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Hamburgbukta

360 degree panoramas

Hamburgbukta is on the northern west coast of Spitsbergen, just south of Magdalenefjord. It is the first bay that provides some shelter after many miles if you come from the south – but only for small boats: the entrance is rather narrow and only two metres deep – or shallow, rather – according to the chart.

Hamburgbukta

Bird’s eye view of the entrance of Hamburgbukta.

Hamburgbukta (Panorama 1): the entrance

All seafarers who sailed along this weather-beaten and exposed coast appreciated a sheltered bay like Hamburgbukta or the fjords further north, Magdalenefjord and Smeerenburgfjord. The first ones who sailed here frequently were the 17th century whalers. As indicated by the name Hamburgbukta (“Hamburger Bay”), the whalers that actually used this place came from Hamburg in Germany. Or, to be more precise, from Altona, which is a part of Hamburg today. Not much is known about the activities of the whalers from Hamburg in Spitsbergen, where by far most whalers came from the Netherlands or England. Often, Dutch whalers had hired German sailors. But there were also German whaing ships, and they used Hamburgbukta as a base during several seasons in the 1640s. There are still a couple of graves reminding of these busy days.

Hamburgbukta (Panorama 2): Whaler’s graves (1)

There are graves in several places south of the entrance into Hamburgbukta. It is not known exactly how old they are and who was buried there.

Hamburgbukta (Panorama 3): Whaler’s graves (2)

Hamburgbukta (Panorama 4): Whaler’s graves (3)

This grave, or rather double grave, is prominently located on a small hill, a bit aside of the other ones. Maybe it was a commander (captain)? They used to get especially prominent grave sites. This is, of course, just speculation here, and the same goes for the question as to who the person in the second grave was. There are two coffins right side-by-side, so one could come up with great stories here! Maybe a captain had brought his wife along? In this case she would be a very good candidate for the title of the first woman ever in Spitsbergen! But again, this is just amusing speculation.

Hamburgbukta (Panorama 5): Trapper’s hut

The whaling days were soon over and then it was quiet again in Hamburgbukta for centuries, just interrupted by the noise of the little auks who breed every summer between the rocks on the steep slopes that surround the bay. It was not before 1912 that trappers built a small hut here, on the south side of the bay, not far from the graves. They built the hut actually on behalf of the Northern Exploration Company from England, a mining company that had hopes for mineral resources in the area. But nothing came out of that. It is rather likely that the hunters just built a hut that they would have built anyway, put a sign that said “Northern Exploration Company” on the wall and got some money for that and that was it. There were a few huts on the coast between Magdalenefjord and Kongsfjord/Krossfjord to make travelling between these areas safer.

The hut was a ruin in 2005 and collapsed until 2007.

Hut Hamburgbukta

The hut in Hamburgbukta (2005).

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last modification: 2019-10-10 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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