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Svalbard: Geography: Encyclopedia Arctica 14: Greenland, Svalbard, Etc. Geography and General
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Svalbard: Geography


AUTHOR: R.N. Rudmose Brown
6,350 words


R Brown's original, ours, and
a flimsy, copied by
Evelyn at Dearing, [: ]
to no.4 May 3/49
SPITSBERGEN is a large group of islands lying chiefly between lat. 76° 30′N.
and lat. 80° 50′N. and between long. 10° 30′E., and 34° E., on the edge of the
European continental shelf at the northwestern corner of the Barents Sea. The
chief islands and their areas are as follows: Vest Spitsbergen or the mainland,
39,500 sq. km., Nordaustlandet, 15,000 sq. km.,EDGEÖYA, 5,150 sq. km., Barents–
öya, 1,300 sq. km., Prins Karls Forland, 650 sq. km., and Hopen or Hope Island,
46 sq. km. (q.v.). With the addition of Björnöya or Bear Island (q.v.) they form
the Norwegian possession of Svalbard which has a total land area of 62,405 See separate articles. There has never been any aboriginal population
in Spitsbergen. Since Norway took over Svalbard on August 14, 1925, in terms
of the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920, the sysselmann sysselmann (governor) and the bergmaster bergmaster
(mining inspector) have resided at Longyearbyen, with the exception of certain
war years. From 1912 there has been radio communication with Euro ep pe from vari–
ous stations in Isfjorden. Surface mails to and from Norway and Russia function
irregularly in summer. There are post offices at the chief coal mines. A certain
number of beacons and buoys, erected by Norway to aid navigation, were destroyed
by enemy action during World War II and are being replaced.
Surface and Structure Most of the islands are rugged , with a great diversity
of relief. The highest mountain is Newtontohpen, 1,717 m., in Ny Friesland. It
has been several times ascended. The west and north coasts are deeply indented
with long branching fjords of which the most notable is Isfjorden (Icefjord) ,
100 km. in length , leading into the heart of the country. The western part of
Spitsbergen including Prins Karls Forland is a belt of mountainous country
with many sharp peaks rising generally to 1,000 m. more or less. It is built
of old shales, dolomites, gneiss and schists and is part of the Caledonian

Spitsbergen 2

foldings as found in Western Scandinavia and Scot a land. These Caledonian
foldings were at one time reduced to a peneplain and then upheaved and [: ]
disturbed again in Tertiary times. To the east of this mountainous belt
the scenery changes except in the extreme north. The old peneplain of Palaeo–
zoic rocks was overlain by later formations. Devonian and Carboniferous rocks
are succeeded farther south by Juras s ic, Cretaceous and later rocks that have
suffered little disturbance in the Tertiary elevation except that dykes and
sills of basalt were emitted and heavy faulting gave rise to many valleys and
fjords subsequently further eroded by ice and water action. The central and
eastern mountains, including those of EDGEÖYA and Barentsö l y a , are generally
flat-topped and reach about 600 or 700 m. in altitude.
In glaciation too there is great contrast between the west, with its
valley glaciers and the east with its more continuous reticular glaciat i o n,
rarely meriting the title of an ice sheet except perhaps in Nordaustlandet. Ny
Friesland in the north east of Vest Spitsbergen is also [: ] heavily glaciated.
In the heart of the country there is a considerable area that is now almost
free from ice. This includes wide valleys such as De Geerdalen, Sassendalen,
Adventdalen and Gypsdalen. They were glaciated in the past but possibly to a
less extent than other regions owing to a low precipitation and consequently have
already lost their ice. Certainly all glaciation in Spitsbergen seems to be
receding slowly.
The west and north coasts of Spitsbergen are provided with m any excel–
lent though rather deep harbors. Isfjorden is particularly noticeable in this
respect. Most of the harbors are clear of obstruction but in spite of the com–
pleteness of surveys in recent years unknown rocks or reefs may occur. Off
glaciers or glacial torrents shoal water generally occurs. Raised beaches
form frequent narrow plains along the coast. These often have well consolidated

Spitsbergen 3

firm surfaces affording natural highways. On the other hand many are covered
with glacial debris and studded with swamps, bays and shallow lakes.
Mineral Resources . Coal occurs in Spitsbergen in several geological formations
beginning with Devonian. Several of the Björnöya seams are of this age but
they are thin, much faulted and of poor quality. Lower Carboniferous or Culm
seams are mo r e important. At Björnöya the Culm coal is poor but around isfjorden
especially in Billfjorden (Klaas Billen Bay) the seems are thicker. They
are being worked by a Soviet mining organization at Pyramiden or Mimerdalen
on the west of Billefjorden. At and below sea level they occur in Bönsow
Land on the east of the f h jord. The Upper Carboniferous rocks contain no
coal. The total reserves of Lower Carboniferous coal in Spitsbergen have [: ]
been estimated at over a thousand million tons. One seam of Cretaceous coal,
formerly described as Jurassic, occurs. It has been mined in Adventfjorden
but is of poor quality and is now abandoned. Reserves [: ] are equal to those
of Culm coal and far more accessible. Tertiary coal is the most important
and is the coal on which Spitsbergen's export depends. It is or has been
worked in various places in Isfjorden, K i o ngsfjorden and Braganzavägen by
various compani e s of several nationalities. The Kongsfjorden (Ny Aalesund) field
is very restricted and is now [: ] abandoned. Elsewhere the main seam is above
sea level and is relatively easily reached. Most [: ] is good co ø king coal.
Reserves are estimated at five thousand million tons.
From time to time valuable mineral ores have been reported but most
are imaginary or in small unworkable quantities. No large deposits of iron
ore have been found: those that occur are either poor or in small quantities.
The value of copper and zinc ores is negligible. Galaena occurs only on
Björnöya where small amounts have been mined. The phosphoric nodules of Kapp
Thordsen that once attracted attention are of no value. Mineral oil has not
been found; a few oil shales are reported. Gypsum of high quality and in


enormous quantities occurs in the Permo-Carboniferous [: ] rocks of central
Spitsbergen. No deposits in Europe are of greater extent or purity. Asbes–
tos of poor quality occurs. There is marble of va l r ed and pleasing colors
in Kongsfjorden (Kings Bay.)
Currents and Ice Two outstanding currents reach the coasts of Spitsbergen
and affect the distribution of pack ice around the islands. The Svalbard
drift, a northward flowing branch of the North Cape drift which itself is
a branch of the North Atlantic Drift, makes a gulf of relative warmth on
the west side of Spitsbergen and keeps shore waters normally free from pack–
ice. Except for the freezing of inner fjords the western coast harbors may
be open all the winter. This warm [: ] water e a ffects to a lesser extent the
north coast but its influence decreases eastward and disappears before Nord–
austlandet is reached. Countrary to this drift is the cold Arctic drift of water
that crosses the Arctic Ocean Sea and flows against the northeast and east coasts
of Spitsbergen, investing those coasts with a stream of pack ice. This ice
may pass round Sörkapp (South Cape) in the Sörkapp current and impede access
to the southwest coast even in the summer months. The Sörkapp current also
brings the pack ice to Björnöya normally in winter months and occasionally
in summer. The warmer and more saline Atlantic waters of theSvalba r d drift
On co l o ling off the northwest and north of Spitsbergen sink below the less
saline Arctic waters and form the intermediate layer of warm water which is
now believed to underlie the entire surface of the Arctic Sea. The only
considerable icebergs produced from Spitsbergen glaciers are those from
Nordsustlandet; other glaciers calve only small bergs.
Climate The climate is less Arctic than the latitude would suggest, but
there is a change to severer conditions towards the eastern side. The gulf


