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Rijpsburg

Bohem­an­flya is a wide and lar­ge­ly flat tun­dra pen­in­su­la stret­ching far into Isfjord from the nort­hern side. It is not far away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but hard to see becau­se it is so flat and hard to get to becau­se the expo­sed shore­li­ne and shal­low waters make access from the sea dif­fi­cult, and that is the only way to get the­re.

If you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to Bohem­an­flya, then you will dis­co­ver a wide tun­dra plain which is sur­pri­sin­gly rich in detail and a con­trast-rich coas­tal land­s­cape. At the outer­most point which is cal­led Bohe­man­nes­et, the coast is rocky with some low cliffs whe­re you can find out­crops of coal from the Cret­ace­ous.

A few kilo­me­tres west of Bohe­man­nes­et is ano­t­her area whe­re coal seams are clo­se to the sur­face. This is whe­re Søren Zacha­ri­as­sen from Nor­way dug out some tons of coal in 1899 with the inten­ti­on of taking them home and sell them. Alt­hough small quan­ti­ties of coal had been taken from Spits­ber­gen to Nor­way befo­re, this is usual­ly con­si­de­red the begin­ning of com­mer­cial coal mining in Spits­ber­gen. Zacha­ri­as­sen retur­ned in the fol­lowing year and built a hut to accom­mo­da­te 16 men, but he did not get to the sta­ge of indus­tri­al mining.

Some years later a smal­ler hut on the same place was used by Hja­l­mar Johan­sen, famous for having win­te­red with Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen in Franz Josef Land in 1895-96, and the Ger­man jour­na­list Theo­dor Ler­ner for a rather event­less win­te­ring. In spring, they star­ted an adven­tur­ous sledge expe­di­ti­on to north Spits­ber­gen for the pur­po­se of explo­ra­ti­on in the far nor­the­ast of Sval­bard, but they did not get along with each other very well and aban­do­ned the expe­di­ti­on on the nor­thwest coast, whe­re they were picked up by a boat.

In 1920, Bohe­man­nes­et beca­me the pro­per­ty of the Dut­ch Neder­land­sche Spits­ber­gen Com­pa­ny or short NeSpi­Co, who soon estab­lis­hed a litt­le mining sett­le­ment and cal­led the place Rijps­burg, after one of the heroes of the 1596 expe­di­ti­on of Wil­lem Bar­entsz. Acti­vi­ties on Bohe­man­nes­et went never real­ly bey­ond a tri­al sta­ge. In some of the ear­ly years, the NeSpi­Co had hired the famous trap­per Hil­mar Nøis to guard their pro­per­ty on Bohe­man­nes­et.

The idea of mining coal the­re was, howe­ver, aban­do­ned after a few years. Chal­len­ging ship­ping con­di­ti­ons becau­se of the expo­sed coast and very shal­low waters are likely to have been major rea­sons behind this decisi­on, next to gene­ral eco­no­mi­c­al deve­lo­p­ment in the ear­ly 1920s. Some years later, the Dut­ch pro­per­ties were bought by Rus­si­an com­pa­nies. They did not deve­lop Rijps­burg any fur­ther, but Rijpsburg’s sis­ter sett­le­ment is still acti­ve and well known as Bar­ents­burg.

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last modification: 2019-02-25 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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