming the case against him as a “parody of justice”.

Norwegian authorities impounded his Arktika 2.0 vessel, a 15-metre sailboat carrying three people and seven sled dogs, last October in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard.

Elkaim claims to have decided to spend winter in a northeastern fjord of the archipelago due to a pump failure and bad weather that prevented his boat from reaching its point of departure in the Arctic.

The purpose of a planned two-year expedition was to drift in icy waters between the islands of New Siberia and Greenland, then reach the North Pole by sledge.

In November, the adventurer refused to pay a fine of 25,000 kroner (2,730 euros, $2,950), which resulted in a trial in Longyearbyen in February.

Norway was afforded sovereignty of Svalbard, located around a thousand kilometres (around 621 miles) from the North Pole, under the 1920 Treaty of Paris.

Nationals of all signatory states – including France – enjoy “equal liberty of access and entry”, but the agreement also allows Oslo to take measures to protect flora and fauna on this archipelago populated by many polar bears.



Global warming: Norway’s Svalbard records its highest-ever temperature

Norway's Arctic archipelago Svalbard on Saturday recorded its highest-ever temperature, the country's meteorological institute reported.

Global warming: Norway's Svalbard records its highest-ever temperature
Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash

According to scientific study, global warming in the Arctic is happening twice as fast as for the rest of the planet.

For the second day in a row, the archipelago registered 21.2 degrees Celsius (70.2 Fahrenheit) in the afternoon, just under the 21.3 degrees recorded in 1979, meteorologist Kristen Gislefoss told AFP.

Later in the afternoon however, at around 6:00 pm local time, it recorded 21.7 degrees, setting a new all-time record.

The island group, dominated by Spitzbergen the only inhabited isle in the northern Norway archipelago, sits 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the North Pole.

The relative heatwave, expected to last until Monday, is a huge spike of normal temperatures in July, the hottest month in the Arctic, 

The Svalbard islands would normally expect to be seeing temperatures of 5-8 degrees Celsius at this time of year.

The region has seen temperatures five degrees above normal since January, peaking at 38 degrees in Siberia in mid-July, just beyond the Arctic Circle.

Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash

According to a recent report “The Svalbard climate in 2100,” the average temperatures for the archipelago between 2070 and 2100 will rise by 7-10 degrees, due to the levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Changes are already visible. From 1971 to 2017 between three and five degrees of warming have been observed, with the biggest rises in the winter, according to the report.

Svalbard, known for its polar bear population, houses both a coal mine, digging out the most global warming of all energy sources, and a “doomsday' seed vault which has since 2008 collected stocks of the world's agricultural bounty in case of global catastrophe

The vault required 20 million euros ($23.3 million) worth of work after the infiltration of water due to thawing permafrost in 2016.