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The theme of Dixie’s talk came after a short introduction, when, like Pte James Fraze from Dad’s Army he declared “We’re all doomed” and related this to the impact climate change is having on Svalbard.
He started with a bit of geography and history, how it was initially known as Spitsbergen, not Svalbard; the discovery of coal, the Treaty of Versailles and the laterly the Spitsbergen (remaned
Svalbard) Treaty which gave the archipelago an open visa and mineral exploitation policy taken up by Norway and Russia. We learn that the Russian’s maintain a presence by running a mine but that all the workers are Ukrainian.
One curiosity from World War II is the story of the German radio operators on the island who were informed of the end of the war in May 1915 but were unable to surrender until that September.
Svalbard is also home to the Global Seed Vault and is one of those’/most see’ sights.
For four months there is no light, the Northern lights appear day and night, and are viewed to the south
Returning to the theme of Climate Change Dixie told us that Svalbard has seen an average temperature increase since the 1960s of 5.4 degrees. This rate of temperature change is six to seven times faster than the rest of the world. He then talked about the impacts, that the fjord used to be iced up for most of the year; you could ski across and the port was only accessible in the summer – now it is ice free all year. This greatly affects the ability of polar bears to hunt.
The Ice Fjord, once completely iced over given you 35 miles round is now completely clear.
Looking to the north east a wine glass shaped gulley of snow changing as it melts traditionally marks the beginning of summer – when the wineglass breaks summer has begun. This used to occur in August, then in July, and in 2022 on 5th June. Ave temp: 6 degrees.
“I am a victim of climate change” Dixie declared showing a selfie he took of himself with a bloodied and bandaged head. This happened after a sudden warming in March 2022 when the temperature rose by 2 to 3 degrees and there was rain, which subsequently turned to ice, followed by snow. He slipped on a jetty and split his head open which required six stitches.
A hardy chap, he took a dip in the sea, at a time of year – 5th June, when there should have been ice.
Once they arrived in huge cruisers, now only smaller vessels – but tourism is still a problem. Dixe feels that we shouldn’t be there – that it is human presence that is causing the greatest damage.
Finally, Dixe mentioned that he had helped translate a book, ‘My World Is Melting’ by a Norwegian journalist Line Nagell Ylvisåker who has lived in Longyearbeun for 15 years.