Every year the Governor of Svalbard is giving people with interests of trappers life the oportunity to live in Austfjordnes for a year. The trapper station has been occupied by Ragnhild Røsseland and Frode Skar since 2014. Now it will be ready for new trappers this summer and on Dec. 31 the deadline for new applications expired.
The Governor has received eight applications from a total of 13 people for the 2016-2017 season.
"We had many more phone inquires beyond those who have actually applied, who wanted information, but we accurately calculated that we would get about as many applications that we have received," said Paul Lutnæs, a senior advisor to the governor.
"What we will do now is make a list of personal details and qualifications, and have a closer chat with a selection of applicants before eventually making an offer to whoever is the most appropriate," he said.
Only one couple among the applications has a local addresses. Ida Aasen and Jan Brunner moved to Longyearbyen during the summer of 2015 and now live in Bolterdalen. They brought 13 Alaskan huskies with them from the mainland, and until this summer they are writing research papers for the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and St. Olav's Hospital. Brunner has experience from Svalbard dating back to 1986.
Hoping to return
Also on the list is Stein P. Aasheim, an author and adventurer. Aasheim overwintered with his family at Austfjordneset in 2002-2003, and in his application states he wants a new overwintering experience now that his children are grown. Aasheim also notes he is open to spending multiple years at the trapping station if he gets the opportunity.
"The motivation is simply a desire to live the life I was familiar with and that I found meaningful in 2002-2003," he wrote.
Aasheim has been to Svalbard many times and was involved in the sale of Farmhamna after a settlement involving the trapping station was reached. Svalbardposten wrote at the time the sale was due to an ownership dispute and the governor intended to take over the trapping station if the owners didn't reach an agreement.
The oldest applicant is Thorer Harald Kjos, 75, whose background is largely in the Norwegian Armed Forces.
"It is about getting the process completed as soon as possible," Lutnæs said. "That is desirable and the thought is that there should be a change around the end of June or July, and when people are changing their everyday life so much and becoming trappers it is important that they get as much time as possible."
He said he believes much of the evaluation work will be done in January.
The takeover will occur during the summer and the agreement includes an option for an extension. Røsseland and Skar have spent two winters there, and there are strict requirements for the person or persons who overwinter. Among other things, the governor requires occupants to have excellent knowledge of nature and wilderness, hunting and trapping experience, and preferably polar experience. In addition, there are good health and good conduct requirements, and the governor requires references for applications to be considered.
"I know best the experience of those who recently have been there," Lutnæs said. "It has been entirely positive and they have continued the trapping tradition in a very good way."
So it's definitely not something for just anyone?
"That's a good summary," Lutnæs said. "One should be well motivated and have the right experience."
Austfjordneset and the auxiliary station are protected cultural monuments, and during the summer of 2012 an in-depth documentation project using drawings and photography was compiled to tell the story about trappers overwintering in Svalbard.
The governor has lent out the station to continue the trapping tradition in Svalbard, but it stood empty for a couple of years until 2013 when it again was determined to resume the arrangement. In February 2014 it was decided Røsseland and Skar would be the caretakers and that summer they settled in at the station.
Those who are hoping to overwinter at the Austfjordneset trapping station for the 2016-2017 season include:
• Gard Christophersen, 28, and Bård Blæsterdalen, 28
• Kia Krarup Hansen, 29, and Bjørn Tore Nøkleby, 38
• Thorer Harald Kjos, 75
• Oscar Toivanen, 33 and Juha Kaarlejärvi, 30
• Jan Brunner, 53, and Ida Aasen (age mot provided)
• Stein P. Aasheim, 64
• Sverre K. Helland, 48, and Bjørn Hessen, 54
• Espen Brandal, 28
In addition, Thomas Ulrich, a Switzerland resident, submitted an application in advance for a subsequent season.
Translated by Mark Sabbatini