of warmth due to the Svalbard drift and the passage of associated "lows " from
the Atlantic, modify the extremity of Arctic conditions. It may be termed
an example of a marine Arctic climate, found also in Björnöya, the northern
parts of Novaya Zemlya and the outer coastal regions of Greenland, in which it
may freeze in every month and in every month a thaw may occur. Pressure
tends to the higher in summer th n a n in winter but is seldom markedly high and
the ice areas are not sufficiently large to establish anywhere a permanent high
pressure area. Winds are strong, especially in the west with the passage of
"lows , " but calms often occur especially in the east, and are not uncommon in
the west. Thunderstorms are very rare. Visibility, when there is daylight,
is generally good but is poor when Atlantic weather occurs. A fog belt tends
to hover off the margin of the pack ice on the west and southeast and occasion-
ally in summer envelops all the higher ground in the western part of the main–
land and also persists around Björnoöya. Precipitation at sea level is low, about
300 mm. in the west and a little more than half that amount in the east. Most
of the precipitation falls as snow: rain or snow may fall in July and August.
In those months there is generally no snow on the lower ground and [: ] glacier
surfaces show bare ice. In other months the whole country is more or less snow
In the western districts temperatures average 42° to 41° F. in July
and August respectively, the only months with means above freezing. In September
there is a rapid fall to 32° F. and this fall reaches 3° F. in January and 1° F. in
February. Extreme winter minima may fall very low, -25° F. or lower , but these are
rare. Extreme summer maxima have risen to over 60° F.; occasional July days can feel
oppressively warm. On the eastern side the corresponding figures are lower. Mete–
orological data are available from Grönfjorden (Green Harbor), Longyearbyen
(Advent Bay) or Kapp Linne, Isfjorden, since 1912 and from Björnöya (Bear


Island) since 1923. Records of about one year or more are available from a
large number of other places, including Ebeltofthamna in Krossfjorden (Cross
Bay) where there was a German observatory from 1910 to 1914. The Swedish contri–
bution to the International Polar Year of 1882-83 was an observatory at Kapp
Thordsen and the Second International Polar Year of 1932-33 observatories at
Sveagruva (Braganzavägen) and on the summit of Nordenskjöldfjellet at 1,050 m.
Vegetation Plant life is not continuous even on the lower ground but is
rarely altogether absent on ice-free sites. The general vegetation is one of
very open tundra with no trees or shrubs but occasional patches of luxuriant
herbaceous growth especially in the vicinity of the bird rookeries. In July
and August there is a wide range of plants in flower, saxifrages, buttercups,
lousewort, potentillas, avens, etc. There are hillsides purple [: ] with saxi–
frages and marshes gay with white cotton grass. Even on the most exposed ground
the Arctic poppy flourishes. [: ] There are about 150 species of flowering
Plants. Practically all the genera and most of the species are found also in
Great Britain. About 80% of the plants are circumpolar in distribution.
Plants of economic value are few, the rare fruits of the crowberry ( Empetrum Empetrum
nigrum nigrum ) and the mountain raspberry ( Rubus chamaemorus Rubus chamaemorus ), scurvy grass and
wood sorrel as provide antiscorbutics and a natural pasture which in places supports
reindeer and introduced musk oxen and a few ponies. No plant supplies fuel
but the transacrctic current brings great quantities of Siberian drift wood
to many beaches. Mosses and L l ichens are numerous. The flora of both flower-
ing plants and [: ] cryptograms decreases in number of [: ] species and luxuriance
of [: ] growth towards the east. Lack of soil and brevity of summer pr e clued all
cultivation of root or grain crops.


Animal Life The reindeer or caribou used to be numerous especially in
central and northern districts and in EDGEÖYA. It is a special Spitsbergen
variety allied to the variety found in Ellesmere Island. Excessive hunting
has much reduced numbers: its slaughter is now forbi g dden. The musk o [: ] or
ovibos which belongs to Arctic Canada was introduced to Spitsbergen in 1929
and by 1936 the numbers had doubled. The Arctic hare has also been introduced
from Greenland. The Arctic fox, in the two varieties, white and blue, and
very rarely the black variety , occur in [: ] rapidly decreasing numbers. Until
thirty years ago foxes swarmed near most bird cliffs: now they have been
trapped almost to extinction for the sake of the ir valuable winter coats. The
fox is protected from April to [: ] October. The polar bear is a winter visitor
to many coasts but rarely is seen on the west or in the interior since its
home is on the pack ice. The winter skin has some value. Between [: ]
100 and 200 are still trapped or shot every winter in Spitsbergen. Since it
cannot be hunted in its principal haunts - the drifting pack - ice - the
polar bear is saved from extermination. The wolf, lemming and lynx do not
Sea mammals in Spitsbergen waters include several whales and five
seals of which the walrus is one. The narwhal has been recorded but now
seems to be extinct. The bowhead, right or Greenland whale was once found in
enormous numbers but now is rarely seen. The quick-moving finner whales, blue,
sei, and finback, are whales of the open sea and [: ] not [: ] inshore waters.
The humpback and boölenose are now almost extinct. The ubiquitous killer
whale or grampus also belongs to the open sea. The white whale or K k vidfisk K k vidfisk
used to be numerous in coastal and fjord waters and was fished for its skin
and oil. Of all the Spitsbergen seals the walrus used to be most numerous
and more important to the sealers but now it is seldom seen. In Spitsbergen
as elsewhere it is rapidly becoming extinct. The other seals are the Greenland ,


harp, saddleback or ground seal, the ringed seal or snadd snadd , the bearded seal
or storkobbe storkobbe , and the bladder-nose or hooded seal. None is fur bearing but all
have value for oil; the large bearded seal is preferred by the sealers.
Some species , excluding probable vagrants, constitute the bird
fauna of Spitsbergen and nearly all are summer visitors. Most of these are
sea - birds and nest on the coasts whose bird cliffs house millions of nesting
birds every summer. They include fulmars, kittiwakes, little auks, guillemots,
puffins, glaucous gulls, ivory gulls and more rarely razorbills, Sabine gulls
and Ross gulls. Less ubiquitous are the sanderling, turnstone, dunlin and
certain plovers as well as several divers, the gray phal e a rope, the black
throated diver, the Arctic tern, the snow bunting, Bewick's swan, the snowy
owl (a winter resident), the snow bunting (the only song bird), the ptarmi–
gan (a winter resident) and many geese (barnacle, pink footed and brent)
and ducks (eider, scoter, etc.) and several skuas. There is a close season
for geese from July 15 to August 15 and for eider eggs and down from July 1.
Of the fish of interest the Arctic cod used to be fished in [: ] Isfjorden , and the
Greenland shark is still numerous but no longer fished for its oil.
There are few insects, no bees or butterflies, only hover flies,
aphids, spiders, small beetles, etc. , and many troublesome gnats. The mosquito
does not occur.
Living off the country for a small party is quite possible in Spits–
bergen especially near the coast or around Isfjorden though it is less easy
than in the past. Reindeer and bear, the latter obtainable only in winter,
afford excellent food but the bears liver must be discarded. Loons, guile–
mots and fulmars are easily killed at bird cliffs; ducks and geese are numer–
ous around lagoons, but shy. Ptarmigan are local and easily hit. Seal


hunting is more difficult and demands a special technique but the flesh of
young seals is specially palatable. Off the coasts excellent fish abound and
in a few streams char can be caught.
Exploration The Norse discovery of Svalbard to the north of Iceland in 1194,
as recorded in the Landnamabok Landnamabok , was possibly Spitsbergen, although
it may have been East Greenland: but there is no further record for several
centuries. It is possible, even if evidence is lacking, that Russian hunters
visited Spitsbergen several centuries before western Europe knew of the land.
At any rate the first definite discovery was that by the Dutchman Barents in
1596 when he was searching for a way to the East and revealed the west and
northwest coasts and Bear Island. He called the principal land Spitsbergen
and regarded it as a part of Greenland, a belief that for long persisted. Little
attention was paid to it until in 1607 H. Hudson, seeking a northeast [: ] passage,
reported [: ] an abundance of whales and seals in Spitsbergen waters.
This led
to the first phase in the exploitation of Spitsbergen, and for a century or
more the western bays that afforded good harbors were the scene of busy summer
stations to which the whales were towed from adjacent waters to be boiled down
for oil. There were whalers of many nations and disputes, often reaching violence,
between rival whalers of whom Dutch and English were the principal. These
whalers revealed a good deal of the coasts and chief features of the islands,
but their charting was rough and in places contradictory. On the whole the
English whalers were the most enterprising and names that stand out are Marma–
duke, Edge and Carolus. Edge's map, published in 1625 in PURCHAS PILGRIMS, in–
corporated much detail collected from the Muscovy Company's skippers. It was the
last important British chart of Spitsbergen until recent times. The best


