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Jyplingane: A tiny island north of Nordaustland

Photos, background and a polar bear story

If the­re is an island in the Sval­bard archi­pe­la­go that most will never have heard of, then it is this one here. Or the­se ones, as “Jyplin­gane” is actual­ly a plu­ral word, mea­ning some­thing like “the Green­horns”.


But any­way, if you actual­ly want to call this tiny bit of land an island, then it may just as well be two 🙂 it is inde­ed pos­si­ble to pass through the “main island” and the off­shore rocks on the nor­t­hern end at low water, pro­vi­ded the pas­sa­ge way is not blo­cked by ice or occu­p­ied by polar bears. The pas­sa­ge requi­res careful navi­ga­ti­on, it is very shal­low and rocky and the off­shore waters are also shal­low, espe­ci­al­ly on the wes­tern side.


Jyplin­gane: “the Green­horns”.
More a gra­vel bank than an island, with less than 500 met­res from one end to the other.

To pre­vent misun­derstan­dings: it is, in any case, a pas­sa­ge for Zodiacs of boats of simi­lar small size only. Defi­ni­te­ly not for ships.


The Jyplin­gane are situa­ted in Nor­dens­ki­öld­buk­ta, a wide-open bay on the north side of Nord­aus­t­land. You may have heard of the area if you have, for exam­p­le, read about the tra­ge­dy of the Schrö­der-Stranz-expe­di­ti­on. A group of 4 inclu­ding the expe­di­ti­on lea­der left the expe­di­ti­on ship Her­zog Ernst in this area in the late sum­mer of 1912. Their – pret­ty sui­ci­dal – plan was a crossing of Nord­aus­t­land and the main island of Spits­ber­gen to see the ship again in Kross­fjord in the west coast. None of them was ever seen again.

But they left their ship a bit fur­ther nor­the­ast, behind Score­s­by­øya (from the per­spec­ti­ve of our love­ly litt­le island here, that is). So why should anyo­ne want to visit Jyplin­gane>?

Polar bears!

I was the­re twice during the later sum­mer of 2021. In August, we hap­pen­ed to be in the area on a small sai­ling ship and we saw that the­re was some­thing going on the­re. As it tur­ned out, the­re were about 17 or 18 polar bears on Jyplin­gane, feas­ting on the remains of a dead wha­le.

Jyplingane: polar bears

Polar bear par­ty on Jyplin­gane, August 2021.

A feast inde­ed for the polar bears and a feast for tho­se few bles­sed humans who were pri­vi­le­ged to be able to obser­ve the spec­ta­cle for some hours. The bears could hard­ly have cared less about us who cir­cled around the island in our ding­hy, and if they did, then just becau­se they were curious and had a look at us. No pro­blem as long as you stay insi­de the boat and keep your eyes open. One polar bear was so curious even in the water that he kept swim­ming towards us and we had to back off quite regu­lar­ly! Quite unu­su­al. Well, we kept our distance and that was it.

… or not

Of cour­se I was keen on get­ting back as soon as the oppor­tu­ni­ty was the­re. This hap­pen­ed in Sep­tem­ber, exact­ly 4 weeks after that first memo­rable visit. We were hoping for a simi­lar­ly spec­ta­cu­lar expe­ri­ence as in August.

Jyplingane without polar bears

Four weeks later: Jyplin­gane wit­hout polar bears.

So, what hap­pen­ed? Not­hing at all! The­re was not a sin­gle polar bear left on Jyplin­gane and not­hing visi­ble on the neigh­bou­ring islands. Stran­ge! Even if the­re was not­hing much left on the wha­le­bo­nes that were still lying the­re, one would expect that at least a bear or two were still han­ging out on the island, res­t­ing and digest­ing and not having any stress or any­thing to rush for. So we kept cir­cling around Jyplin­gane seve­ral times until it was estab­lished bey­ond any doubt that the island was com­ple­te­ly deser­ted. Incre­di­ble!

So I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get on land and touch this wild litt­le island at least brief­ly. It was an ama­zing fee­ling to stand at this very place which had been full of polar bears just 4 weeks ear­lier!

But this is Spits­ber­gen, this is the Arc­tic, this is natu­re. Unpre­dic­ta­ble, and always good for a sur­pri­se 🙂

Jyplin­gane pho­to gal­lery

And final­ly, as (almost) always, some impres­si­ons of “the Green­horns” (Jyplin­gane). With and wit­hout polar bears.

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



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last modification: 2022-06-15 · copyright: Rolf Stange