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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.


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