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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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