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Ryke Yseøyane

Virtual tour and story of an arctic drama

A pan­ora­ma excur­si­on to one of Svalbard’s most remo­te parts, Ryke Yse­øya­ne, a group of 3 small, rocky islands east of Edgeøya. The­re is a dra­ma­tic sto­ry to tell about the­se islands. We start on Steinøya, the nor­thwes­tern one of the 3 islands. Steinøya is a mere 1.7 kilo­me­tres long, and this cliff at its nort­hern end is about 40 metres high. In win­ter, the­re is a snow patch lea­ding down from the top to the then fro­zen sea, steep, but not too steep to walk down safe­ly.

Sta­ti­ons

Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Steinøya

A pan­ora­ma excur­si­on to one of Spitsbergen’s most remo­te parts, the Ryke Yse­øya­ne, a group of 3 small, rocky islands east of Edgeøya. The­re is a dra­ma­tic sto­ry to tell about the­se islands. We start on Steinøya, the nor­thwes­tern one of the 3 islands. Steinøya is a mere 1.7 kilo­me­tres long, and this cliff at its nort­hern end is about 40 metres high. In win­ter, the­re is a snow patch lea­ding down from the top to the then fro­zen sea, steep, but not too steep to walk down safe­ly.

Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Hei­møya

The two Nor­we­gi­ans Stei­nar Inge­b­rigtsen and Kris­ti­an Tors­vik, both of them expe­ri­en­ced arc­tic win­te­rers, deci­ded to spend 2 win­ters in a row on Ryke Yse­øya­ne, assuming this area would be one of the best pla­ces to hunt polar bears. They went to Ryke Yse­øya­ne in 1967. At this time, Stei­nar was 25 years old and Kris­ti­an 35.

Ent­ran­ce area of the hut

Stei­nar and Kris­ti­an got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to Ryke Yse­øya­ne with the Nor­varg, the expe­di­ti­on ship of the Ger­man Stau­f­er­land expe­di­ti­on, orga­ni­zed by Geo­gra­pher Juli­us Büdel from Würz­burg to do sci­en­ti­fic work main­ly on Bar­entsøya.

Work room of the hut

It tur­ned out to be dif­fi­cult to reach the remo­te Ryke Yse­øya­ne, as they were sur­roun­ded by drift ice still in August. Only on the second attempt and with sub­stan­ti­al use of the expedition’s heli­co­p­ter, it was pos­si­ble to put Stei­nar and Kris­ti­an and their exten­si­ve equip­ment ashore on Hei­møya, the lar­gest island.

Main room of the hut

Stei­nar and Kris­ti­an built a hut with mate­ri­als which they had brought with them. They cal­led the hut a palace and the island, which is just under 2 km long, Hei­møya („home island“).

They pla­ced selfshot traps for polar bears in lar­ge num­bers on all 3 islands as well as on the sur­roun­ding fast ice. They caught, howe­ver, far less polar bears than they had been hoping for.

Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Steinøya

Back to Steinøya. On May 14, 1969, Stei­nar went down from the cliff to the fast ice to check the traps, as he had done many times befo­re. He never came back. Kris­ti­an found his foot­prints going from the fast ice into the drift ice. Both had known that the quick­ly drif­ting ice was life dan­ge­rous and they had never gone into it. It remains unclear why Stei­nar went from the fast ice into the drift ice on that evening; he was never found.

The­re is a memo­ri­al stone on the cliff, which was pla­ced in the hut on Hei­møya in 1991 in the pre­sence of mem­bers of Steinar’s fami­ly. In 1998, the stone was moved to the cliff on Steinøya whe­re Stei­nar left the island for the last time on May 14, 1969.

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last modification: 2020-12-21 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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