Dutch Chart, which came later, was that of Giles and Rep published in 1710. The
whaling was solely a summer occupation; shore stations were deserted during the
winter. The largest of these was the Dutch station of Smeerenberg on Amsterdam
Island in the northwest. Founded in 1617, it had by 1633 a summer population
of over a thousand with dwelling huts, storehouses, shops, etc. Only a few
foundations and the adjoining graveyard now remain. The whalers and sealers
never went inland and being summer visitors never saw the foxes and reindeer
in their winter coats, so had no inducement to hunt land animals.
As the whales failed about the middle of the 17th century owing to over
fishing, the whalers left Spitsbergen and moved out into the Greenland Sea.
Then came the Russian trappers, early in the eighteenth century and not im–
probably earlier. Theirs was a daring venture since in those days it was con–
sidered most risky to attempt a winter in the Arctic night; polar bears were
also a terror. For a century or more Russian trappers virtually [: ]
colonized Spitsbergen and Bear Island during winter, living in loghouses built
on prominent points around the coasts. They were ac c ustomed in northern Russia
to winter cold and darkness ; and though they lived well on imported stores and
locally killed meat, their mortality from accident and scurvy was high but the
profits of the hunt were considerable. The winter hunt was often followed by
the chase of wolves and white whaling in summer.
Many of the houses, built of course with imported materials, lasted
until recent times when they were used for fuel by later adventurers. In the
nineteenth century the stock of fur bearing animals and consequently the number
of trappers decreased. There were better fur hunting fields for Russians f u a rther
east and their place in Spitsbergen was taken by No r w wegians who in summer hunted
walrus and other seals, sharks and white whales and in winter trapped bears,
foxes and reindeer. They also collected eider down. The Norwegians were never


such export winterers as the Russians and lived in primitive shacks built of
driftwood and packing cases; their rate of mortality was high. The use of
poisoned bait was added to more legitimate methods of hunting though forbidden
by the Norwegian government; but the occupation remained lucrative enough, esp-
ecially on the eastern coasts, to support fifty or sixty parties which was too
many for the continuance of the game stocks, until Norway took over control of
the island and narrowly limited the occupation by license duties and game laws.
While none of the Russian trappers added anything to the map of Spitsbergen,
several of the Norwegians did exploration of value and made other observations.
E. Carlsen in 1863 made the first authentic circumnavigation of Spitsbergen
and S. Tobieson in 1865-66 made the first meteorological records on Bear Island.
Many Norwegian and Spitsbergen skippers have been pilots and ice masters on
exploring vessels of all nations. Without their skill far less would have been
The position of Spitsbergen in relation to the Pole and its
relatively easy accessibility in the west made it an a o bvious base for expedi-
tions aiming at a high latitude. The expedition of J. C. Phipps in 1773
achieved practically nothing and that of D. Buchan and J. Franklin in 1815
did little more but E. Sabine in 1823 began valuable magnetic work. In 1827
E. Parry with the Hecla and Fury based on Treurenberg Bay reached lat. 82°
43′N. with sledges. This was the last British exploring expedition to Spits–
bergen financed by the British Government. W. Scoresby, the Whitby whaler,
made many observations on Spitsbergen recorded in his memorable volume
on the Arctic regions, but the scientific expoloration of the islands made
little progress until the second half of the nineteenth century when Swedish
work became prominent. A long line of Swedes beginning with A. E. Norden–
[: ] sk j i öld in 1858, A.P. Nathorst, G. de Geer, J.G. Andersson and many others


up to H. W. Ahlmann in the present day revealed the main features of the
structure and geology. One of the least fortunate was S. A. Andreé who in
1897 was lost in attempting to fly a balloon over the Pole from King's Bay.
The mystery of his fate was not solved until 1930 when G. Horn found the remains
of men and camp on White Island (Kvitöya or Giles Land).
In Spite of the careful intensity of much of the Swedish and other
work in the nineteenth century, the interior and North East Land were little
known and the myth of "Inland Ice" was applied even to the main island in its
western parts. The first authentic crossing of Spitsbergen from west to east
was made by Sir M. Conway (later Lord Conway of Allington), J. W. Gregroy and
E. J. Garwood in 1896, but of course roving hunters who left no record almost
certainly had previously crossed. North East Land is less accessible on ac–
count of pack ice than most other parts of Spitsbergen and its exploration en–
tails a probable wintering. Thus it remained unvisited by the many small sum–
mer expeditions. The first explorer was A. E. Nordensk j i öld in 1873 from his
base at [: ] Mossel Bay furth r e r west which was to have been the point of de–
parture for a high northern latitude, with reindeer sledges. This attempt was
abandoned when the reindeer escaped and Nordensk j i öld turned to North East Land.
But the thorough exploration of that land was to wait for more recent expedi-
tions although the Russo-Swedish Arc of Meridian Expedition of 1898 to 1902,
in fixing a number of points, laid the foundations of accurate survey in the
east. Prominent names in these expeditions were E. Jäderin, G. de Geer and
T. N. Tchernichev. In 1924 G. V B inney, with previous experience to his credit,
led the Oxford University Expedition to Nordaustlandet (North East Land),
succeeded in crossing the island and adding a good deal to the map. He was
the first to fly in Spitsbergen. Another important expedition was the Swedish–
Norwegian venture under H. W. Ahlmann in 1931 which di d much work, especially


on glaciers. Lastly A.R. Glen's Oxford Expedition of 1935 to 1936 practically
finished the map and the ground work of exploration. North East Land was the
scene of one of the few disasters inSpitsbergen exploration. In 1912 the Ger–
man Schroeder Stranz expedition aimed to explore the island. The leader and
three companions were lost in an attempt to sledge to the north coast, and the
remainder of the party made an ignominious retreat from Mossel Bay.
In addition to more formal expeditions much careful exploration
has been done by yachtsmen like Sir J. Lamont and B. Leigh Smith on the east coast,
the oceanographical expedition of the Prince of Monaco, especially in Red Bay
in 1899 and F. Nansen's investigations in the seas to the west and north. Also
most important were W.S. Bruce's surveys of Prince Charles Foreland in 1906,
−07, −09 and later years. Another enterprising kind of expedition was of eager
even if inexperienced young men from Oxford and Cambridge to tackle specific
problems in survey, glaciology and geology.
Norway was late in entering the
field of Spitsbergen discovery and investigation but she has amply made up for
this neglect during the present century. From 1906 onwards, the war years
excepted, scarcely a summer passed without one or more Norwegian parties,
generally with State subsidies , being at work in the survey of Spitsbergen.
Photographic and latterly air surveys were used in making detailed maps of
the whole group , and hydrographical surveys of surrounding waters. Prominent
Norwegians in these expeditions were G. Isachsen, A. Staxrud, A. Hoel, G. Horn,
A.K. Orvin. Since Norway assumed the sovereignty of the group in 1925 the
Spitsbergen department of the Norwegian Government has been concerned with the
completion of the exploration of Spitsbergen and has devoted a series of
publications - SKRIFTER OM SVALBARD OG ISHAVET - to scientific records of
the country.


