Taking protection to the extreme

The remarkable story of how our Nordsjö brand was used to protect a remote hotel in the Arctic wilderness.

We’re no strangers to extreme environments. Although it’s not too often that our products find they have polar bears as neighbors. 

But way up in the wilds of Svalbard in Norway – where whales and walruses frolic in the nearby waves – is a disused weather and radio station which has become a mecca for adventure tourism. The nearest human neighbors are in Greenland.

Isfjord Radio on the island of Spitsbergen is a boutique hotel offering wilderness accommodation which serves as a base for intrepid explorers who are brave enough to make the trip. The site itself is made up of seven buildings, which needed to undergo major work over a period of several years to ensure they could withstand the harsh environment.

Isfjord radio winter painted

Choosing the right paint was vital, so Basecamp Explorer (who rent and operate the site) called in the experts from our Nordsjö brand. An initial on-site inspection was clearly in order, and it was Nordsjö’s Norwegian Technical Manager, Per Myhre, who made the trip, along with Swedish colleague Mats Nilsson. But this wasn’t to be any ordinary visit.

The round-trip by snowmobile from Longyearbyen (which normally takes three or four hours) took nearly nine hours, due to the rough weather. Having arrived safely – if a touch weary – the next day they got on with the task in hand – creating a technical specification for the recommended painting treatment.

“It was a very challenging project, because the buildings all have different facades – mostly made of wood, concrete and metal,” explains Myhre. “So we had to consider different systems for each substrate.”

Once the recommendations had been made, it was a question of getting the paint to the site and starting to apply the different products. Which presented an entirely new set of challenges – and required logistical innovation, rather than product innovation.

Icefjord radio painted

“It's something quite special to paint with polar bear protection, signal guns and rifles present,” adds Brita Knutsen Dahl, CEO of Basecamp Explorer and the group's project manager for Isfjord Radio.

“We had to plan very carefully,” continues Myhre. “Getting to the site involves a 100 kilometer drive by snowmobile, or a three-hour boat trip. If we didn’t get the logistics right, or if the weather was too severe, it could have meant waiting a whole year before the next opportunity presented itself.”

Fortunately, everything went to plan and the work could begin: “It’s a pre-requisite in these conditions to use modern paints with a short drying time, and to stick to a single system,” notes Myhre. “Around 80% of the work on refurbishing the facades consisted of preparatory work, before the actual painting work got underway.

“We had to scrape away broken wood and old loose paint in order to get down to fresh wood. We were then able to treat the wood with Tinova wood base oil, add our Tinova exterior primer and then finish off with two coats of Super Tech topcoat. It will be a long time before the wooden facades need to be painted again.”

Prior to the refurbishment, samples were taken of all the wooden facades in order to match the original colors. This helped to preserve the location’s history and heritage.

So far, Basecamp Explorer has successively refurbished 25 hotel rooms, common rooms, a dining room, kitchen, meeting rooms and other communal spaces. So Isfjord Radio is all ready and waiting for anyone who has the same sort of appetite for extreme conditions as our paint. 

Experience the Arctic wilderness

Learn more about Svalbard and what makes the Isfjord Radio adventure hotel so unique.

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