fb  Spitsbergen Panoramas - 360-degree panoramas  de  en  nb  Spitsbergen Shop  


Natural and human history

Map: Tusenøyane

Gene­ral & pro­tec­tion sta­tus

The name ‘Tus­enøya­ne’ is descrip­ti­ve and means ‘Thousand Islands’, which is to some degree appro­pria­te, alt­hough the actu­al num­ber of islands is nowhe­re near a thousand. None of the islands is lar­ger than a very few km2. They are qui­te expo­sed to the open sea and in shal­low, not very well char­ted waters, so most of them are qui­te inac­ces­si­ble. They are part of the Sou­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve.

Sin­ce 2014, most of Tus­enøya­ne may not be visi­ted any­mo­re from 15th May to 15th August each year to pro­tect birds.

Addi­tio­nal­ly, some of the island may not be visi­ted any­mo­re at all (Zieg­lerøya, Delit­schøya, Spekkhol­men and most of Halvmå­neøya) to pro­tect his­to­ri­cal remains. The­se restric­tions are stron­gly con­tro­ver­si­al, but they are in for­ce.

In many ways – geo­lo­gy, land­s­cape, eco­lo­gy – Halvmå­neøya and Ryke Yse­øya­ne may be con­si­de­red to be part of Tus­enøya­ne, but offi­cial­ly, they are not part of this archi­pe­la­go, as they are on the east side of Edgeøya, a bit fur­ther away.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard


The Tus­enøya­ne con­sist ent­i­re­ly of dolerite/diabas rocks (both very simi­lar to basalt), upper Juras­sic to Cret­ace­ous in age. The Tri­as­sic sedi­ments, into which the basaltic rocks intru­ded, have been com­ple­te­ly remo­ved by ero­si­on, they still exist fur­ther north, whe­re they form the Edgeøya. Other rocks can be found only as erra­tic boul­ders (‘ice age dirt’).


Small, rocky islands without gla­ciers. Many of the Tus­enøya­ne are qui­te bar­ren and cove­r­ed with lar­ge basaltic boul­ders, other ones have a beau­ti­ful, mos­sy tun­dra with small tun­dra lakes. Land­s­cape-wise and geo­lo­gi­cal­ly, also Halvmå­neøya and Ryke Yse Øya­ne belong to the Tus­enøya­ne.

Tusenøyane: Havmerra

Bar­ren land­s­cape on the litt­le island of Hav­mer­ra.

The­re are no signi­fi­cant ele­va­tions and no gla­ciers on Tus­enøya­ne. The coast­li­ne is often made up of litt­le cliffs or boul­der beaches.

Tusenøyane: rocky landscape, Halvmåneøya

Bar­ren and rocky land­s­cape on Halvmå­neøya, typi­cal for Tus­enøya­ne.

Flo­ra and fau­na

High arc­tic. Part­ly very bar­ren, part­ly qui­te rich moss tun­dra. Espe­cial­ly the mos­ses are qui­te vul­nerable – try to step on stones or are­as with dry vege­ta­ti­on, which is less vul­nerable.

Tusenøyane: Tundra, Lurøya

Tun­dra, drift­wood and a litt­le lake on Lurøya:
typi­cal land­s­cape set­ting for Tus­enøya­ne.

The­re are small lakes on some of the islands, whe­re often Red-throated divers breed – beau­ti­ful birds in a beau­ti­ful envi­ron­ment, but easy to dis­turb at the nest. Keep your distance! The Tus­enøya­ne are an important place also for Com­mon eider ducks and geese. The lar­ge are­as of shal­low water pro­vi­de good fee­ding grounds for wal­rus, which live on shells, which again live in the mud at the bot­tom.

Tusenøyane: walrus

Wild­life on Tus­enøya­ne (I): wal­rus herd.

Polar bears are also qui­te com­mon in Tus­enøya­ne.

Tusenøyane: polar bear

Wild­life on Tus­enøya­ne (II): polar bear.


Ear­ly in the 17th cen­tu­ry, the wha­lers knew the area and estab­lis­hed some shore sta­ti­ons here. Wal­rus may actual­ly have been more important for them in this par­ti­cu­lar regi­on than wha­les.

Tusenøyane: triple blubber oven, whalers

17th cen­tu­ry trip­le blub­ber oven on Spekkhol­men.

Tus­enøya­ne were also a favou­rite hun­ting area for the Pomors, who may have been the­re befo­re Wil­lem Bar­ents offi­cial­ly dis­co­ve­r­ed Spits­ber­gen in 1596. In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers caught lar­ge num­bers of polar bears here, espe­cial­ly on Halvmå­neøya and in the Tjuvfjord on the sou­thern side of Edgeøya.

Tusenøyane: trapper station Bjørneborg, Halvmåneoya

Trap­per sta­ti­on Bjør­ne­borg, Halvmå­neoya.

Tus­enøya­ne (gal­le­ry)

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

← Back

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: 2021-11-14 · copyright: Rolf Stange