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Barentsøya map

Gene­ral: Bar­entsøya (‘Bar­ents-Island’). Land area appro­xi­mate­ly 1300 km2, 50 km long and wide. Named after Wil­lem Bar­ents, the ‘offi­cial’ dis­co­ve­rer of Spits­ber­gen. Bar­entsøya is very simi­lar to Edgeøya; tho­se two islands are sepa­ra­ted by the sce­nic Free­man­sund, which is only a few kilo­me­tres wide. Bar­entsøya is often sur­roun­ded by ice well into the sum­mer. Tog­e­ther with Edgeøya, it is part of the Sou­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re reser­ve and thus pro­tec­ted (see rules).

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Southern side of Barentsøya in Freemansund

Sou­thern side of Bar­entsøya in Free­man­sund with typi­cal land­s­cape of pla­teau-shaped hills and moun­tains and Free­man­breen (-glet­scher).

Geo­lo­gy: Same as Edgeøya. Rather uni­form Tri­as­sic sedi­ments (lower Meso­zoic, 205-250 mil­li­on years ago), sand-, silt- and clay­stone. The­se were depo­si­ted in shal­low shelf seas and near the coast (del­ta sedi­ments etc.), part­ly in an anoxic (lack of oxy­gen) envi­ron­ment, thus rich in orga­nic mat­ter and often rather dark in appe­re­an­ce. The sedi­ments are lar­ge­ly unde­for­med, the lay­ers have more or less kept their ori­gi­nal, hori­zon­tal posi­ti­on. Some lay­ers are very rich in fos­sils (ammo­ni­tes, shells etc.). Some of the del­taic sand­stones con­tain thin coal seams, but due to their low quan­ti­tiy and qua­li­ty, they are not of eco­no­mic inte­rest.

Wit­hin the tri­as­sic sedi­ments, the­re is one lay­er of black paper shale which often forms steep cliffs, visi­ble for examp­le on both sides of the Free­man­sund. Whe­re small rivers are cut­ting through it, the­re are often litt­le can­yons (Free­man­sund, Dis­ko­buk­ta).

The­re are doleri­tic (‘basaltic’) intru­si­ons in some pla­ces from the upper Juras­sic to Cret­ace­ous. Becau­se of their rela­ti­ve hard­ness, the­se intru­si­ons often form capes, islands and pro­tru­ding cliffs in other­wi­se rather gent­le slo­pes or, respec­tively, uni­form coast­li­nes.

Southwestern Barentsøya

Steep cliff of hard doleri­te. Sou­thwes­tern Bar­entsøya.

Recom­men­ded book for fur­ther, well-digesta­ble (real­ly!) info about geo­lo­gy and land­s­cape of Sval­bard.

Land­s­cape: As Edgeøya. Wide pla­teau-shaped moun­tains and open val­leys. Less gla­cia­ti­on than in eas­tern Spits­ber­gen, which is hig­her and recei­ves more pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on.

Click here for pan­ora­ma images of Bar­entsøya sce­ne­ry.

Typical Barentsøya-Landscape

Typi­cal Bar­entsøya-Land­s­cape: Flat coas­tal plain with rich tun­dra and steep slo­pes com­po­sed of doleri­te in the back­ground.

Flo­ra and Fau­na: As Edgeøya, high arc­tic. The tun­dra is often very rich, alt­hough with less spe­ci­es than near the west coast of Spits­ber­gen. The rich tun­dra sup­ports a strong popu­la­ti­on of rein­de­er. Steep cliffs (Tri­as­sic paper shales) are home to colo­nies of Kit­ti­wa­kes, which attract Arc­tic foxes. Important migra­ti­on and den­ning area for polar bears.

Reindeer at Sundneset, Barentsøya

Rein­de­er at Sund­ne­set, Bar­entsøya.

Histo­ry: Into the 19th cen­tu­ry it was belie­ved that Bar­entsøya was part of Spits­ber­gen, until the nar­row Heley­sound was found. Much less visi­ted than Tus­enøya­ne or Edgeøya by Pomors or trap­pers becau­se of the often hea­vy ice con­di­ti­ons, visits of wha­lers are unknown. The only win­te­ring of Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers took place south of Duck­witz­breen in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. The 1950s and 60s saw several rese­arch expe­di­ti­ons by the Ger­man geo­gra­pher Juli­us Büdel, who estab­lis­hed his main field camp at Sund­ne­set, whe­re they built the ‘Würz­bur­ger Hüt­te’. They inves­ti­ga­ted high arc­tic land­s­cape deve­lo­p­ment such as per­ma­frost phe­no­me­na, frost shat­ter, soli­fluc­tion, postgla­cial lan­dri­se etc (see Rocks and Ice).

Bar­entsøya (gal­le­ry)

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


By the way:

New book

my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (3): Die Bären­in­sel und Jan May­en”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!


This and other publishing products of the Spitsbergen publishing house in the Spitsbergen-Shop.

last modification: 2014-10-28 · copyright: Rolf Stange