Lastly it should be noted that the various claimants to coal [: ]
bearing land and the companies who actually engaged in mining added much to the
surveys, topographical and geological, of various parts of Icefjord, Bell Sound
and King's Bay. The large scale maps of the Sassen and Klaas Billen areas were
thus prepared by J. Mathieson, 1919 and 1920. Many Spitsbergen explorers were
indebted for generous help to the two successive heads of the Store Norske
Kulkompagni, Karl Bay and E. Sverdrup.
Several expeditions by air for the exploration, not of Spitsbergen,
but of the inner polar regions have used Kongsfjorden (King's Bay) as a base
of departure. Such a one was that of Andr é e (see above). In 1925 Amundsen
made an unsuccessful attempt to fly to the Pole, and the following year R.E.
Byrd flew to the Pole and back, and R. Amundsen and L. Ellsworth took their
airship Norge to Alaska. In 1928 H. Wilkins landed near the mouth of Isfjorden
after a non-stop flight from Alaska, and in the same year U. Nobile's airship
Italia flew to the Pole and elsewhere before meeting with disaster.
centuries of records of travel and of maps, many of them most inaccurate,
left Spitsbergen with a legacy of place names in many languages and no authority
to discriminate and establish correct forms. Nomenclature began with the
English and Dutch whalers and was followed by a succession of Swedish, English,
German and Norwegian place names, many of which overlapped or were in other
ways redundant. Norway recently undertook the examination of the ten thousand
place names of Svalbard and produced a definitive list which all map makers
have now accepted. (The Place [: ] Names of Svalbard, SKRIFTER OM SVALBARD OG ISHAVET,
No. 80, Oslo,1942). Priority has been the guiding principle in deciding the
names to be accepted but Norwegian forms, suffixes and geographical terms are
used, in place of the more familiar English versions, which were due to the ac–
cepted chart for many years having been the British Admiralty Chart No. 2751.


Polit i cal History The polit i cal history of Spitsbergen is long and tangled.
Barents on his discovery of Spitsbergen in 1596 set up a post with the Dutch
arms, an indication of claim, but Holland was not interested at the time. In
1613 King James gave the Muscovy Company of London a charter excluding all other
ships , British and foreign. The following year the company received an Order
in Council to uphold the king's right to King James' Land. A declaration was
made and a cross with the royal arms erected, by Fortherby at several points.
In practice the name King James' Land was little used: the belief, however, that
it was part of Greenland was rejected by the Muscovy Company's skippers. There
was no official Dutch counter-claim but Prince Maurice of Amsterdam gave Dutch
whalers a monopoly in Spitsbergen waters. There was thus a clash of English and
Dutch monopolies , with Denmark putting in a claim in 1614, both as an inheritor
of Norse rights and as sovereign of Greenland. But Denm r a rk's claim was thin and
largely ignored. Dutch and English came to a working agreement dividing [: ] the
bays. This worked fairly well and the two strong rivals combined against Dan–
ish, Basque and Hamburg whalers; although as the whalers gave up using shore
stations by the late seventeenth century the political quarrel was forgotten.
No state had a word to say when Russia virtually colonized Spitsbergen in the
eighteenth century though [: ] Russia seems to have tried a few half hearted poli–
tical moves such as the attempt in 1765 to found a post in Bell Sound. On a
later occasion Russia expressed the view that Spitsbergen should remain a terra
when in 1871 the twin state of Norway and Sweden made tentative suggest–
ions of extending her protection to Spitsbergen. In 1899 a Russian cruiser
disavowing any political intent investigated German activities on Björnöya (q.v.) .
Norway then propo r s ed an international conference on the subject but on Russian
opposition the suggestion was dropped. Norway raised the topic again in 1907
after an American Company (Arctic Coal Co. of Boston, U.S.A.) had bought coal


bearing estates. Norway, Sweden and Russia were each unwilling that one or other
of the remaining two should have a controlling say in the destinies of Spits–
bergen. The debate continued.
Meanwhile in 1909 the Committee on Foreign
Affairs of the United States Senate recommended the extension of American
protection to ownerless islands where American subjects had discovered coal
or other minerals. Clearly Spitsberg a e n was indicated. International confer–
ences continued and the dispute d ragged on until 1914 when the outbreak of
war gave all the states more immediate problems to hold their attention. The
chief obstructor in the last conference was Germany not Russia, and Germany
made a last bid in the Brest Litovsk Treaty of 1918. Even ut tu ally in 1920 the
Supreme Council gave Norway sovereignty , subject to certain conditions regard-
ing pre-existing claims to land, over Spitsbergen, North East Land, Bear Island
and all adjacent islands. All interested powers as well as Italy, the United
States and Japan signed the treaty. Russia signed it in 1924. No fortification
or military establishments of any kind are to be allowed on the Svalbard islands.
The first world war did not touch Spitsbergen except that it en–
couraged coal mining as the price of coal rose. The second world war reached
the islands in a tragic way. Lest the mines and stores of coal might fall into
enemy hands a British Expeditionary Force was sent to Spitsbergen on August 25th ,
1941 , to destroy the coal stores, render unworkable the mines and evacuate the
miners to Norway and Russia. These task s a were completed without opposition.
In May 1942 a small German force arrived and occupied Longyearbyen. About the
same time a Norwegian party of 82 all told was taken in an ice-breaker to
Grönfjorden to resume meteorological [: ] observations. The Norwegian party [: ]
was attacked by enemy bombers. Fourteen men , including Director E. Sverdrup
of the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompagni A . G. , were killed. The survivors


in Barentsburg were bombed daily until the end of May when a British Cata–
lin a e appeared and received a message asking for help. In June the wounded
were moved by air. On July 2 a British naval squadron arrived and found no
Germans. A Norwegian garrison of 100 men was left. On September 8,1943, a
German naval squadron including T I RPITZ, S C HARNHORST and eight destroyers
accompanied by [: ] planes arrived and fired at all buildings. The small
garrison replied but was completely outgunned. After a few hours the enemy
withdrew and never returned.
Mining Jonas Poole, one of the Muscovy Company's walrus hunters in 1610
discovered "sea coals which burnt very well" in Kings Bay (Kongsfjorden).
He also found coal on Bear Island. From time to time other seams were re–
corded. Sir J. Lamont in coaled his yacht in Kings Bay and in 1899 the
Prince of M a onaco coaled his yacht in Advent Bay. But the first claim to a
mining estate was made not for coal but for phosphates by a Swedish company
at Cape Thordsen in 1872. The attempt was a failure. The staking of a claim
to land was an easy matter but security of tenure was difficult since Spits–
bergen was accepted by all states as a terra nullius outside authority of any
kind. A claim to land was indicated by notices on the site and possibly an
intimation to the Foreign Office of the claimant's state. Occupation even if
only in summer, was, by usage, accepted as evidence of ownership but there was
much trespass and many counterclaims. Scores of claims went no further than the
erection of notice boa r ds. Many were made by hopeful adventurers without any know–
ledge of mining or geology; a few led to tentative mines but very few reached the
export stage even on a small scale. The western coasts, especially the fjord
coasts, early this century were littered with pretentious claim boards of
individuals and firms, but in 1910 the company was revived as the SVENSKA SPETSBERGEN KULKOMPAGNI claim-
ing [: ] in [: ] and several parts of [: ] . The coal seams
at [: ] were developed and for some years there was a small preperty

