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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onIslands: Spits­ber­gen & Co.Isfjord → Kapp Linne/Isfjord Radio, Fest­nin­gen

Kapp Linne, Isfjord Radio, Russekeila, Festningen

Natural and human history on Spitsbergen's west coast: some background

Map Kapp Linne

Outer Isfjord with Kapp Lin­né (Isfjord Radio) and sur­roun­dings.


Kapp Lin­né is situa­ted at the west coast just south of the ent­rance to Isfjord. In 1933, it beca­me the sai­te of Isfjord Radio, radio and wea­ther that pro­vi­ded com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on with main­land Nor­way to all sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen and ships in the area. Sin­ce 1999, the sta­ti­on was run auto­ma­ti­cal­ly and the staff was remo­ved; soon, a fiber­glass cable from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the main­land made it obso­le­te. The buil­dings have been used as a hotel sin­ce the late 1990s. Defi­ni­te­ly Spitsbergen’s most beau­tiful­ly loca­ted hotel! If you are inte­res­ted in stay­ing the­re, then get in touch with Base­camp Spits­ber­gen. They can also pro­vi­de trans­port and gui­ded tours in the sur­roun­dings of Kapp Lin­né. The hotel has been reno­va­ted a cou­ple of years ago; it lost a bit of the charme of a mid 20th cen­tu­ry arc­tic sta­ti­on during the pro­cess but it has beco­me more sty­lish and com­for­ta­ble.

Kapp Linné: Isfjord Radio

Kapp Lin­né: ear­lier Isfjord Radio, a sta­ti­on pro­vi­ding wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on for Spitsbergen’s sett­le­ments, today Isfjord Radio Hotel.

The Isfjord coast bet­ween Kapp Lin­né and Grønfjord has a lot to offer regar­ding geo­lo­gy, natu­ral and human histo­ry and sce­n­ery, so you can easi­ly spend a cou­ple of rewar­ding days the­re – as always, it depends a bit on what you want, the­re are no cal­ving gla­ciers the­re and if you hap­pen to meet a polar bear the­re – some­thing that is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble – then this means trou­ble and poten­ti­al dan­ger rather than any­thing else.

The­re are seve­ral are­as with dan­ge­rous shal­lows near the coast, so if you are out by boat or kay­ak, make sure you keep an eye on the chart.

Pro­tec­ted are­as

The­re is a bird sanc­tua­ry direct­ly south of the sta­ti­on area, which may not be ente­red bet­ween 15th May and 15th August. And Fest­nin­gen and sur­roun­dings is a geo­to­pe, but that does not invol­ve access rest­ric­tions; only if you want to take geo­lo­gi­cal samples or any­thing like that, then you have to get your papers in place first, but that is the case any­whe­re in Spits­ber­gen.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard


The south coast of Isfjord bet­ween Kapp Lin­né and the Grønfjord is geo­lo­gi­cal­ly inte­res­t­ing and well-known as the ‘Fest­nin­gen-Sec­tion‘, so I will give it some space here. On a stretch of the coast of less than 10 km, you will find a rela­tively com­ple­te cross-sec­tion of the regio­nal geo­lo­gy, start­ing with the pre-Devo­ni­an base­ment and rea­ching into the lower Ter­tia­ry, the youn­gest pre-Qua­ter­nary bed­rock in Sval­bard. This is due to the steep eas­tern dip of the stra­ta: they are stan­ding more or less ver­ti­cal­ly with a N-S trend, which is becau­se of lower Ter­tia­ry tec­to­nics. With a walk of a few kilo­me­t­res, you can cover more than 300 mil­li­on years of Earth histo­ry!

The start is at Kapp Lin­né with weak­ly to medi­um-meta­mor­pho­sed base­ment rocks (phyl­li­te, quar­zi­te). The base­men­t/­co­ver-rock boun­da­ry is expo­sed on the north slo­pes of Lin­né­f­jel­let. Fur­ther east, you will reach hard Car­bo­ni­fe­rous quar­zi­tic con­glo­me­ra­tes (Devo­ni­an sedi­ments are miss­ing in this area).

The moun­tain on the eas­tern side of Lin­né­vat­net (Lake Lin­né) is very con­spi­cuous. Its nor­t­hern elon­ga­ti­on stick out into the Isfjord, forming a pro­mi­nent cape, known as Kapp Sta­ros­tin. This is the type loca­li­ty of the Kapp Sta­ros­tin for­ma­ti­on, a series of hard, upper Car­bo­ni­fe­rous and Per­mi­an car­bo­na­te rocks and cherts.

Kapp Starostin

Sedi­ment lay­ers at Kapp Sta­ros­tin.

The­se car­bo­na­tes, most­ly lime­s­tone, are rich in fos­sils such as bra­chio­pods and bryo­za. The­se rocks are com­mon in many parts of Sval­bard.

