Practical information

Ground-level picture of the Ny-Ålesund settlement during winter.
Photo: Max König / Norwegian Polar Institute

What you need to know about Ny-Ålesund.

Research in Svalbard (RiS) dataportal

The RiS database, which is operated by Svalbard Science Forum, contains information about 2700 science projects in and around Svalbard. While the portal is the place to book services in Ny-Ålesund and apply for permission to do field work from the Governor of Svalbard, the database also offers open access to information about projects, participating scientists, institutions and publications.

It is mandatory to register all research projects which will be carried out in Ny-Ålesund or require authorization according to the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act (application to the Governor of Svalbard) in the RiS Portal. Other research projects related to Svalbard are encouraged to register in the database.

RiS portal

Governor of Svalbard

Persons who will conduct research in Svalbard must familiarize themselves with all applicable regulations for Svalbard. As a general rule, most field activities in Svalbard require a permit from the Governor of Svalbard.

The Governor has compiled a Scientist Guide, which is a checklist for research planning in Svalbard. The checklist helps to find out what you have to do before fieldwork, and what kind of permissions you may need. All applications to the Governor of Svalbard must be sent through the RiS portal.

Svalbard Science Forum has also compiled a nice overview of research permissions required on Svalbard.

Svalbard Environmental Act

The Svalbard Environmental Act is a collection of updated environmental legislation for Svalbard. It deals with area protection, species management (flora and fauna), human artefacts, land use plans, pollution, waste disposal, traffic and cabins.

The Kongsfjorden and Blomstrandhamna bird reserves were established in 1973 to protect important breeding grounds for eider and geese. In 1989 a plant protection area was established on Ossian Sars fjellet in Kongsfjorden. Several rare plant species are found on Ossian Sars fjellet, and camping or other activities which might destroy the vegetation are not permitted in the area.

About Ny-Ålesund

Ny-Ålesund (78°55’ N, 11°56’ E) in Svalbard is one of the world’s northernmost human settlements. It is a Norwegian research infrastructure, hosting national and international projects and programmes for research in natural sciences in Svalbard. Ny-Ålesund is situated in Kongsfjorden – the King’s fjord – on north-western Spitsbergen, which is the largest of the Svalbard islands. Surrounded by mountains and glaciers, which at several places stretch well out into the sea, the town lies in one of the most scenic areas of Svalbard.

Infrastructure

Ny-Ålesund is easy to reach and has a well-developed infrastructure operated by Kings Bay AS. Kings Bay operates the flights between Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, housing, meals and other services. This, combined with the unique natural surroundings, makes it an optimal base for conducting Arctic research.

Norwegian Polar Institute is a logistics provider in Svalbard and can facilitate Norwegian and international research activities in Ny-Ålesund. Please contact the station leader of Sverdrup Station if such assistance is required.

A radio silent area

Map with a 20 lm radius around Ny Ålesund circled in
Radio frequencies 2 GHz–32 GHz are not allowed in the geographical area within 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Ny-Ålesund is a radio silent area, with a long-term goal to minimize the emissions of electromagnetic (radio) pollution. However, for safety, operational and scientific reasons there are emitting systems active in Ny-Ålesund today, and this cannot be avoided. Still, as a general approach, large, long-term active instruments should be located elsewhere.

 

The legal framework for use of frequencies is managed by the Norwegian Communication Authority (NKOM), which owns the official responsibility for all frequencies in use in Norway including Ny-Ålesund. Frequencies cannot be used in Norway without the NKOM having granted permission to do so. Information about how to apply for use of frequencies can be found here. The Regulations No. 628 of 19 January 2012 concerning general authorisations for the use of radio frequencies General authorisations regulations or fribruksforskriften in Norwegian which allows “free use” (no application) of some usual, common equipment, is not valid for the frequencies 2 GHz–32 GHz in the geographical area within 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund. Passive instruments require no application, but the owner of passive instruments has to make sure their receiver do not emit.