most of whom had no capital behind them and none had any authority to take
land or safeguards to hold it.
The year 1905 saw the beginning of serious
coal mining. Two Americans, J. M. Longyear and F. Ayer, who afterwards
formed the ARCTIC COAL COMPANY of Boston, U.S.A., bought and widely extended
Norwegian estates in Green Harbour (Grönfjorden) and Advent Bay. The same
year the SPITSBERGEN COAL AND TRADING COMPANY of Sheffield bought another
Norwegian claim and started work on the opposite side of Advent Bay. The
Sheffield mine, in a poor seam, was abandoned in 1908. Out of a variety of
Norwegian and English claims in Kings Bay (Kongsfjorden) emerged the KINGS
BAY KULKOMPAGNI of Aalesund which mined and exported, with the most northerly
railway in the world, until 1929. Meanwhile in 1916 the Arctic Coal Company
of Boston had sold all its estates and settlements to the STORE NORSKE SPITS–
BERGEN KULKOMPAGNI which, with much financial help from the Norwegian govern–
ment, became a large well equipped mine exporting up to 300,000 tons every
summer, with two large mining camps, Longyearbyen and Sverdrupbyen. Other small
Norwegian mines had no success and were sold or abandoned.
Swedish interests
for a time were prominent. They had begun before the days of active coal
mining with the flotation in 1872 of ISFJORDEN BELLSUNDEN KOMPAGNI to mine
phosphatic nodules in the Triassic rocks of Kapp Thordsen. This was a failure
but in 1910 the company was revived as the SVENSKA SPETSBERGEN KULKOMPAGNI claim–
ing estates in Braganzavägen and several parts of Isfjorden. The coal seams
at Braganzavägen were developed and for some years there was a small [: ]
export. Eventually in 1934 this Swedish coal mine was sold to STORE NORSKE
KULKOMPAGNI and the Swedish claim in Pyramiden, Mimerdalen passed to SOVIET
ARKTIK UGOL. But Soviet claims had [: ] begun at an earlier date when about
1912 the ANGLO-RUSSIAN GRUMANT COMPANY started mining near Coles Bay in
Isfjorden and an allied company acquired Norwegian claims in Green Harbour.


The for e mer were poor and were eventually abandoned after a few years working
and the export of a few cargoes. The Green Harbour estate had many changes of
ownership. In 1920 it passed to the NEDERLANDSCHE SPITSBERGEN COMPAGNIE with
a subsidy from the Dutch Government along with a purchase from Norwegian
claimants at Kapp Boheman. The latter was soon aba n doned but the former was
developed on a large scale and began to export. In 1932 [: ] however the Dutch
owners sold out to the Soviet Arktik Ugol which poured labor and materials
into the settlement of Baren s tsburg. At the outbreak of war in 1939 this and
the Norwegian mine at Longyearbyen were the only two well equipped exporting
mines in Svalbard.
British mining ventures were less successful. THE NORTHERN
EXPLORATION COMPANY of London was formed in 1909 and claimed widely scattered
estates in the country but never reached the export stage. After a varied
career this company sold out to the Store Norske Kulkompagni in 1932. THE
SCOTTISH SPITSBERGEN XSYNDICATE also formed in 1909, made extensive claims
but [: ] eventually concentrated on coal and gypsum lands at the head of Isfjorden.
It is not an exporter. The total export of coal from Spitsbergen rose from
1500 tons [: ] in 1907 to 24,860 tons in 1917, 313,000 tons in 1927, 740,000
tons in 1937. The total number of employees in 1937-38 was 2,653 of whom nearly
2,000 were Russian and the remainder Norwegian.
The Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920
provided that all claims to land should be submitted to a Danish commissioner
for examination and confirmation or cancellation. This clause revived a multi–
tude of forgotten claims: seventy-four on behalf of twenty-six claimants were
submitted. Forty were formally recognized: the others were discarded. [: ]
This allocation has since been changed by sale and purchase. In 1938 the areas
were approximately as follows: Norwegian owners 3,676 sq. km., British owners
296 sq. km. and Soviet owners 251 sq. km.
The conditions of mining in Spits–
bergen show certain peculiarities. The ground is frozen to a depth of about
1,000 feet and so gives ample roof support in the horizontal adits of which


most mines consist. The mines are free from water and there is no risk of
flooding. Ventilation is easy. Coal dust explosions have occurred but no
fire damp disasters are recorded. Health is good. The frozen ground gives
secure foundations for surface buildings. On the other hand, there are some
drawbacks. All materials have to be imported. The country produces nothing
of value to the miner except water and some building stone. Labor and food
have also to be imported. Recreation is limited even with club rooms and
cinemas in the largest camps, and the employees tend to become restive and
long for civilized amenities. To some the long winter night is depressing.
In the latitude of the chief mines in Isfjorden the sun is below the horizon
for 112 days, from October 26 to February 17. The export season of the coal,
owing to pack ice and darkness is from about May 1 to November 1. With the
use of icebreakers it might be extended. [: ] Mining, however, goes on through–
out the winter.
The following statistics of export of coal from Svalbard were pre–
pared by the Norsk Polarinstitutt, Oslo, in 1948.
Export of coal from Svalbard in metric tons
from companies no longer in existence
Arctic Coal Co., Boston (American) 1907-15 . . . . 146,690
Spitsbergen Coal and Trading Co. Ltd.,Sheffield (English 1908 . . . . . 4,000
Svenska Stenkolsaktiebolaget SpetsbergenStockholm (Swedish) 1918-25 . . . . 444,722
Anglo Grumant Co. Ltd., London(English-Russian) 1920-26 . . . . 62,200
N.V. Nederlandsche Spitsbergen Com-pagnie, Rotterdam (Dutch) 1921-25 . . . . 192,200
A/S De Norske Kulfelter Spitsbergen(Norwegian) 1918-27 . . . . 44,280


A/S Isefjord Kulkompani (Norwegian 1920 . . . . 2,000
A/S Russiske Kulfelter [: ] i Green Har–
bour Spitsbergen (worked by Norweg–
ians and for Norwegian capital)
1918-20 . . . . 27,900
Existing Companies, partly working
Björnöen A/S (Norwegian) 1919-25 . . . . 116,829
Kings Bay Kull Comp. A/S(Norwegian) 1917-29 and 1946-48 . . . 951,890
Norske Kulfelter A/S(Norwegian) 1939-40 . . . 3,903
Store Norske Spitsbergen Kul-Kompani A/S, Oslo (Norwegian) 1916-41 and 1945-48 . . . 5,115,905
Arktik Arktik Ugol (Soviet) 1931-41 . . .1948 ca. . . 2,425,625 25,000
Total export, including
bunkers 1907-48
Export from Norwegian coal mines [: ] in Svalbard 1907-48 6,262,707
Export from foreign mines 1907-48 3,300437
Tourist Traffic . Attempts to make a tourist resort in Spitsbergen began in
1871 when a small Norwegian steamer took tourists for a round-trip voyage.
But in those days the old evil reputation of the Arctic for scurvy, starva–
tion, and unendurable cold still reigned supreme; the old myths were hard
in dying. Lord Dufferin g in 1856 and J. Lamont in 1876 revealed new and
beautiful and easily reached cruising ground. In 1890 a German skipper
started an annual trip to Spitsbergen and his success prompted rivals to work on a


larger scale. In 1893 the Hamburg-Amorika Company ran a cruise, in 1894 the
Orient Steamship Company, and in 1895 the P. & O. Company did the same. In
1896 the Vestersalen Dampskib A/S during summer sent a small weekly steamer
from Tromsö to Advent Bay where they had an alpine hotel accommodating
25 persons. The service was continued in 1897 and then abandoned. Then
for some years the tourist traffic was catered for mainly by large German
liners and an occasional French


one as well as smaller Norwegian steamers. From 1920 the traffic greatly
increased in volume and British companies took an active share with several
large luxury liners. West coast bays alone were visited. In 1938 and 1939
some of the abandoned dwelling houses in Kongsfjorden (Ny Aalesund) were
termed Nordpol Hotel. The government vessel making regular journeys between
Tromsö and Spitsbergen usually called there.
Among scores of volumes in a dozen languages, a selection of some
of the more useful are noted:
Mainly Descriptive
<bibl> Binney, G. With Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic , 1925 </bibl> <bibl> Conway, W.M. The First Crossing of Spitsbergen , 1897 </bibl> <bibl> Glen, A.R. and Croft, A.C. Under the Pole Star , 1937 </bibl> <bibl> Gordon, S. Amid Snowy Wastes , 1922 </bibl> <bibl> Lamont, J. Seasons with the Sea Horses , 1861 </bibl> <bibl> ---------- Yachting in Arctic Seas , 1876 </bibl>
Historical and Scientific
<bibl> H.W. Ahlmann and
E. Sverdrup "Scientific Results of the Norwegian Swedish Expedition
in 1934," Geografisker Annaler , Stockholm, 1935 and 1938 </bibl> <bibl> Andersson, Gunnar "Spetsbergens koltillg å ngar och Sveriges kolbehof,"
Ymer , Arg. 37, 1917, Stockholm, 1918. pp. 201-48 </bibl> <bibl> Berr, M. R. "Les gisements de charbon du Spitsberg," Ann. Min. ,
Paris, 1914. </bibl>


