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Hopen map

Gene­ral: Hopen is a small, remo­te island in the far sou­the­ast of Sval­bard and part of the Sou­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve. Hopen is 37 km long and most­ly less than 2 km wide. It is often dif­fi­cult to visit becau­se of the expo­sed coast­li­ne, whe­re waves are often brea­king hea­vi­ly. Off­ly­ing shal­lows don’t make it easier, and tra­di­tio­nal­ly, Hopen was sur­roun­ded by den­se drift ice for most parts of the year. Today, the sum­mer drift ice does hard­ly reach the island any­mo­re. Fog is fre­quent, becau­se dif­fe­rent water- and air­mas­ses meet in the area.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard


Nor­we­gi­an meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on on Hopen.

Geo­lo­gy: Hori­zon­tal Tri­as­sic sedi­ments simi­lar to tho­se on Edge- and Barent­søya, but wit­hout the intru­si­ve rocks.


Land­scape: Once part of a wide pla­teau, which rea­ched from Spits­ber­gen across Barents- and Edgeøya to Hopen and even fur­ther. Pre-ice age rivers and then ice-age gla­ciers have stron­gly dis­sec­ted the pla­teau, only today’s islands remain. All the­re is left of Hopen is a long, nar­row stri­pe, which will, within geo­lo­gi­cal­ly short time, fall vic­tim to mari­ne ero­si­on and to the gla­ciers, which will pro­ba­b­ly come back in the next ice age – when­ever this will hap­pen. Parts of the ‘ori­gi­nal’ pla­teau have sur­vi­ved so far: Hopen con­sists of a long belt of pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins, which reach a maxi­mum height of 385 met­res abo­ve sea level (Iver­senf­jel­let) and are sepa­ra­ted from each other by small val­leys, through some of which you can easi­ly cross the island. The coast is most­ly a steep and com­ple­te­ly inac­ces­si­ble cliff, the­re are only a few bea­ches and limi­t­ed low­land are­as whe­re landings can be made under good con­di­ti­ons. Per­ma­frost and soli­fluc­tion have crea­ted a mud­dy ground of wea­the­red Tri­as­sic sedi­ments, which can be very soft and make wal­king dif­fi­cult. The dark sedi­ment rocks, tog­e­ther with the evi­dent lack of vege­ta­ti­on, lea­ve a very inhos­pi­ta­ble impres­si­on on the few visi­tors.


Flo­ra and Fau­na: The flo­ra is high-arc­tic and limi­t­ed to a few favoura­ble spots; most of the island with its steep cliffs, ever-moving soli­fluc­tion soil and frost-shat­te­red debris is barren.The fau­na is sur­pri­sin­gly rich. The­re are huge sea­bird colo­nies on steep cliffs with Brunich’s Guil­l­emots, Kit­ty­wa­kes, Ful­mars etc. The num­bers of bree­ding birds here make Hopen one of the most important sea­birds island of the Barents Sea. Becau­se of the hea­vy drift ice which is often around Hopen, brought by curr­ents from the nor­the­ast, polar bears often visit the island, which is an important den­ning area in the win­ter. In poor ice years, the num­ber of dens goes, howe­ver, down to zero.

Histo­ry: Pos­si­bly alre­a­dy sigh­ted by Rjip in 1596, other­wi­se cer­tain­ly by other wha­lers during the ear­ly 17 cen­tu­ry. The dis­co­ve­rer could have been Tho­mas Mar­ma­du­ke from Hull in 1613, who named Hopen (‘Hope Island’) after his ship, the ‘Hope­well’. Thor Iver­sen, a Nor­we­gi­an fishery con­sul­tant, did sys­te­ma­tic rese­arch and map­ping ear­ly in the 20th cen­tu­ry. In tho­se days, Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers win­tered seve­ral times on the island, some­ti­mes with rekord polar bear cat­ches.

During the second world war, the Rus­si­an freigh­ter ‘Deka­b­rist’ was tor­ped­oed near Hopen by a Ger­man sub­ma­ri­ne. Most peo­p­le drow­ned instant­ly, only a few mana­ged under gre­at dif­fi­cul­ty to get ashore. It was Decem­ber, the most dif­fi­cult time of the year with con­stant dark­ness, cold and hea­vy storms, and very few only sur­vi­ved the coming months until the remai­ning handfull (inclu­ding a woman) were res­cued. 1943-44, the Ger­man air force estab­lished the war wea­ther sta­ti­on ‘Svar­ti­sen’ on the same place whe­re the Nor­we­gi­ans have their wea­ther sta­ti­on sin­ce after the Second World War, which is still ope­ra­ting today, per­ma­nent­ly staf­fed by 4 per­sons. And today, they do of cour­se have their web­site, which is well worth a visit (if you read Nor­we­gi­an) and even their own news­pa­per, the Hopen Times.

Memo­ri­al for the crew of the Sov­jet ves­sel ‘Deka­b­rist’ near the Nor­we­gi­an sta­ti­on on Hopen.


Hopen (gal­lery)

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



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