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Bohemanneset: 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: 2018-11-21 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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