<bibl> Blake, C. T. (ed) The True and Perfect Description of Three Voyages
(Including that of Barents), Hakluyt Society, 1853 </bibl> <bibl> Cadell, H. M. "Coal Mining in Spitsbergen," Trans . Inst. Min. Engrs.,
Vol. 60, pt. 2. Newcastle-upon Tyne, 1920. pp. 119-142 </bibl> <bibl> Conway, W [: ] .M. (ed) Early Dutch and English Voyages to Spitsbergen ,
Hakluyt Society, 1904 </bibl> <bibl> ----- No Man's Land , 1906 </bibl> <bibl> ----- Spitzbergen Handbuch , Berlin, 1926 </bibl> <bibl> Dole, Nathan H. Americans in Spitsbergen , Boston, 1922 </bibl> <bibl> Gray, L. H. Spitsbergen and Bear Island (for official use)
Washington, 1919 </bibl> <bibl> Hoel, Adolf "The Coal Deposits and Coal Mining of Svalbard (Spits–
bergen and Bear Island," Result . Norske Spitsbergen–
eksped., Bd. 1, Nr. 6. Oslo, 1925 </bibl> <bibl> Horn, Gunnar "Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Kohle von Svalbard (Spitz
bergen und der Bäreninsel)," Skr. Svalbard og Ishavet, [: ]
Nr. 17. Oslo, 1928. </bibl> <bibl> -----. and "Geology of Bear Island with special reference to the
Orvin, Anders K. Coal Deposits, and with an account of the History of
the Island," Skr. Svalbard og Ishavet., Nr. 15. Oslo 1928 </bibl> <bibl> Knothe, H. "Spitzbergen," Petermann's Mitteilungen Evganzungschaft
No. 211, Gotha, 1931 </bibl> <bibl> Kotlukov, V.A. "The Geological Structure and Coal Deposits of Barents–
burg and of the Boheman Tundra (Western Spitsbergen),"
Trans. Leningrad Geol. Trust, Fasc. 11. Leningrad–
Moscow, 1936. [In Russian with English summary.] </bibl> <bibl> Laing, J. An Account of a Voyage to Spitzbergen, 1815 </bibl> <bibl> Lutkevich, E.M. "Geology of the Tertiary Coal-bearing Deposits of Spits–
bergen in the Ice-Fjord Region," Trans. Arctic Inst.,
Vol. 76. Leningrad, 1937. [In Russian with English
summary.] pp. 7-24 </bibl> <bibl> ----- "Geological Survey and the Problems of the Coal Fields
of Mount Pyramid, Spitsbergen Island," Ibid . pp. 25-38.
[In Russian with English summary.] </bibl> <bibl> Nansen, Fridtjof En Ferd til Spitsbergen , Kristiania, 1920 </bibl> <bibl> ---- The Spitsbergen Treaty , 1920 </bibl>


<bibl> Orvin, Anders K. "Geology of the Kings Bay Region, Spitsbergen, with
special reference to the Coal Deposits," Skr. Svalbard
og [: ] Ishavet., Nr. 57. Oslo, 1934 </bibl> <bibl> ----- "Outline of the Geological History of Spitsbergen,"
Skr. Svalbard og [: ] Ishavet, No. 78, Oslo, 1940 </bibl> <bibl> ----- "Bibliography of Literature about the Geology, Physical
Geography, Useful Minerals, and Mining of Svalbard,"
Skr. Norges Svalbard-og Ishavs-unders o kelser, Nr. 89.
Oslo, 1947. [In this paper is found all literature
about coal deposits, coal mining, coal production, coal
analyses, and mineral deposits.] </bibl> <bibl> Rudmose-Brown, R.N. The Polar Regions , 1927 </bibl> <bibl> ----- Spitsbergen , 1920 </bibl> <bibl> Sindballe, K. Report Concerning Claims to Land in Svalbard , Copenhagen
and Oslo, 1927. [Report and Atlas] </bibl> <bibl> White, A. (ed) A Collection of Documents on Spitsbergen and Greenland ,
1855 . Haklwyt Society </bibl> <bibl> Wieder, C. The Dutch Discovery and Mapping of Spitsbergen ,
Amsterdam, 1919 </bibl>
Many of the above have Bibliographies. See also the periodicals,
Skrifter om Svalbard og Ishavet , Oslo, 1922 onward, and The Polar Record ,
Cambridge (England), 1931 and onward.
R. N. Rudmose-Brown

EA-Geog. Greenland-Svalbard
Author: R. N. Rudmose Brown
Date Received: 8/8/47
No. of words: 300

Prins Karls Forland (or Prince Charles For l e land) Island

PRINS KARLS FORLAND or Prince Charles Foreland is the most westerly of the islands
of the Spitsbergen group. It is 86 km. long and 5 to 11 km. wide and has an area
of 650 sq. km. It is separated from the mainland by Forlandsundet which by rea–
son of Forlandsrevet, a sandy reef across its northern part, is navigable only to
small vessels. Prins Karls Forland is very mountainous rising to several summits
of over a thousand metres, Monaco-fjellet (1081m), Jessiefjellet (1034m), Phipps–
fjellet ( [: ] 1022m.) etc. On both sides the island has a wide belt of lowland
which inorigin is a raised beach: it is interrupted in several places by shallow
lagoons and in the southern half extends across the island for a distance of
fifteen kilometres. On the east side of the island large glaciers descend to
the sea; the west side is almost clear of ice. There are no natural harbors ex–
cept for small vessels. The rocks are mainly shales, limestone and quartzites
of the Hecla Hock formation with a small [: ] area of tertiary rocks on Forland–
sundet against the "Bar" or Forlandsrevet. Str e u cturally the island is part of the
old Caledonian folds reelevated in tertiary times and separated by down faulting
from the mainland. A little iron ore has been reported but the deposits are not
of great value. There is no coal. Norwegian trappers used to winter on the
island until the foxes were almost exterminated. There are now no reindeer and
bears seldom visit the island since pack-ice does not often reach it. Barents
saw the island in 1596 and thought it to be part of the mainland. Many casual
landings, including small whaling stations are recorded. Scoresby who landed
and J. Lamont give descriptions but no systematic exploration of the island was
made before W. S. K Bruce's (q.v.) expedition of 1906. This was followed by later
expeditions which resulted in a detailed map by W.S. Bruce and J. Mathieson pub–
lished in 1913. See also works [: ] cited under SPITSBERGEN.

Author: R. N. Rudmose Brown
500 words.

