The crew of the Norwegian Coast Guard's Svalbard icebreaker undertook an unusual mission before the weekend. And several said they learned a lot about garbage in the ocean that ends up in Svalbard's beaches.
"There were many, especially privates, who got a surprise," said Simen Strand, the ship's quartermaster and navigator.
The unusual assignment was clearing an area of garbage, specifically Bråvika on the west side of Nordaustlandet, on Gustav V Land. The request came from The Governor of Svalbard and Strand said the task was well received on board.
"We sail often to the north side of Svalbard, but are rarely on land," Strand said. "So it was most welcome for many people to get to work a little on solid ground."
About 20 crew members from ship, from the ship's captain himself to the privates, spent 15 hours collecting rubbish.
"Some of the challenge is that there is a bad map foundation in the area," Strand said. "Therefore, the vessel stopped four nautical miles from land while we operated using small boats."
Plenty to remove
The result of the Svalbard's mission was 20 cubic meters of debris bring removed from beaches in the area. As with other cleanup cruises, remnants of the fishing industry was the most common debris.
"Mainly, we picked up nets and floating balls from the fishing industry," said Stian André Gerhardsen, a deckhand on the ship. "We found a whole trawl and many trawl pieces, as well as other nets and rope."
Helmets, plastic containers, fish crates, Zalo bottles, glass bottles, boots and large amounts of unidentified plastic material were loaded into a container at the coal pier when the ship returned to Longyerbyen before the weekend.
"The thin plastic was spread throughout the area," Strand said. "When we landed, we saw that it fluttered everywhere."
Tragedies involving animals are a well-known problem related to pollution in the sea. Christian Fosshaug, another deckhand, was among those who ascertained a reindeer suffered a terrible fate due to presence of sea debris.
"One of us who was standing watch for polar bears saw in the binoculars that there was some green far inland, which had to be a fishing net," he said. "We set out on foot and walked for 20 minutes to arrive at it. It turned out that it was a deer that had stuck its antlers in the large net and dragged it at least one kilometer inland. It was only his head that was left in the yarn."
Did he learn something from the mission?
"Yes, absolutely," Fosshaug said. "One hears about trash problem, but it is quite another when you get to experience it yourself."
Translated by Mark Sabbatini