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Isøyane: Nordre Isøya

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The Isøyane (“The ice islands”) are a small group of smalll islands near Torellbreane, just off the west coast of Spitsbergen, between Hornsund and Bellsund. This coastline is very exposed and it has a lot of shallows; it is thus only rarely visited by tourists (or anyone else, for that matter). But if you happen to come to this area on a good day: it is worth it, it is beautiful.

Pano 1 – Isøyane: Nordre Isøya

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Here we are on Isøyane, or, to be precise, on Nordre Isøya (“Northern ice island”). It is less then a kilometre across. Next to it, there is only an islet of 500 metres and many rocks. The main island, with the large glaciers Torellbreane and the associated moraine landscape, is a good kilometre away.

Pano 2 – Isøyane: Nordre Isøya – shallow waters

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In this panorama you can see how shallow the waters near Nordre Isøya are. It took me indeed a while to find the one place which is more or less convenient for a small boat landing.

Pano 3 – Isøyane: Nordre Isøya – rocky shores

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Here you can see what the problem is: there are beautiful beaches, but the nearshore waters have a lot of rocky shallows. There is, actually, a wide, rocky platform just under water, which makes the island largely inaccessible especially at low water.

Pano 4 – Isøyane: Nordre Isøya – Tundra and bird sanctuary

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It is good that nature has created some protection for the Isøyane and similar islands, because birds breed in places like this in large numbers, mostly common eider ducks, geese, arctic terns, purple sandpipers, grey phalaropes and red-throated divers. Fertilisation with guano from the birds has created a thick carpet of tundra with a lot of mosses. It is self-evident that you have to move around very carefully in places like this and avoid sensitive sites completely!

And, actually, the Isøyane are a bird sanctuary. That means that it is not allowed to go ashore during the breeding season, defined as the period 15 May to 15 August, and on top of that, you have to keep a minimum distance of 300 metres from the nearest shore (including offshore rocks).

In earlier times, trappers used to visit the Isøyane and other, similar islands such as the Dunøyane, which are not far away, to collect down from common eider nests, something that provided them with an appreciated extra income.

Pano 5 – Isøyane: Nordre Isøya – the highest mountain 🙂

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There is nothing even remotely resembling a mountain on the small and low-lying island of Nordre Isøya – this rocky hill is just 16 m high, according to the map! But the view is nevertheless beautiful.

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last modification: 2019-10-18 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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