Seismic explorers pull out of Svalbard waters

The "Artemis Atlantic" this summer conducted extensive seismic data from Svalbard waters, but left the area long before schedule.

The mapping of the disputed Arctic waters is a nasty and unnecessary attempt to open a very vulnerable area for the oil industry, Greenpeace says.


The vessel ”Artemis Atlantic” on the 19th August completed the assembly of seismic data from the northern parts of the Barents Sea, one month ahead of the original schedule.

”Because of nice weather and few technical  problems, the data assembly has been more efficient than we anticipated”, Sissel Eriksen from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says in a press release.

However, as noted by Greenpeace, the vessel collected far less data than planned. According to the original plan, a total of 7100 km of 2D seismics was to be conducted, but only about 5600 km was actually done, the environmental organization informs.

Reportedly, the ”Artemis Atlantic” chose not to enter the northernmost parts of the Svalbard zone.

As previously reported, the vessel was to operate in the northern Barents Sea until 15 September. The results of the mapping will not be made public.

Greenpeace sees the high north seismic operations as ”an unacceptable sneak opening of the vulnerable and ice covered Svalbard zone for oil drilling”. According to organization leader Truls Gulowsen, the operations are also a breach of a government declaration which bans petroleum activity in areas near the ice edge.

The Greenpeace ship ”Esperanza” has this summer been in the Svalbard waters for several weeks, and last Wednesday approached the ”Artemis Atlantic”, which subsequently changed course towards Hammerfest, the organization informs.

The mapping of the seabed around the Svalbard archipelago is controversial not only because of the far Arctic vulnerable environment, but also for political reasons.  

Norway claims sovereignty over the shelf around the Svalbard archipelago. That position, however, is disputed by most other countries, among them neighboring Russia. The Svalbard Treaty from 1920 grants Norway sovereignty over the archipelago, but certain conditions apply, among them the signatory states’ equal right to engage in economic activities on the area. Norway argues that the treaty’s provisions of equal economic access apply only to the archipelago’s territorial waters, but not to the wider Exclusive Economic Zone and the continental shelf.