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Tokrossøya: portrait of an island near Spitsbergen's south cape

360 degree panoramic images, photos and background

Tokros­søya (“Two-cross-island”) is a small, almost tiny, island at the sou­thern tip of Spits­ber­gen, near the south cape. Unknown to most and see­mingly unim­pres­si­ve at least at a quick and super­fi­ci­al glan­ce or from the distance, Tokros­søya is situa­ted bet­ween the main island of Spits­ber­gen and a cou­ple of small islands, the lar­gest of which is Sør­kap­pøya, and many rocks and dan­ge­rous shal­lows. The island is hard­ly more than one kilo­met­re long and less than 400 met­res wide, the hig­hest “moun­tain” does not rise bey­ond 13 met­res.


Tokros­søya from a bird’s eye’s view, loo­king from north to south.
Sør­kap­pøya in the distance, upper right cor­ner.

So … a bor­ing, unim­pres­si­ve island?

Tokros­søya: part of a con­spi­cuous geo­lo­gi­cal struc­tu­re

Tokrossøya rocky hill

Rocky hill at the north end of Tokros­søya.

Not at all. Admit­ted­ly, part of the fun lies in get­ting to remo­te places which almost nobo­dy ever gets to see, let alo­ne to set foot on. At least for me. But bey­ond this, the land­scape on and round Tokros­søya is quite cha­rac­te­ristic and tho­se with a sen­se for land­scape struc­tu­re and details will find a lot to mar­vel at here. Just as the sur­roun­ding islands, Tokros­søya is part of a con­spi­cuous belt, a cha­rac­te­ristic geo­lo­gi­cal struc­tu­re that is respon­si­ble for a lot of eye-cat­ching land­scape fea­tures in many places. This belt stret­ches from north to south along a lar­ge pro­por­ti­on of Spitsbergen’s west coast, from the north side of Isfjord to the islands south of Tokros­søya. This belt con­sists of hard sedi­men­ta­ry lay­ers which were til­ted upwards into a north-south-tren­ding, stee­p­ly dip­ping posi­ti­on by tec­to­nic move­ments. The com­bi­na­ti­on of the­se rocks being hard (geo­lo­gi­cal­ly, not a very pre­cise term, but any­way) and their ver­ti­cal posi­ti­on has crea­ted geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal fea­tures inclu­ding moun­tain rid­ges (for exam­p­le, Värm­lan­dryg­gen bet­ween Trygg­ham­na and Ymer­buk­ta), striking moun­ta­ins (e.g. Inge­borg­fjel­let, Mid­ter­huk­fjel­let, Ber­ze­li­ustin­den), islands (Akseløya, Ehol­men, Tokros­søya, Sør­kap­pøya) and capes (Sel­ma­ne­set and Kapp Sta­ros­tin in Isfjord, Fors­bla­dod­den and Richar­dod­den in Van Keu­len­fjord, Øyr­land­sod­den near Spitsbergen’s south cape). All the­se places are beau­tiful and inte­res­t­ing land­scape fea­tures, each and every one of them in their own way, but all of them essen­ti­al­ly clea­ry shaped by the geo­lo­gi­cal struc­tu­re of the hard lay­ers.

Pan­ora­ma 1: rug­ged rocky hills on the west side of Tokros­søya

A hint of the Palaeo­zoic

The sedi­ment lay­ers in ques­ti­on are car­bo­na­tes and date into the upper Car­bo­ni­fe­rous and lower Per­mi­an, which makes them around 300 mil­li­on years old. In many places, you can find a lot of fos­sils such as bra­chio­pods or corals in the­se rocks.

Tokrossøya tundra

Flat tun­dra on the east side of Tokros­søya.

Just as Akseløya, Tokros­søya – which is much smal­ler – has a very cha­rac­te­ristic com­po­si­ti­on: the­re are rug­ged, rocky hills along the wes­tern side and low-lying, flat tun­dra with com­pa­ra­tively signi­fi­cant vege­ta­ti­on on the east side, which covers the lar­ger part of the island.

Pan­ora­ma 2: flat tun­dra on the east side of Tokros­søya

The Pomors

Tokros­søya has got her name from two ortho­dox cros­ses which were set up by Pomor hun­ters on the nor­t­hern­most hill of the island, which is also the hig­hest one (13 m). The foun­da­ti­on of at least one of the­se cros­ses is still visi­ble (the­re is a pho­to in the gal­lery down below), and so are the remains of an old gra­ve on the same hill. But what cat­ches the eye also from a distance are the two pro­mi­nent cairns. It is now known when and by whom they were built.

Unfort­u­na­te­ly, I don’t have a pan­ora­ma image from this hill at the north tip of the island. I had alre­a­dy set up the tri­pod and was rea­dy to go, when I rea­li­sed that the came­ra bag whe­re I expec­ted to find the came­ra that I nee­ded for this pur­po­se had ano­ther one, still from the day befo­re – dif­fe­rent hard­ware for dif­fe­rent occa­si­ons, but not enough bags 🙂 skip­per Hein­rich and my col­le­ague Hel­ga who were with me on Arc­ti­ca II in August 2021, when we were lucky enough to make this visit to Tokrossoya, kind­ly made sure that I got the came­ra that I nee­ded later, so I could at least shoot two pan­ora­mas near the south end of the island. It would have been a shame to miss that oppor­tu­ni­ty, it abso­lut­e­ly not a place whe­re you can just say “ok, next time.”

Inac­ces­si­ble islands

The­re is a cou­ple of reasons for this: first of all, the­re is the wea­ther in this area, which has a bad repu­ta­ti­on for good reason. But you need real­ly good con­di­ti­ons to ope­ra­te safe­ly in the­se shal­low and very expo­sed waters. And addi­tio­nal­ly, all the­se islands tog­e­ther are a bird sanc­tua­ry, which means you have to keep a distance of at least 300 met­res from 15 May to 15 August. And this is for good reason: the­re are a lot of birds bree­ding the­re during the sum­mer, inclu­ding Com­mon eiders, Pur­ple sand­pi­pers, Arc­tic terns and others, while others such as geese are res­t­ing the­re after the spring migra­ti­on.

Tokrossøya: rocky shore and shallows

Rocky shores and many shal­lows near Tokros­søya from a bird’s eye’s per­spec­ti­ve.

On top of this comes the rocky coast­li­ne and the many shal­lows which make the shore most­ly inac­ces­si­ble.

Most ships in the area will keep a good distance from the­se isands, and this is good unless you are sure that you know what you are doing and that you have got the right con­di­ti­ons for a visit. Only real­ly small ves­sels can attempt to cut the pas­sa­ge around the islands short by taking a rou­te bet­ween Tokros­søya and Sør­kap­pøya, but local know­ledge is essen­ti­al. Today’s charts of the­se waters, inclu­ding the see­mingly detail­ed elec­tro­nic one, are cer­tain­ly not per­fect (as of 2021).

Tokros­søya pho­to gal­lery

Final­ly, some impres­si­ons from Tokros­søya.

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



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last modification: 2021-10-11 · copyright: Rolf Stange