The Norwegian Mapping Authorities two new VLBI antennas (operational from 2017 onwards) will be using the 2-14 GHz band (can be extended to 36 GHz at a later stage). The first years it is not expected that the operation will be continuously, but within a 5-years period, it is expected that the two antennas will operate continuously (when one is maintained the other one will still be in operation). After about 2022, NMA and NySMAC will not allow any other use of the 2-14 GHz band, not even campaign based or very short-term. 

In addition to the legal framework managed by NKOM, and the requirements from NMA, NySMAC aims at minimizing active frequency use in Ny-Ålesund, and has its own procedures for allowing use of active instruments in Ny-Ålesund, see below.

See list of frequency in use

 

NySMAC procedures for allowing use of active instruments in Ny-Ålesund

Ny-Ålesund is a radio-free zone, and active radio emitters should be limited. If there are important needs based on scientific or safety purposes, NySMAC may allow use. Below follows the procedures. If permission is granted, the instrument owner needs to make sure the instrument does not have any unwanted radio emission. If it turns out the new instrument disturbs other’s measurements, the new instrument can no longer be used.

 

  • Campaign based use of active instruments
    • Check, if really needed and no alternative is possible
    • Check the list of “frequencies in use” above
    • If the frequency in question is not in use, inform the other NySMAC members about the use by posting information on the NySMAC PID forum under “Short-term use of active frequencies”.
    • Apply to NKOM for permission if needed. For frequencies defined in regulation no. 628, and outside the 2-32 GHz range, you don't need to apply NKOM.
    • The NySMAC secretariat will update the list

 

  • Long term use of active instruments
    • Check, if really, really needed and no alternative is possible
    • Check the list of “frequencies in use” above
    • If the frequency in question is not in use, prepare a presentation and discussion for the next NySMAC meeting. The presented information should include the scientific motivation. If there are other duplicate/similar/related instruments already present in Ny-Ålesund, the instrument owner is required to get a statement from the other instrument holders on why this new instrument is necessary.
    • Apply to NKOM for permission if needed. For frequencies defined in regulation no. 628, and outside the 2-32 GHz range, you don't need to apply NKOM.
    • The NySMAC secretariat will update the list frequencies in use

 

  • Use of passive frequencies
    • Passive instruments require no application, but the owner of passive instruments has to make sure their receiver do not emit.
    • Inform the NySMAC secretariat to have the frequency added to the list of passive frequencies in use. This is important, if not it may be that some at a later stage would like to use this frequency for active instruments

Ny-Ålesunds environment

Climate

Ny-Ålesund lies within the High Arctic Climate Zone and has continuous permafrost. The mean annual temperature is -6.3°C, with -14.6°C in February and -4.9°C in July (average 1960-1990). The total annual precipitation is 370 mm (period 1975-89).

Get weather statistics

Ecosystems

The Ny-Ålesund area consists of typical High Arctic ecosystems, with both marine and terrestrial components. It offers a variety of Arctic fjord environments, from calving glacier fronts to sandy beaches, providing superb opportunities for marine research. The terrestrial environments in the Kongsfjorden area, including several bird and plant sanctuaries, are rich in wildlife and also provide ample opportunities for research. The geology of the Kongsfjorden area is very diverse, and the area offers sites ranging from rocks and cliffs exposed to the raging Arctic seas on the tip of the Brøgger peninsula to protected coves in the inner parts of the fjord. This diversity is reflected in the vegetation, which varies from bleak ’Arctic desert’ to lush tundra and grassland communities.

Ny-Ålesund is surrounded by a variety of High Arctic ecosystems typical of Svalbard, and most of the islands’ animal and plant species are to be found in the area. Along the rim of the fjord there are densely populated bird cliffs and other rock formations and islands with breeding sea birds. Waders are particularly common in the Kongsfjorden area compared to other parts of Svalbard. The Svalbard ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus hyperboreus) is the only permanently wintering bird species in Svalbard.

The ringed seal (Phoca hispida) has important breeding and pup-rearing areas in the innermost parts of Kongsfjorden. The Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) and Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) are found in and around the town itself throughout the year, and during winter the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is not an uncommon guest. The vegetation in the area ranges from a uniform and bleak lichen cover to lush areas further east which provide rich reindeer grazing.