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Ryke Yseøyane

Natural and human history of some small islands in east Svalbard

Ryke Yseøyane map

Map show­ing the posi­ti­on of Ryke Yse­øya­ne east of Edgeøya.


Ryke Yse­øya­ne are a group of three small island which, in a wider sen­se, belongs to Tusenøya­ne, at least geo­lo­gi­cal­ly and land­scape-wise. Geo­gra­phi­cal­ly, they are fur­ther to the nor­the­ast and strict­ly spea­king not con­side­red to be part of Tusenøya­ne. They were his­to­ri­cal­ly rare­ly visi­ted becau­se of the dif­fi­cult ice con­di­ti­ons and that is, to some degree, still the case today. And becau­se, well, they are only a few of very small, very remo­te islands – but this is also what makes them attrac­ti­ve, in a way, at least if you ask me. The land area is only a few km2. Ryke Yse­øya­ne were pro­ba­b­ly namend after a Dutch wha­ling Cap­tain of the 17 cen­tu­ry and are now part of the Sou­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve.

The lar­gest island, the one with the hut (see below) is known as Heimøya (“home island”). The nor­thwes­tern one is Steinøya, the nor­thwes­tern one is Steinøya (“rock island” or “rocky island”) and the smal­lest one, the one in the nor­the­ast, Ytterøya (“outer island”).

Ryke Yseøyane: Heimøya

Heimøya, the lar­gest island of Ryke Yse­øya­ne.

The­re is a sepa­ra­te page on this web­site (click here) with a vir­tu­al tour of Ryke Yse­øya­ne, giving good impres­si­ons of the gene­ral sce­n­ery and tel­ling the sto­ry of the dra­ma­tic win­terings in 1967-69 in some more detail.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard


The geo­lo­gy is vir­tual­ly the same as in Tusenøya­ne. Ryke Yse­øya­ne con­sist enti­re­ly of dolerite/diabas (an intru­si­ve rock simi­lar to basalt), which intru­ded during the upper Juras­sic and Creta­ce­ous.

Ryke Yseøyane: Diabas, Heimøya

Colum­nar Dia­bas (“Basalt”) on Heimøya.

The sur­roun­ding rocks, into which they intru­ded, have been remo­ved by ero­si­on sin­ce then. This is the same sto­ry as with the islands in Hin­lo­pen Strait or many other places in Edge- and Barent­søya and else­whe­re. Other types of rock on Ryke Yse­øya­ne only occur as erra­tic bould­ers (gla­cier depo­sits from ice age gla­ciers).


Small, rocky, low-lying islands wit­hout gla­ciers or per­ma­nent snow-fields. The­re are a few small tun­dra lakes. Rocks and small cliffs make landings with small boats a bit tri­cky.

The hig­hest ele­va­ti­on (24 m) is on Steinøya, which altog­e­ther appears a bit stee­per, with cliffs around lar­ge parts of the coast­li­ne.

Flo­ra and fau­na

High arc­tic. Part­ly rocky and bar­ren, whe­re­as the­re is a sur­pri­sin­gly rich moss tun­dra in places. The mos­ses are very vul­nerable – try to stay out­side or to step on rocks as much as pos­si­ble! The­re are seve­ral small sweet­wa­ter ponds, which are good bree­ding habi­tats for Red-throa­ted divers. The­se are easi­ly dis­tur­bed at their nests, plea­se keep a good distance. Other than that, the­re can be geese, Com­mon Eider ducks, Grey phalar­opes etc.

Black guil­l­emots and glau­cous gulls are bree­ding on some of the steep cliffs.

Ryke Yseøyane: Black guillemots, Steinøya

Black guil­l­emots on Steinøya.


Rare­ly visi­ted. Older histo­ry (wha­lers, Pomors, trap­pers, others?) is unknown. It is said that faint remains of an old hut were found near the pre­sent one.

Ryke Yseøyane: hut, Heimøya

Trap­per sta­ti­on from 1967 on Heimøya.

In 1967-69, two Nor­we­gi­an trappers/adventurers win­tered here during two sub­se­quent win­ters. The second win­ter was not plan­ned, but the ship which should pick them up, could not get through the ice. One of them, Stei­nar Inge­b­rigt­sen, dis­ap­peared during the second win­ter. The sto­ry is that he wal­ked out onto the ice from Steinøya and got into loo­se drift ice, a dead­ly trap.

Ryke Yseøyane: memorial stone, Steinøya

Memo­ri­al stone for Stei­nar Inge­b­rigt­sen on Steinøya.

Click here for a vir­tu­al tour of Ryke Yse­øya­ne inclu­ding more details of the 1967-69 win­tering.

Pho­to gal­le­ries Ryke Yse­øya­ne

All images are from a visit in August 2015. I have deci­ded to include a rela­tively lar­ge num­ber becau­se the­re are so few pic­tures of the­se islands available.

Pho­to gal­le­ries Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Heimøya

The first gal­le­ries has pho­tos of Heimøya, the lar­gest of the three islands.

Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Heimøya (gal­lery)

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

Pho­to gal­le­ries Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Steinøya

The pho­tos of the second sel­ec­tion were taken on Steinøya, the nor­thwes­tern island from which Stei­nar Inge­b­rigt­sen went out onto the ice and dis­ap­peared in 1969. The memo­ri­al stone is on the cliff from which is he is said to have gone down (over a snow slo­pe that is the­re during win­ter­ti­me) and into the ice.

Ryke Yse­øya­ne: Steinøya (gal­lery)

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



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last modification: 2024-06-17 · copyright: Rolf Stange