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Brennevinsfjord: Depotodden - Oxford House

Base of the Oxford expedition in 1935-36

Depo­tod­den: Oxford House: vir­tu­al pano­tour

PanoTour Depotodden

Hint

The map at the bot­tom left can be used to jump to any sta­ti­on. But you can also just let the ent­i­re tour run through auto­ma­ti­cal­ly. The sound can be swit­ched off via the but­ton at the top right.

Sta­tio­nen

  1. Depo­tod­den in Bren­ne­v­insfjord
  2. The Oxford expe­di­ti­on in 1935-36 under A.R. “San­dy” Glen: Oxford House
  3. Oxford House: the ent­ran­ce (“Hall”)
  4. The “Bedroom”
  5. The main room

Depo­tod­den in Bren­ne­v­insfjord

Bren­ne­v­insfjord (“Bran­dy Bay”) on the nor­thwest side of Nord­aus­t­land is a very bar­ren and rocky area. And Depo­tod­den is a very bar­ren and rocky litt­le pen­in­su­la in this fjord. It is a limi­ted area of flat land – qui­te rocky, just in case I haven’t men­tio­ned it befo­re – and cut off from the inland by steep rock cliffs. Near the shore, the­re is a hut that is actual­ly almost a bit too lar­ge to be cal­led a hut, it is rather a house, at least accord­ing to local stan­dards.

The Oxford expe­di­ti­on in 1935-36 under A.R. “San­dy” Glen: Oxford House

„Oxford House“ (or, in Nor­we­gi­an: Oxford­hu­set) was built by the Oxford expe­di­ti­on in 1935, which was led by Alex­an­der Richard „San­dy“ Glen (1912-2004). Glen was only 23 years old when the expe­di­ti­on left for Sval­bard, but he had alrea­dy been in the Arc­tic several times. The sci­en­ti­fic main goal was Ves­t­fon­na, Nordaustland’s second lar­gest ice cap. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the sci­en­tists were working on radio waves and geo­lo­gy.

Next to Glen, the­re were eight other Bri­tons and the Nor­we­gi­an Karl Beng­ts­sen. The lat­ter one had alrea­dy spent a win­ter as a hun­ter in Bren­ne­v­insfjord in 1928-29. Back then, he had built a hut that was moved deeper into the fjord in 1935. It was put up again in Goos­buk­ta to ser­ve as an advan­ce base near the edge of the inland ice. The lay­out of the expe­di­ti­on was rough­ly fol­lowing Alfred Wegener’s expe­di­ti­on to Green­land in 1030-31, with the idea of gathe­ring gla­cio­lo­gi­cal and meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal data over a who­le year in several loca­ti­ons from sea level to the top of the ice cap, whe­re an ice sta­ti­on was built. Alfred Wege­ner died during that expe­di­ti­on, but sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly, it was suc­cess­ful.

Oxford House: the ent­ran­ce (“Hall”)

The ent­ran­ce of Oxford House, whe­re wet, cold gear could be stored and chan­ged without eit­her stan­ding in the wind or get­ting cold air and snow from out­side into the inte­riour. That is gene­ral­ly some­thing that most huts in Spits­ber­gen used to have, smal­ler or lar­ger. The wri­ting on the wall is note­wor­thy: “Bygn­in­gen til­hø­rer den nor­ske stat”, “This buil­ding belongs to the Nor­we­gi­an sta­te”. After the win­te­ring, the expe­di­ti­on got trans­port with the Nor­we­gi­an government ship Heim­land in exchan­ge for good money and Oxford House.

It was one of the tasks of the Heim­land-expe­di­ti­on to estab­lish several emer­gen­cy huts in remo­te parts of Sval­bard for ship­w­re­cked sai­lers. Three huts were built for this pur­po­se: one on Phipp­søya, one on Kong Karls Land and one on Fran­ken­hal­vøya on the north side of Bar­entsøya. In this con­text, Oxford House was cer­tain­ly a wel­co­me addi­ti­on and defi­ni­te­ly a bar­gain for the Nor­we­gi­ans!

The “Bedroom”

One might asso­cia­te a hig­her degree of cosi­ness with a place cal­led “bedroom” that what this room actual­ly has to offer. During the 1935-36 win­te­ring, howe­ver, most­ly only two expe­di­ti­on mem­bers were at Oxford House, while the others were else­whe­re in the field, in one of the secon­da­ry sta­ti­ons.

The main room

The main room, whe­re most of the work and life took place. Glen hims­elf descri­bed the base, Oxford House, as “like a bar­racks; gaunt, bare, and drau­gh­ty.” Obvious­ly, work came first and life second. But the­re was even electri­ci­ty from a gene­ra­tor that was cou­pled to a bicy­cle, which, next to the power that was main­ly used to run the radio, also pro­vi­ded phy­si­cal exer­cise that was pro­bab­ly most­ly very wel­co­me, at least during the polar night.

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last modification: 2021-01-26 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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