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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.

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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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