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Hinlopen Strait

Map Hinlopen Strait

For more infor­ma­ti­on, click on are­as of the map below.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Gene­ral: Strait bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and Nord­aus­t­land. Scenic place with inte­res­t­ing histo­ry and rich wild­life – one of my favou­ri­te places in Sval­bard! The name is pro­ba­b­ly deri­ved from the direc­tor of a Dutch wha­ling com­pa­ny in the 17th cen­tu­ry. Ice con­di­ti­ons can be dif­fi­cult, not at least becau­se of the strong curr­ents.

For pan­ora­ma images from Hin­lo­pen Strait and neigh­bou­ring parts of Spits­ber­gen and Nord­aus­t­land, click here.

Geo­lo­gy: Pre-cam­bri­an, non-meta­mor­phic, defor­med sedi­ments (mul­ti-colou­red quar­zi­tes and dolo­mi­tes) in the north (Sorg­fjord-Lom­fjord in Spits­ber­gen, Lågøya-Murch­ison­fjord on Nord­aus­t­land). The­se sedi­ments are well-pre­ser­ved and part­ly expo­se very nice ripp­le marks, desic­ca­ti­on cracks etc. Some of the stra­ta are fos­sil-rich, well-pre­ser­ved stromatho­li­tes belong to Svalbard’s oldest fos­sils. In the sou­thwest (Wil­hel­møya) Tri­as­sic sedi­ments simi­lar to the rocks of Edgeøya and Barent­søya, which can be very soft and mud­dy. In the sou­the­ast (Pal­an­der­buk­ta-Vibe­buk­ta) Per­mi­an Lime­s­tone (Kapp Sta­ros­tin For­ma­ti­on).

Near-horizontal layers of sediments (Permian carbonates) in the entrance area of Wahlenbergfjord (Nordaustland), dolerite on top (dark, vertical cliff)

Near-hori­zon­tal lay­ers of sedi­ments (Per­mi­an car­bo­na­tes) in the ent­rance area of Wahl­enberg­fjord (Nord­aus­t­land), dole­ri­te on top (dark, ver­ti­cal cliff).

The islands in the Hin­lo­pen Strait con­sist most­ly of dole­ri­tic intru­si­ons (upper Juras­sic to Creta­ce­ous). Spec­ta­cu­lar not only, but also from a geo­lo­gi­cal point of view is the Alkef­jel­let on the west side of the Hin­lo­pen Strait south of the Lom­fjord, whe­re dark basal­tic (‘dole­ri­tic’) rocks intru­ded bright Per­mi­an lime­s­tone. The intru­si­on is a good 100 met­res thick and forms ver­ti­cal cliffs, on which 10.000s of Brunich’s Guil­l­emots are bree­ding. At the cont­act zone, the lime­s­tone is meta­mor­pho­sed due to the heat of the intru­si­on and thus tur­ned into marb­le.

Doleritic intrusion (right side, dark) in Permian limestone (bright) and glacier

Dole­ri­tic intru­si­on (right side, dark) in Per­mi­an lime­s­tone (bright) and gla­cier.

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

Land­scape: Varied and beau­tiful. Part­ly lar­ge coas­tal plains with series of old beach rid­ges, which are well visi­ble. Here, you can some­ti­mes find old wha­le­bo­nes, which dis­in­te­gra­te and fer­ti­li­ze the tun­dra. The small islands are most­ly very rocky and have steep cliffs with colo­nies of Brunich’s Guil­l­emot, espe­ci­al­ly spec­ta­cu­lar at Alkef­jel­let. On the east side, the coas­tal plains are most­ly high-polar desert and almost com­ple­te­ly vege­ta­ti­on-free, which makes a strong impres­si­on on the visi­tor.

Reindeer antler in polar desert. East side of Hinlopen Strait

Reinde­er ant­ler in polar desert. East side of Hin­lo­pen Strait.

Flo­ra and Fau­na: Most­ly very litt­le vege­ta­ti­on, apart from lichens and mos­ses, which make for colourful cus­sions in some places. Wea­the­ring wha­le­bo­nes are respon­si­ble for small ‘oasis’ within the other­wi­se bar­ren polar desert, for exam­p­le in Augus­t­abuk­ta and Vibe­buk­ta. The fau­na is very rich. Lar­ge bird colo­nies, most­ly Brunich’s Guil­l­emots, breed on steep basalt cliffs. Wal­rus and polar bear are quite often seen in the Hin­lo­pen Strait.

Inhabitants of the Hinlopen Strait I: Brünich's guillemots, Alkefjellet

Inha­bi­tants of the Hin­lo­pen Strait I: Brünich’s guil­l­emots at Alkef­jel­let.

Inhabitants of Hinlopen Strait II: walrusses on Nordaustland

Inha­bi­tants of Hin­lo­pen Strait II: wal­rus­ses on Nord­aus­t­land.

Histo­ry: The Hin­lo­pen Strait was alre­a­dy known to the wha­lers of the 17th cen­tu­ry, alt­hough I don’t know of any remains of shore sta­ti­ons. The Pomors also used the Hin­lo­pen Strait exten­si­ve­ly for hun­ting pur­po­ses. Many sci­en­ti­fic expe­di­ti­ons visi­ted the Hin­lo­pen in the 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, defi­ni­te­ly worth men­tio­ning is the Rus­si­an-Swe­dish Arc-de-Meri­di­an expe­di­ti­on (1899-1904), which had one main sta­ti­on in the Sorg­fjord. Swe­den estab­lished a sta­ti­on in Kinn­vi­ka in the Murch­ison­fjord during the inter­na­tio­nal polar year 1957-58, which was aban­do­ned in 1959.

Gal­lery Hin­lo­pen Strait

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


Lomfjord Sorgfjord Alkefjellet Wahlenbergfjord/Palanderbukta Islands in Hinlopen Augustabukta - Vibebukta Murchisonfjord


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