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Waldenøya: an island on the north side of Svalbard

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Wal­denøya is a small, rocky island in the nor­t­hern­most part of Sval­bard, west of Sjuøya­ne, the nor­t­hern­most part of the archi­pe­la­go. Wal­denøya may count as the wes­tern­most out­lier of Sjuøya­ne. It is just about two kilo­me­t­res long, 500 met­res wide and the hig­hest hill is at a mere 172 met­res abo­ve sea level. The ter­rain is very rocky and pathl­ess. The­re are no gla­ciers and no vege­ta­ti­on worth men­tio­ning.


Rocky ter­rain in the sou­the­as­tern part of Wal­denøya.

The­re are hard­ly via­ble landing sites on the rocky, steep and expo­sed shores of Wal­denøya. Landings can be made in very good con­di­ti­ons espe­ci­al­ly at the sou­the­as­tern part of the island.

Wal­ter Well­man and Wal­denøya (1894)

It is hard to ima­gi­ne that peo­p­le actual­ly spent some time here, but that hap­pen­ed inde­ed when the Ame­ri­can jour­na­list and north pole explo­rer Wal­ter Well­man stran­ded on the island for some time after his fai­led attempt to reach the north pole in 1894. The expe­di­ti­on lost their ship in the ice near Wal­denøya but they mana­ged to get enough equip­ment and pro­vi­si­ons ashore to spend some time the­re wit­hout any risk of star­ving soon and they were found and res­cued after a few weeks.


Wal­denøya from a bird’s eye’s view.
A pho­to from Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2): Aeri­al Arc­tic.

Mar­tin Conway’s visit (1896)

The Eng­lish moun­tai­neer and explo­rer Mar­tin Con­way beca­me the first one to cross Spits­ber­gen from west to east in 1896. After his crossing, he took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to char­ter a small ship to see some of the more remo­te parts of the archi­pe­la­go. During this voya­ge which almost (but not quite) beca­me the first cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Spits­ber­gen in a tou­ristic con­text, Con­way and his group got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a landing on Wal­denøya. Among­st the crew of the ship was a Nor­we­gi­an named Tol­lef­sen who was on board in the posi­ti­on of the ice mas­ter. Tol­lef­sen had been with Well­man just two years ear­lier, so he knew the place well. The ske­le­ton of the hut of the Well­man expe­di­ti­on were still the­re, and so was a lot of the equip­ment. Con­way found a lot of stran­ge paper-roll kind of things, which at first he tried to break in order to find out what they were, and then he threw them at some rocks. Then he asked Tol­lef­sen, who knew that they were dyna­mi­te 🙂 Con­way did not try to break or throw any more of them.


Rocky ter­rain on Wal­denøya. It was most likely in this area that Well­man and his group spent some time during the sum­mer of 1894.

The hut of the Well­man expe­di­ti­on was pro­ba­b­ly some­whe­re in the sou­the­as­tern part of the island, the lar­gest kind of flat (in a wider sen­se) area. But I can’t ful­ly exclude the nor­t­hern end eit­her. I am not awa­re of any remains still exis­ting today.

Pho­to gal­lery Wal­denøya

And final­ly, some more impres­si­ons of Wal­denøya.

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



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last modification: 2021-10-09 · copyright: Rolf Stange