Disaster struck

On 28 December 2018 disaster struck for the Northguider, a 52m long fishing trawler that was fishing in Spitsbergen waters. In a severe storm, it ran aground in poorly chartered waters of Hinlopenstretet. Despite the wind and the 24h darkness, a rescue operation was quickly started and soon all 14 crew members were evacuated to Longyearbyen with the help of two helicopters. When all crew was safe, the next stage of the operation started: making sure the damage to the environment was a little as possible. The vessel had around 300.000 litres of diesel oil on board at the time of the accident, and when the storm had died down, this was all transferred to a larger tanker with the use of small boats. The trawler had really run aground by now, and the sea ice surrounding it made this a complicated operation. However, after a lengthy procedure, they managed to clear the ship of any hazardous substances, and they managed to secure the vessel on the rocks.

Northguider on the rocks

These pictures were taken early this month, with the ship still in place. Next month an attempt will be made to salvage the boat and leave the site as untouched as it should be. Accidents like this are likely to happen more often with an increased shipping activity in these waters, both from fishing vessels as expedition cruise ships. Fortunately this time the damage to the environment was very limited, hopefully, we can avoid any further accidents with possibly more damage.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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