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Ground collapsed after rainy weather

This is how it looked after a kettle hole occurred on the ground under the building. FOTO: Kings Bay

Ground collapsed after rainy weather

The Gruvebadet building in Ny-Alesund was in danger of collapsing after heavy rains in early October.



16.10.2015 kl 11:36

In the most severely affected areas, the terrain sank one meter.

Kettle holes
"We must immediately do something to save the building, as it is now in danger of collapsing," wrote Åsne Dolve Meyer, an advisor for the settlement's management, in a letter to The Governor of Svalbard.

In the letter, Kings Bay sought approval to remove the surface material down to the permafrost and fill the space with stone and a layer of denser support material to prevent the water from seeping down.

Work on the project began Tuesday after the governor gave it the green light.

Meyer said she believes the reason for the collapse was so-called ice lenses that melted due to rainwater. That resulted in the appearance of what are known as kettle holes, causing the cornerstones supporting the building to shift.

"The building has been skewed, but I think we will manage to straighten up again," she told Svalbardposten.

Warm summer

The area was examined by experts who concluded the reasons for the ground's collapse are complex. Among the factors is this summer in Svalbard was occasionally very warm.

"One contributing factor may be the particularly hot summer, but the main reason is in the meantime believed to be related to the 'hot' meltwater that for some reason this year has taken new paths in the area and penetrated into the ground where ice mass is located," wrote Sverre Barlindhaug, a geologist.

The surface consists of moraine mass and Barlindhaug stated there is a high probability there can still be future ice masses in the moraine. He described the melting of ice lenses and the formation of kettle holes as natural processes.


Gruvebadet was refurbished in 2013 and is currently used for atmospheric measurements by scientists from India and Italy.

Barlindhaug concluded it is important to have the repairs completed before the ground freezes in order to prevent further thawing down into the ground next summer.

"The great settling that has occurred in the terrain and the building will require extensive ground work on large parts of the building," Bardlindhaug wrote in his report after the inspection.

He stated conditions must be monitored and adjusted to ensure stable support as the embankment thaws.

"Permanent monitoring will require closer planning and should largely be carried out next summer" he wrote.

Building the wall

The building will now be jacked up where it has sunk and a concrete foundation will be poured. To solve new problems if the ground continues to move, Kings Bay will mold a continuous wall north and east under the building, using wooden blocks to support and adjust the structure since the ground is moving.

"That work will be done during the summer, while the temporary propping of the house in the meantime will be done this winter," Meyer said.

Translated by Mark Sabbatini


Se bildet større

During the summer there has been a huge pit in the area north of Gruvebadet. FOTO: Kings Bay

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