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Not impressed with the planning

Geoffrey Sims believes some of those who would come to Svalbard are now choosing to go to the Faroe Islands because of prices and options. FOTO: Emily Love

Not impressed with the planning

Experts believe there is a lack understanding about what is going to happen in March 2015.

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25.07.2014 kl 10:37

"There should have been established much more of a system about this than I think is planned, and there should be an openness to the possibilities for temporary, basic accommodation in gymnasiums or similar places," said Ødegaard, an astrophysicist tracking the eclipse at www.svalbard2015.no. He said he believes there is a lack of understanding about how big and important this event is, and what unique opportunities are open to the market in Svalbard and Norway.

How many does he think can come?

"In principle, there is no upper limit to how many that can wish to experience such an event," Ødegaard said.

Odegaard told Svalbardposten in 2012 that Longyearbyen must prepare itself for a circus of dimension, and there must be the creation of infrastructure such as power and big observation screens.

More concerns
Geoffrey Sims, an experienced eclipse hunter, said he is also does not believe Svalbard is prepared for what will happen. The Australian astrophysicist said he is now worried Longyearbyen will not get enough out of the opportunities this eclipse offers.

"Fortunately, we have got ourselves a place to stay, but when we first started the search we were not very happy," Sims said. "The hotels responded with 'we are fully booked, leave us alone' and gave no hints about other locations where it is possible to stay."

Many are choosing the Faroe Islands
Sims said he believes some of those who would come to Svalbard are now choosing to go to the Faroe Islands because of prices and options.

"In the Faroe Islands they started the public planning two years ago. They have regulated rental rates to prevent exploitation. This is ten years of marketing in one day, which Svalbard should take advantage of," Sims said. He is one of six people renting a holiday home owned by Eivind Trondsen, who Sims said was the only one who was forthcoming when they inquired. Before they found Trondsen they got an offer to rent a one-bedroom apartment for more than 60,000 kroner.

Encouraging to rent out
"More should definitely rent out their homes. This must be done to prevent people sleeping in tents without protection or with inadequate sleeping bags," Sims said. March is the coldest month in Svalbard, with an average temperature of minus 14 degrees Celsius. When Sims learned most locals do not have the opportunity to rent out their property legally, he got very upset.

"It must be possible to do something about that," he said. "If this is not changed for a week or a few days, Svalbard will proceed to miss a great opportunity."

Great for locals as well
"This will be an amazing experience. Getting to watch a total solar eclipse right over where you live is something that happens maybe every second or every third century," said Deidre Sorensen, a British photographer who is coming to Svalbard in the same travel group as Sims, under the project "Beyond the Skies, Beneath the Seas." She said she is concerned that both tourists and residents need to experience this in the best possible way.

"This should almost be a public holiday in Svalbard so everyone gets to experience it," Sims said.

"You will notice that it goes from daylight to dark dusk really fast and then back again," Sorensen said. She especially places great emphasis on how everyone should acquire special glasses.

"Sunglasses are not good enough," she said, laughing.


Authorities are waiting
Longyearbyen City Manager Lars Ole Saugnes said he is looking forward to the solar eclipse, but also has thoughts about the limitations that exist.

Not contributing with accommodations

"We will not be coming to provide extra accommodations if someone chooses to show up without having booked this," he said. But Saugnes said if there is bad weather and problems with flights and so on, there are places they can make available.

"I will not reveal what sort of places they may be, but we have to be able to give people light and warmth if the weather requires it," he said. When asked if the council can do something to make it easier to rent out private homes, the answer from Saugnes was no.

"We can not regulate rents. We cannot do anything about the legality of renting out homes," said Saugnes, while also noting people must follow the rules in their rental contracts.

"People can accept private visitors, but there are different rules for conducting subleases," he said. On the other hand, he gladly suggests individuals who own their own house or holiday home can rent it out.

Looking forward to the eclipse
Saugnes isn't denying he is happy about the event.
Has he considered giving employees time off to give them a chance to experience it?

"That is definitely a good idea and certainly not unreasonable," he said, "Then we must make sure everything is functioning normally, but that I have a large sense of."

Awaiting more information
Gov. Odd Olsen Ingerø said they have had some meetings about planning, but do not yet have any concrete plans. They are waiting until they know how many people are expected to come. Ingerø is awaiting information from Avinor about this.

He also said they have decided to establish a planning group after the holidays to work on this.

"There is a limit to how many can be accepted," Ingerø said. He said it may be necessary to help if the weather causes return flights to not get the green light.

"First and foremost, we are responsible for security, but we often participate if a problem occurs," he said. "Among other things, we may be able to limit how many people can come here."

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