Equipment and safety
Your safety depends, above all, on yourself. You are expected to have the knowledge and the equipment to handle the arctic conditions.
Conditions in Svalbard being what they are, you might find yourself in dangerous situations that demand the utmost from yourself and your gear. Sudden changes of weather, intense cold and poor visibility will all challenge your judgment. Crossing of glaciers and sea demands special knowledge. Your gear has to meet certain requirements and you need to know how to use it and to have practised with it. You will need suitable firearms and ammunition as a precaution against polar bears. This means a big-game rifle such as a cal. .308 Win. or higher and polar bear deterrents like for example a signal pistol/ flare gun. In addition, you will need an emergency beacon. Please refer to the folder "Safety in Svalbard" for further details.
Polar bear precautions
The polar bear is one on the world's largest predators and extremely dangerous for humans. You can meet it anywhere in Svalbard, all year-round. Should one emerge, your line of conduct should be to keep a safe distance, evading trouble. If this is not an option, you shall try to scare it away. If you are threatened on your life you are allowed to shoot the bear in self-defense.
To protect yourself in the event of a polar bear attack, you need knowledge about firearms, and the experience in using it. You also need devices to drive off polar bears, such as a signal pistol/ flare gun (with crack cartridges and red flares).
No single animal in Svalbard is the object of more interest than the polar bear. Many people would love to see a bear, but legislation strictly limits permissible conduct. Article 30 of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act reads: It is prohibited to lure, pursue or otherwise seek out polar bears in such a way as to disturb them or expose either bears or humans to danger.
Blatant violation of this provision is punishable with fines and suspended imprisonment. Following the revisions of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act it is also stated in Article 30a that anyone travelling in the field (unless guided by a tour operator) has the duty to carry deterrents and to know how to handle a polar bear situation, without injuring or killing the bear.
Emergency beacon/ PBL
In order to be able to call for help in an emergency, you are required to bring an emergency beacon with you. In the event of danger "for life or limb", as we say, it can be turned on to trigger a rescue operation. The emergency beacon sends signals via satellite to the rescue service centre. It provides accurate information about your position and enables the rescue service to reach you and help you. Being able to localize the accident quickly saves time, resources and lives. A satellite telephone is also handy, because you can then inform the rescue services quicker about your position, who you are, and what has happened, but does not in any way replace the emergency beacon.
Renting firearms in Svalbard
Please read more about guidelines for renting firearms in Svalbard here.
Distance to glacier fronts
Please read more about information and general safety rules regarding how close sailboats should approach glacier fronts here: minimum distance to calving glacier fronts.
Sailing to/in Svalbard
For your own safety the Governor recommends that the sailboat is equipped with AIS receiver and transmitter, VHF-radio (25 W), iridium telephone and proper survival suits and life raft.
Be aware of the fact that the drift ice might change your possibilities to maneuver within hours. Please seek information from experienced sailor well ahead of your planned voyage. You will find more information in these web-pages; http://retro.met.no/kyst_og_hav/iskart.html and http://www.yr.no/sted/Norge/Svalbard/Spitsbergen/ . Please be aware that the weather forecast also may change within hours.