Noraustlandet (or North-East Land)

NORDAUSTLANDET , or North-East Land, so called from its position in the Spitsbergen
or Svalbard group of which it is the second largest island with an area of
15,000 sq. km. Pack ice from the north makes it inaccessible in many months
and sometimes throughout the year. This difficulty of access delayed its ex–
ploration until recent years. The greater part of the island is smothered
with ice lying in five masses, Vestfonna, Austfonna, Sörfonna, Glitnefonna
and Vegafonna of which the highest is 600-700 metres. On the east and south the
ice caps meet the sea and calve off the largest icebergs that Spitsbergen produces.
On the north and west coasts which are indented by long fjords there is much ice
free land. The island is almost cut into two by Wahlenbergfjorden and Ri p j pfjorden
and between the heads of the two there are 20 km. of ice free land. The struc–
ture of the islands is one of Hecla Hoek (?), granite, schists and limestone,
now thought to belong to the early Palaeozoic age. The southern part is built
of Carboniferous strata covered by a sill of dolomite. Raised beaches are a
marked feature. Under the ice domes the land surface probably rises as high as
500 metres. The climate is severe and more continental than in West Spitsbergen.
The ice area is not large enough to cause a permanent high pressure area. At–
lantic "lows" not infrequently cross the island. Strong winds are chiefly from
the south. Precipitation is as high as 700-800 mm. on the plateau. Temperature
may fall below freezing point in every month. The extreme winter minimum recorded,
at sea level, is -26°F. The mean of the warmest months is 38.2°F. for August.
There is, however, a great lack of detailed records.
Vegetation except near bird cliffs is scanty. In summer there are large
colonies of fulmars, kittiwakes, terns guillemots, [: ] Brent geese, eider ducks


and ivory gulls as well as fewer snow buntings, purple sandpipers, divers, grey
phaleropes etc. Ptarmigan are not numer u o us. Birds start to migrate southward
by mid-August. Foxes and reindeer are few but bears and seals are fairly nu–
merous. Walrus are now rare. The whole island by virtue of its structure is
outside the area of mining claims and has never been much frequented by trappers.
The island first appears as Sir Thomas Smith's Island on Edge's map of 1625.
In Dutch maps of the seventeenth century the coasts gradually emerged but their
accurate survey was late. Parry did a little in 1827, A.E. Nordenskjöld in 1864,
a few Norwegian sealers at times. B. Leigh Smith in 1871, Nordenskjöld, with the
first crossing of the interior in 1872-73 and the Swedish Arc of Meridian Ex–
pedition in 1901. But the systematic exploration of the island was the work
of H. W. Ahlmann's Swedish-Norwegian Expedition in 1931, A. R. Glen's Oxford
Expedition in 1935-36 and the Norwegian Government aerial survey in 1938.
Surveys revealed a huge advance of ice on a 21 km. front on the south coast
between 1936 and 1938.
See works on Spitsbergen and A.R. Glen UNDER THE POLE STAR, 1937, and
EXPEDITION OF 1931, 2 vols. Stockholm, 1934 and 1936.

Author: R. N. Rudmose Brown'
80 words.


KVITOYA , White Island, or Giles Land, lies east of Spitsbergen. It has an area
of 250 sq. km. and is covered with an ice sheet except at its western and
northern tips. Schist and gneiss are the foundation rocks. The island is
undoubtedly the land reported by Giles in 1707. It was examined in detail only
in 1930 when G. Horn and others found the remains of S. A. Andree (q.v.) and
his companions who had perished there after the wreck of their balloon in 1897.
See The Andree Diaries , 1931.

Author: R. N. Rudmose Borwn
150 words.

Kong Karls Land (or Wiches Land)

KONG KARLS LAND or Wiches Land is a group of small islands with a total area
of 331 lying on the east of Spitsbergen. They are flat topped with
hard dolerite capping sandstone and shales. Altitudes reach 200 to 300 m.
There are some small glaciers. Lowlands are wet and boggy in summer. Bears
[: ] visit the islands in winter when the pack surrounds them; foxes are few.
In 1617 a land was discovered to the east of Spitsbergen as far north as 79°
N. and called Edge Eiches Land. In 1864 A. E. Nordenskjöld and N. Duner re–
discovered this land but took it to be Giles Land, now Kvitöya. In 1870 von Heuglin
named the islands for the King of Würtemberg but in 1872 H. Mohn referred them
to another Karl, the King of Sweden and Norway. There is little doubt that
the true name is Wiches Lend. The most thorough exploration was by A. G.
Nathorst's Swedish expedition in 1898.

AUTHOR: R. N. Rudmose Brown
Received 8/8/47
160 words.


BARENTSöYA is an island on the east of theSpitsbergen group with an area of
1300 sq. km. separated from Vest Spitsbergen by the narrow head of Storfjorden.
It is part of the plateau of eastern Spitsbergen built of almost horizontal
strata of sandstone, shales and limestone and a few dolerite sills. There
are several glaciers particularly on the east. The Duckwith glacier on the
southwest has shown violent fluctuations in recent years, advancing over the
low Anderssonöyane and then receding and leaving them clear of ice. There are
no good harbors or even anchorages. The interior was little known until it
was aerially surveyed by Norway in 1936. The island as a peninsula appeared
on the Muscovy Company's map of 1625 and the Giles and Rep map of 1710. It
was only in 1859 that J. Lemont (q.v.) found Heleysundet to be a strait. The
Russian-Swedish Arc of Meridian Expedition fixed points only on the west coast.

Author: R. N. Rudmose Brown
Received: 8/8/47.
200 words.


EDGEÖYA is a large island on the southeast of the Spitsbergen group with
an area of about 5150 sq. km. It is separated from Vest Spitsbergen by the
wide Storfjord. Part of the plateau of eastern Spitsbergen, it is built of
horizontal beds of sandstone and shale with a few dolerite sills. The west–
ern and central parts, comprising more than half the island, are ice free. Domes
of dead ice, showing conditions of waning glaciation, rise to 600 m. Several
raised beaches at different levels afford good travelling surfaces. Anchorages
are poor and there are no good harbors; the east coast should be avoided. Sum–
mer is a period of gales and fog; winter is quieter and cold. Access by sea
is often hindered by pack ice. Vegetation is scanty. Foxes, reindeer, and
bears are found. Wolves [: ] used to be numerous among the archipelago of
Tusenöyane (Thousand Island). Russian trappers huts occur in many places on
the coast. EDGEÖYA was probably discovered by Edge in 1616 but may have been
sighted by the Dutchman Carolus in 1614 and called by him Morfyn. The Russian–
Swedish Arc of Meridian Expedition fixed some points on the west in 1899-1901
and the Cambridge Expedition under H.G. Watkins in 1927 made useful surveys
but the final mapping was not completed until Norwegians did it from the air
in 1936.

Author: R.N. Rudmose Brown
400 words.

