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Lågøya: Mollbukta

360 degree panoramas and some information and history

Lågøya is a flat island off the nor­thwes­tern coast of Nord­aus­t­land. It is not fre­quent­ly visi­ted becau­se the sur­roun­ding waters are most­ly bad­ly char­ted and have a lot of shal­lows. In addi­ti­on comes a ban on all traf­fic on the who­le west coast of the island inclu­ding the waters up to 500 met­res from the shore bet­ween 15 May and 15 August. This includes Purchas­ne­set (the nor­t­hern tip of the island) which used to be a popu­lar landing site until the ban came into force in 2014. The main attrac­tions were a wal­rus hau­lout site and polar bears that are not uncom­mon near wal­rus colo­nies. For bird­wat­chers, this was an inte­res­t­ing place becau­se the rare Sabine’s gull has one of few nes­t­ing sites in Sval­bard near Purchas­ne­set.

The first pan­ora­ma gives a good impres­si­on of the flat land­scape. The island used to be known among­st ear­ly wha­lers and expe­di­ti­ons as “Low Island”, later trans­la­ted as Lavø into Nor­we­gi­an, today Lågøya, the modern ver­si­on of the same word. The name is obvious­ly descrip­ti­ve, the land­scape appears bar­ren and polar-desert like.

Moll­buk­ta – Pano 1

We are in Moll­buk­ta, a shal­low bay on the east coast of Lågøya. The­re is a hut on the north side of Moll­buk­ta which was built in 1908 by Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers. They caught 30 polar bears during the fol­lo­wing win­ter. The hut was used again by ano­ther group of trap­pers in 1923-24. One of them was Mey­er Olsen who wro­te an inte­res­t­ing dia­ry (Nor­we­gi­an) which was published in 1999 (ARC – Arc­tic Rese­arch and Con­sul­ting DA, Oslo): Dag­bok fra Nord­aus­t­lan­det 1923-1924. Good rea­ding mate­ri­al, espe­ci­al­ly if you hap­pen to get to that area.

Moll­buk­ta – Pano 2

The hut has hard­ly been used sin­ce apart from a few visits by sci­en­tists. In July 1987, the Nor­we­gi­an bio­lo­gist and wal­rus spe­cia­list Ian Gjertz and his col­le­agues spent some time the­re, pro­ba­b­ly coun­ting wal­ru­ses. Alre­a­dy back then the hut was not real­ly in good con­di­ti­on and the years that have pas­sed sin­ce then have cer­tain­ly not made it any bet­ter. Oskar Mey­er-Olsen wro­te in his abo­ve-men­tio­ned dia­ry about a visit to the hut whe­re two of his com­ra­des spent the win­ter. It was 13 March 1924 and the out­side tem­pe­ra­tu­re was -33°C:

Det var et uhyg­ge­lig sted. Et tykt islag på veg­ge­ne og inn over gul­vet. Det var bare en kva­drat­me­ter bart gulv i mid­ten. En stor steinhaug i kro­ken ca. en meter høy. Ovnen måt­te være så høyt for at røre­ne kun­ne rek­ke opp gen­nom taket. De var beg­ge fullt påk­ledd i ano­rakk, skinn­lue og van­ter på og tem­pe­ra­tu­ren var ca. 10 kul­de­gra­der inne i hyt­ten. Ovnen trakk ikke opp og røy­ken stod ut gjen­nom alle dens sam­men­føy­nin­ger …

(it was not a good place. A thick lay­er of ice on the walls and on the flo­or. The­re was only one squa­re met­re of ice-free flo­or in the midd­le. A huge pile of stones in the cor­ner, about one met­re high. The oven had to stand that high to enable to pipe to stick through the roof. Both had all their clo­thes on with ano­rak, fur cap and gloves and the tem­pe­ra­tu­re was minus ten degrees in the hut. The oven did not work and the smo­ke was coming out through all holes …)

Moll­buk­ta – Pano 3

At some time the hut seems to have a mys­te­rious visit from the far east. The­re is a woo­den sign abo­ve the ent­rance, quite wea­the­red by now, with the let­ters 望京小舍. I have been told that this means some­thing like “I am miss­ing Bei­jing from this hut” or “The hut that is lea­ning towards Bei­jing”. As far as I can see, the hut is still pret­ty ver­ti­cal and not lea­ning any­whe­re, at least in 2015. I have no idea who put up the sign, when and why. Plea­se let me know in case you hap­pen to know more.

Chinese letters, hut in Mollbukta

Chi­ne­se let­ters abo­ve the door of the hut in Moll­buk­ta.

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last modification: 2020-01-29 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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