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Smittøya

Panorama of a small island in Hinlopen Strait

Smittøya, map

The litt­le island of Smit­tøya is loca­ted in the midd­le of Hin­lo­pen Strait.

The­re is a num­ber of islands in Hin­lo­pen Strait, bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and Nord­aus­t­land. Most of them are quite small. One of them is Smit­tøya, which is clo­se to the nor­t­hern point of Wahl­ber­gøya.

The shape of Smit­tøya is as con­spi­cuous as char­ming: from nor­thwest to sou­the­ast, it is 1.8 kilo­me­t­res long, but it is less than 100 met­res wide in the midd­le! Both far ends of the island are low hills, both of them just 16 met­res high, which are con­nec­ted by a low-lying gra­vel bar. Such a con­nec­tion is cal­led Tom­bo­lo in geo­mor­pho­lo­gy.

Post­g­la­cial iso­sta­tic land uplift play­ed an important role in the for­ma­ti­on of the island as it is today, the Tom­bo­lo in par­ti­cu­lar. Curr­ents, wind and waves pro­vi­ded sand and gra­vel from sur­roun­ding shal­low are­as, which could accu­mu­la­te to form the gra­vel bridge bet­ween the two hills. The­se were just rocky under­wa­ter shal­lows befo­re post-gla­cial iso­sta­tic land uplift real­ly hap­pen­ed. Once that pro­cess star­ted, the shal­lows tur­ned into two very small, sepa­ra­te islets which were then con­nec­ted by the Tom­bo­lo to shape today’s Smit­tøya. For the trai­ned eye, this deve­lo­p­ment is very obvious as soon as you see the island. And the bird’s eye view cer­tain­ly makes it easier to see and under­stand the struc­tures.

Pan­ora­ma Smit­tøya (1): The cen­tral part – the Tom­bo­lo

This first pan­ora­ma was taken on a beau­tiful day in August 2023 abo­ve the nar­row cen­tral part of the island, the Tom­bo­lo. Here, it is just a cou­ple of steps from one shore to the other.

Pan­ora­ma Smit­tøya (2): The sou­thern part – a look at the geo­lo­gy

This second pan­ora­ma was taken abo­ve the sou­thern part of the island which is about 500 met­res wide, exact­ly abo­ve the ele­va­ti­on of 16 met­res. A clo­ser look at the sur­face reve­als the geo­lo­gi­cal struc­tu­re: on one side, on the eas­tern and nor­t­hern side (towards the Tom­bo­lo), the ground con­sists of light-colou­red car­bo­na­te rock. Wea­the­ring pro­du­ces rather small-grai­ned sedi­ment (sharp-edged gra­vel) that pro­du­ces a very flat sur­face. On the other side, in the sou­thwest, the ground con­sists of dia­bas (a kind of rock very simi­lar to basalt). Here, both the coar­ser rocks and the dar­ker colour make for a mark­ed con­trast. Ano­ther pecu­lia­ri­ty is the lack of ice wed­ges in the area con­sis­ting of dia­bas.

Most of the island con­sists of the light-colou­red car­bo­na­te rocks, and even in the con­text of this small island, dia­bas comes as a local par­ti­cu­la­ri­ty.

Pan­ora­ma Smit­tøya (3): the sou­thern part, once again

The third pan­ora­ma was taken clo­se to the sou­thern end of Smit­tøya. Here, the under­ly­ing bed­rock con­sists enti­re­ly of light-colou­red car­bo­na­te rocks; the abo­ve-men­tio­ned dia­bas is miss­ing here, but it can be seen fur­ther north (the loca­ti­on of the pre­vious pan­ora­ma).

On the sou­thern end, some wal­ru­ses are hau­led out on the beach.

Pan­ora­ma Smit­tøya (4): the cen­tral part, once again

And once again the nar­row cen­tral part, in com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent wea­ther con­di­ti­ons a few weeks later, in Sep­tem­ber.

Pho­to gal­lery Smit­tøya

And last but not least, a coll­ec­tion of images for some more detail on the ground. Adm­mit­ted­ly, some of the pic­tures are a litt­le bit repe­ti­ti­ve, but so what … I enjoy­ed the­se details every time I have been able to visit Smit­tøya over the years. The island is small and the bar­ren land­scape makes it easy to focus on cer­tain cha­rac­te­ristics, most pro­min­ent­ly the beau­tiful­ly cur­ved coast­li­nes. And then the­re are the details of the coas­tal polar desert such as drift­wood, rised beach rid­ges, …

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

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last modification: 2024-06-22 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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