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Pearl of arctic nature on Prins Karls Forland

Fug­le­hu­ken is the nor­t­hern point of Prins Karls For­land, the long, nar­row island off Spitsbergen’s west coast bet­ween Isfjord and Kongsfjord.

At Fug­le­hu­ken, you get kind of the who­le eco­lo­gy of Spits­ber­gen in a nuts­hell, within a few kilo­me­t­res.

Fuglehuken, Prins Karls Forland

Gla­ciers and per­ma­frost

Start with the fact that this part of the west coast is the part of the who­le archi­pe­la­go whe­re the West Spits­ber­gen cur­rent (the nor­t­hern­most branch of the gulf stream) has its stron­gest regio­nal influence. Strong winds are fre­quent in the area, and they bring mois­tu­re and pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on, which again is respon­si­ble for the very strong gla­cia­ti­on of a part of the east coast of the moun­tai­nous cen­tral part of Prins Karls For­land. The north tip of the island, around Fug­le­hu­ken, is, howe­ver, ung­la­cia­ted. But the­re is a lar­ge num­ber of well deve­lo­ped rock gla­ciers, lar­ge ton­gues of debris flowing down from steep hills­i­des into the flat tun­dra (“cree­ping per­ma­frost”).

Rock glacier, Fuglehuken, Prins Karls Forland

Rock gla­cier (the debris ton­gue in the back­ground that flows into the low­land)
near Fug­le­hu­ken, Prins Karls For­land.

Sea­bird colo­nies, tun­dra und reinde­er

Hig­her up on the moun­tain slo­pes, the­re are Brünich’s guil­l­emots and kit­ti­wa­kes bree­ding in lar­ge num­bers during the sea­son. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the­re are puf­fins (in far smal­ler num­bers) and even a few bree­ding pairs of razor­bills, a spe­ci­es that is usual­ly not at home in the high Arc­tic.

The sea­bird colo­nies are respon­si­ble for regu­lar fer­ti­li­sa­ti­on of the coas­tal plain, which makes the tun­dra rela­tively green and lush. In some places orga­nic mat­ter has accu­mu­la­ted during thou­sands of years, forming bog-like top lay­ers that can be more than a met­re thick.

It does not sur­pri­se that reinde­er can be found in abun­dance in an area with such rich tun­dra, as well as arc­tic foxes which like to have their dens in the vici­ni­ty of birdcliffs.

Reindeer, Fuglehuken, Prins Karls Forland

Reinde­er enjoy­ing sum­mer life on the tun­dra near Fug­le­hu­ken.

The coast­li­ne con­sists of some small bays alter­na­ting with rocky points. The coast is quite expo­sed and the shal­low waters requi­re ships to keep a good distance. Hence, landings are only pos­si­ble during calm and sta­ble con­di­ti­ons.

Coastline, Fuglehuken, Prins Karls Forland

Coast­li­ne near Fug­le­hu­ken: small bays, but no real shel­ter.

The har­bour seals don’t care about shel­te­red waters. They like to rest on rocks near the coast that fall dry during low tide.

Wil­lem Barent­sz, wha­lers and trap­pers

It was some­whe­re in this area, the nor­t­hern west coast of Spits­ber­gen, that Wil­lem Barent­sz dis­co­ver­ed the island in June 1596. He cal­led the north tip of Prins Karls For­land “Vogel­hoek” (“bird point”), a name that was later “Nor­we­gia­nis­ed” and tur­ned into “Fug­le­hu­ken”. This name is one of Spitsbergen’s oldest pla­cen­a­mes and one of very few that can be tra­ced all the way back to Barent­sz.

The wha­lers used the area during the 17th cen­tu­ry. A litt­le wha­ling sta­ti­on to pro­cess wha­le oil is known from Engelskbuk­ta on the main­land coast not far away. No such sta­ti­on is known from Prins Karls For­land, but the­re is a gra­vey­ard from tho­se times near Fug­le­hu­ken.

Later, trap­pers tried to har­ve­st the area’s rich wild­life, but Prins Karls For­land never beca­me a tra­di­tio­nal, hea­vi­ly used hun­ting area. Huts were built in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, inclu­ding one near Fug­le­hu­ken which was built in 1929. It was a ruin in 2009, but as such, still stan­ding (see pic­tu­re in the last line of the gal­lery below. The images come in alpha­be­ti­cal order, which is not chro­no­lo­gi­cal). In 2022, it was com­ple­te­ly col­lap­sed.

Today, the­re is a litt­le navi­ga­ti­on bea­con on the nor­t­hern­most tip of Prins Karls For­land.

Fug­le­hu­ken is a pearl of natu­re, but not easi­ly acces­si­ble. Con­sider it a pri­vi­le­ge if you have ever mana­ged to actual­ly visit this beau­tiful place. It is a pre­sent that natu­re does not make too often.

Fug­le­hu­ken pho­to gal­lery

To round it off, some impres­si­ons from the Fug­le­hu­ken area.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.



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last modification: 2022-06-19 · copyright: Rolf Stange