General Visitor Information
This text is intended for those who are going to visit the joint German-French research base (AWIPEV) in Ny-Ålesund. It contains some background information about the research base and its location on Svalbard.
General information and Location
The AWIPEV research base is part of the small village Ny-Ålesund. Ny-Ålesund is one of the four current settlements on the archipelago of Svalbard. Like the other three settlements (Longyearbyen, Sveagruva, Barentsburg) and some abandoned mining towns, it is located on the main island called “Spitsbergen” on the relatively warm west side of Svalbard. Ny-Ålesund is located at 78.9° N, 11.9° E. Click here for more detailed information.
Standard time zone in Svalbard is UTC (CET) + 1 hour. In summer, Svalbard uses the central European summer time UTC + 2hours, CET = 1 hour.
Recently, the German Arctic Office published a fact sheet about Svalbard (pdf), describing the political status and some current research activities.
The Norwegian Government published its Strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard (pdf) in May 2018, outlining the main priorities and ambitions in this field for Svalbard as a whole. The Research Council of Norway, tasked by the government, developed a research strategy specifically for Ny-Ålesund. This Ny-Ålesund research strategy (pdf) came into force in May 2019. The Norwegian Polar Institute presents all research activity and how it is organised in the new Ny-Ålesund Resarch Station web site.
By the terms of the Svalbard Treaty of February 9, 1920 (Norwegian text) (German Text), international diplomacy recognized Norwegian sovereignty and Norway took over administration of Svalbard in 1925.
An appointed Norwegian governor, the Sysselmesteren, based in the town of Longyearbyen, administers the territory. During the summer period, usually two policemen from the Sysselmesteren are stationed in Ny-Ålesund. The state-driven company Kings Bay AS owns Ny-Ålesund. The legal form of Kings Bay is comparable to a German GmbH or an English Ltd., which means that liability of the company is limited to the company's own assets. All buildings in Ny-Ålesund that are used by the AWIPEV-Base are rented from Kings Bay. Nevertheless, the domestic authority of the station buildings lies at the AWI and the IPEV in person of the station leader.
From the beginning of April to the mid of September, it is never really dark. From mid-April to the end of August, the sun never sets. The real dark period, with the sun continuously below –8° below the horizon, lasts from middle of November to the end of January.
Winter: dark, cold, snow cover (December-February)
Spring: bright, cold, snow cover (March-May)
Summer: bright, warm, humid, mud/rain (June-August)
Autumn: getting dark and cool, rain/snow (September-November)
General information about weather and weather statistics can be found here.
All meals in Ny-Ålesund are served in a central mess and are taken by all inhabitants together.
In winter and spring, special polar clothing is indicated. Temperatures down to –30°C and below require special caution when going out. Also in summer and autumn, winter clothes like cap, gloves and warm jacket are necessary. In summer and autumn, the climate conditions are comparable to autumn and winter in central Europe. For land excursions in this period, especially in the summer, waterproof shoes are essential. Generelly it is very muddy on the unfrozen permafrost ground during July and August.In the bright time of the year it is important to have good sunglasses with you. Staying a longer time outside with sunshine on snowcover could seriously harm your eyes. The snow cover allows snowmobile and ski traffic from roughly December to Mai or June.
Almost all rooms are heated. It is not allowed to use your outdoor shoes inside of buildings (with exceptions). Normally, you will have to have a pair of indoor shoes at your working place, your accomodation, and in the Kings Bay mess building or – more common – walk on socks. This is quite demanding for the socks, so bring enough! There is some supply of socks and underwear in the Kings Bay store, but do not rely on that
Saturday evening is the weekly social event beginning with the dinner and going on with the bar evening. Most people like to dress up for this. Please try to avoid showing up in your work clothes (which, on the other hand, is perfectly okay during the other meals). On special events, including Easter, 17th of Mai (Norwegian national day), Christmas dinner, Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, it can be good to bring extra fine clothes. Other festivities, namely solfest (for the return of the sun), midsummer, høstfest (for the setting of the sun) are less formal and include some dressing up according to a previously announced theme (e.g. under water, vikings, gold mining).
Svalbard is outside of any social security exchange contract. This means, that any health and rescue costs that arise during your stay are not covered by your normal insurance. Some employers (like AWI) will pay for all costs that are related to working accidents or diseases. For a complete coverage of all costs you might have to arrange a private insurance.
If you work on Svalbard for more than 30 days within one calender year, you are obliged to pay taxes on Svalbard. Unless you work for the AWI, it is in your responsibility to arrange this with the "Svalbard Likningskontor" in Longyearbyen. The station management can give you further instructions.
The power supply and power sockets on Svalbard are equal to european.
You can buy 1l of “brennvin” (>20% Vol Alc.) and 24 cans of beer on one mainland flight ticket, which you have to show at the alcohol store. If you stay longer than one month and want to buy more alcohol, the station management can arrange for an alcohol card. This has to be arranged at least two months before arrival. Contact the station leader.
You will need some money on your way to Ny-Ålesund as well as in town. In Ny-Ålesund, you will have to pay for goods from the Kings Bay shop (souvenirs, snacks, drinks, clothing, sanitary products) and for your drinks at the bar. You can get cash from the Kings Bay reception from your credit card or your EC/Maestro card. You can as well pay in the shop with your plastic money, but not in the bar.
In Longyearbyen, there is a vending machine in the post office. You can pay by credit card at most locations. If you have to pay for your stay in Ny-Ålesund by yourself, you have to pay cash or by card. Invoice payment has to be arranged with Kings Bay in advance. The payment to Kings Bay includes the Flight between Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund.
Kings Bay runs a small shop in Ny-Ålesund which is open every Monday and Thursday from 17.15pm till 18.15pm. In the shop you can buy postcards, souveniers, socks, sanitary products, soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits, sweets, snacks, batteries and films for your camera. Don't rely on that you always get everything!
Everybody in Ny-Ålesund belongs automatically to the local Welfare ("Velferden") and pays automatically 8 NOK per person per day for it. The Welfare takes care of many sparetime activities and runs for example a library and a gym (with a small field, machines like treadmill and bike, sauna and spa bath). You can lend boats, kajaks, skis, videos and DVDs from the Welfare. The bar in Ny-Ålesund (open every saturday after dinner) is run by the Welfare, this means as well that everybody in town may have bar duty once in a while (summer guests usually not more than once during their stay). Also special events like Easter or Christmas are partely organized by the Welfare.
In the Arctic you are faced with many dangers you were probably never faced before (e.g. polarbears). If you want to go outside never go alone, always go with somebody who knows the scenery. Respect all the safety regulations of the station and know that the station manager has the right to forbit an excursion if it is not safe in his opinion.