Hopen (Hope or Seahorse Island)

HOPEN, Hope or Seahorse Island, is a small detached island of the Svalbard
group lying 125 nautical miles due east of South Cape (Sörkapp) and 47 nauti–
cal miles S.S.E. of Edge Island. Its exact position is now accepted as lat.
76° 35′N., long. 25° 30′E. This differs from earlier positions including
that of Iversen in 1924. It is a long narrow strip of land 37 kilometr ¯ es in
length and three quarters to two kilometeres wide with a total area of 46 sq.
kilometers. In structure it is a detached fragment of the plateau of eastern
Spitsbergen and is built of horizontal layers of soft Cretaceous rocks rising
to flat topped hills of which the highest is Iversenfjellet, 365 metres, at
the south end. Nearly everywhere the island meets the sea in steep cliffs but
in places where there are raised beaches landing is possible when the sea is
calm. Wave action is very destructive and in time will reduce the island to
a shoal. The coasts are clear of rocks, but are fringed with shallow water.
There is no evidence of the occurrence of coal or other minerals of value.
There are no glaciers.
Vegetation is scanty; the twenty species of flowering plants occur
also on Spitsbergen. Mosses and lichen s are numerous. The fox has been seen
and the polar bear comes in winter when pack-ice may invest the island. [: ]
Walrus used to be abundant but are now scarce. Guilletmots, glaucous gulls, kit–
tiwakes, skuas, sandpipers and eider ducks frequent the islands. There are
ruins of a few trappers huts of long ago.
Hopen according to Edge was discovered in 1613 but the Dutch may have
known it some years earlier. It appears with varying shape and position on
several English and Dutch charts on some of which anchorages are mar c ked. J.
Payer landed in 1876 and writes of rocks on the coasts and mentions the [: ]


abundant driftwood. A.G. Nathorst in 1898 was unable to land but the same
year W.S. Bruce landed from t he Prince of Monaco's yacht. Norwegians failed
to get ashore in 1920 but twice in 1924 and in 1926 Th. Iversen landed and
explored the island making at l e a st a satisfactory map. Further work was done
in 1939 by Th. Askheire.
The best account is by Th. Iversen "Hopen" Res. Av de Norske
Statsunder-Stöttede Spitsbergenekspeditioner
Bind I, Nr. 10, Oslo, 1926
(In English)

Author: R. N. Rudmose Brown
Received 8/8/47
No. of words: 1,000

Björnöya (or Bear Island)

BJÖRNÖYA or Bear Island is a small isolated lying between Norway
(240 miles) and Spitsbergen (120 miles) and is regarded as one of the Sval–
bard group. It extends between lat. 74° 20′N. and 74° [: ] 31′N. and between
long. 18° 46′E. and 19° 17′E. Its total area is 178 sq. kilometres. The
island is roughly triangular and rises to 536 metres in the highest of the
three summits of Miseryfjellet. The north is a plain area lying at an ele–
vation of about 30 to 45 metres above sea level, an area of bare Carbonifer–
ous sandstone, limestone and shale with scabbered rock fragments, many wind–
ing unnavigable streams and a great number of shallow lakes of which the
largest is Laksvat with a depth of 2 to 3 metres. The southern [: ] part is
mountainous with several summits and wide valleys and a few deep lakes. The
who e le island meets the sea in steep cliffs 24 to over 300 metres in height.
Mount Misery has cliffs of 425 metres. [: ] On the stepping of the horizontal
beds many sea birds find nesting places. Off the coast there are many pro–
minent stacks. Geologically Björnöya is a detached part of the belt of Cale–
donian foldings of western Norway and western Spitsbergen and is built of
Hec k la Hock shales, dolomites and limestones on the peneplained surface of
which were laid down, Devonian, Carboniferous and since eroded Triassic rocks.
In Te r t iary times a great upheaval occurred and the present small island
since isolated by erosion alone remains between the larger areas in Norway
and Spitsbergen. There are numerous levels of ancient beaches. At present
there are no glaciers but signs of former glaciation are numerous. Landslides
in the mountainous part are frequent. There are no good harbors and access
to the interior is gnerally difficult. On the east and north are the places
with easiest access. The coal miners had great difficulty in finding an
outlet for their coal. Austerväg which was used had little advantage


except that it is on the eastern or lee side. Kvalrossbukta, further south,
offers anchorage for [: ] small vessels and easy access to the interior, but has
a rock studded entrance. Herwighamna on the north may be a useful anchorage
for small vessels.
Pack-ice from the east of Spitsbergen is driven south to envelope
Björnöya especially in April, May and June. July, August and September are
months when the island is almost certain to be icefree, but such conditions
may [: ] persist throughout the year. On the west the warm Svalbard drift
keeps open the waters on the Spitsbergen Bank. British trawlers now work
on the Spitsbergen Bank within sight of Bear Island. The climate is most
unattractive. Winter is a time of strong Atlantic gales with low cloud, mist
rain with means below freezing point from October to May and [: ] er very much
above. Summer has a few clear and warm days but the highest recorded tempera–
ture is 61° F in August. The lowest record is -26° F in March. The driest
period is April to August but all months have some precipitation with a to–
tal for the year of 330 mm. Snow falls as a rule from October to May.
Vegetation is poor and un v e ven but rich near bird cliffs. The flora,
with some fifty species of flowering plants, is a third of that of Spits–
bergen but very closely related. There are many mosses and lichens. There
are foxes but no reindeer. Bears visit the island in winter. Fulmar guille–
monts and other sea birds, as in Spitsbergen, nest in myriads in summer.
All animal life, except the glaucous gull, is protected (?) throughout the islan d.
The Norse discovery of Svalbard in 1194 may have been Björnöya but
was more likely Spitsbergen. At any rate Heemskerck and Barents found the
island in 1596 before discovering Spitsbergen and called it T'veeve Eylandt
(Bear Island). A landing was made. In 1603 S. Bennet, in ignorance of the
Dutch discovery, called it Cherrie Island, after the patron of his voyage.


In 1605Bennet was back and collected some lead ore and named a mountain, but not
the present bearer of that name, Mount Misery. Bennet made several further voyages
in search of walrus. In 1609 J. Poole claimed the island for the Muscovy Company
of London. [: ] No doubt it was frequently visited [: ] during the seventeenth
century which was a prolific period in Spitsbergen whaling but there are few
records. The first record of wintering was in 1700 by a Dutch shipwrecked crew.
During the eighteenth century Russian trappers often wintered but have left few
records except their well built huts and a few graves. They called it Medved
which means the Bear. In the end of that century Norwegian trappers began to
displace the Russian winterers. B. M. Keilhau of Oslo University was the first
scientist to visit Björnöya (1827). S. Tobieson, a Norwegian hunter in 1865-66
took the f o i rst meteorological observations. In 1864 and 1868 A.E. Nordenskjöld
and in 1870 A. G. Nathorst and other Swedish scientists were there. A more
thorough exploration was that of C. J. O. Kjellström, A. Hamberg and J.G.
Andersson in 1898 [: ] and 1899. In late years Norwegian surveyors and others
have practically completed the exploration of the island as part of the general
survey of Norway's Arctic territory of Svalbard (q.v.). The [: ] Oxford expedition
to Spitsbergen in 1923 spent some days at Björnöya. There have been many other
investigators but most of them were concerned chiefly with the mineral wealth and
the use of the islands as a whaling base. In 1898 a German party made the
first claim to supposed coal bearing [: ] land. Next year this claim was expanded
to more valuable land and further activit i y continued intermittently with a
certain degree of contention among rival German firms, the one seeking coal and
the other bases for fishing interests. A challenge to these claims came from
Russians in 1899 at intervals up to 1921 and the Russian claims were possibly
related to political ambition. From 1903 to 1908 there was a Norwegian whaling
station at Kvalrossbu t k ta and little was heard of the coal until 1915 when war
conditions cut off the import of British coal to Norway. Björöyen Kulkompagni


of Stavanger then claimed the whole island, buying up other authentic claims.
This company mined coal until 1925 when the mine at Tunheins was closed down.
The wireless station erected in 1919 and meteorological observatory built in 1923
were then taken over and continued by the Norwegian government. The coal is of
Carboniferous age and is good coking coal, but the seams are thin and the ash
content is high. There were never more than 200 men employed and the total
export, all to Norway, was 50,330 tons. A few tons of galena have also been
mined. The political destineis of the islands are bound up with those of
Spitsbergen but it has never had much interest to rival powers. The Muscovy
Company's claim in 1609 was never pressed and there were no Dutch or Danish
claims. Both Germany and Russia, in spite of semi-official visits disavowed
political aims and neither Norway nor [: ] Sweden seemed much interested until Björn–
öya was included in the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 and put under Norwegian
See volumes on Spitsbergen . Also G. Horn and A. K. Orvin GEOLOGY OF BEAR
Oslo, 1928, and The Survey of Björnöya, Skrifter , No. 86. Oslo 1944.
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