West of Kapp Sta­ros­tin, in the plain bet­ween the cape and Lin­né­el­va (Lin­né river), the­re are sink holes (karst phe­no­me­na) which are asso­cia­ted with the solu­ti­on of car­bo­na­te rocks.

The Meso­zoic suc­ces­si­on starts with Tri­as­sic sedi­ments east of Kapp Sta­ros­tin (the pro­per Per­mi­an-Tri­as­sic boun­da­ry is miss­ing in Sval­bard, becau­se the­re is a regio­nal hia­tus). The Meso­zoic sedi­ments con­sist of rela­tively uni­form clay- and silts­to­nes and sub­or­di­na­te sand­stone. Some of the lay­ers are quite fos­sil-rich (ammo­ni­tes, shells etc.). You can find lower Creta­ce­ous rocks at the cor­ner to the Grønfjord. The­se are the youn­gest Meso­zoic rocks in Sval­bard (the upper Creta­ce­ous, and thus unfort­u­na­te­ly the C/T boun­da­ry, are miss­ing due to a regio­nal hia­tus). The Fest­nin­gen Sand­stone is very con­spi­cuous, a lay­er of hard, quar­zi­tic sand­stone within the lower Creta­ce­ous. As the other sedi­ments in the Fest­nin­gen sec­tion, it is stan­ding in a ver­ti­cal posi­ti­on and, due to its hard­ness, stands out like a wall in the land­scape. Its nor­t­hern elon­ga­ti­on forms a small island which reminds one of a fort­ress, hence the name ‘Fest­nin­gen’ (Nor­we­gi­an: fort­ress).

In the 1960s, foot­prints of dino­saurs (Igu­a­n­odons) were found here, but the rocks in ques­ti­on have fal­len into the sea sin­ce. New tracks are sup­po­sed to come to the light of day every once in a while, but I have never found any so far – if you see some, plea­se let me know. If you want to see dino­saur tracks in Spits­ber­gen, then Kval­vå­gen on the east coast is a bet­ter choice (but it is dif­fi­cult to get the­re).

On the island of Fest­nin­gen its­elf, the­re is a navi­ga­ti­on bea­con resembling a light­house; the­re are geese and other birds bree­ding the­re as well as on the main­land near­by, so keep your distance! For geo­lo­gi­cal excur­si­ons, you should come out­side the bree­ding sea­son, pre­fer­a­b­ly in August. East of Fest­nin­gen, on the wes­tern side of the Grønfjord, lower Ter­tia­ry stra­ta are expo­sed, which are essen­ti­al­ly the same ones as in the Lon­gye­ar­by­en area, just tec­to­ni­cal­ly defor­med.


Ver­ti­cal sand­stone lay­er at Fest­nin­gen.

All in all, the area offers a very nice cross sec­tion through lar­ge parts of the geo­lo­gy of Sval­bard. If you are inte­res­ted in geo­lo­gy and you want to see a rela­tively com­ple­te and easi­ly acces­si­ble (well, more or less) sec­tion, then you should think about the Kapp Lin­né-Fest­nin­gen area – but, as alre­a­dy men­tio­ned, you should come after the bree­ding sea­son. Midd­le or late August will be good. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the area has of cour­se beau­tiful and inte­res­t­ing land­scape as well as some wild­life and histo­ry to offer.

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


You may find the area less spec­ta­cu­lar than other places in Spits­ber­gen, as the­re are, for exam­p­le, no cal­ving gla­ciers and no steep moun­ta­ins near the coast, which its­elf is a wide, coas­tal plain. But still, the­re is a lot to see. It is one of my favou­ri­te are­as in Spits­ber­gen – I don’t know how many times I have wal­ked up and down the coast bet­ween Kapp Lin­nè and Fest­nin­gen, and I will sure­ly do it again. The coast its­elf is most­ly a steep cliff, about five met­res high, with more or less flat tun­dra behind. Here, you can find nice frost-pat­ter­ned ground and pat­terns of well-pre­ser­ved beach rid­ges.

Stone rings, Kapp Linné

Stone rings (frost pat­ter­ned ground) near Kapp Lin­né.

The tun­dra bet­ween Lin­né­el­va and Kapp Sta­ros­tin is very inte­res­t­ing, as the­re are doli­nes (sink holes) from under­ground car­bo­na­te solu­ti­on, good fos­sil beach rid­ges and, if you go a bit inland, a very fine view over the lake Lin­né­vat­net.

Fest­nin­gen is a very inte­res­t­ing loca­ti­on (see abo­ve), a hard sand­stone lay­er stan­ding like a wall in the land­scape on the cor­ner to the Grønfjord (again, stay away from bree­ding geese and other birds in the sea­son). Wal­king is more dif­fi­cult east of Kapp Sta­ros­tin than west of it, as the tun­dra is wet­ter and the­re are some stee­p­ly incis­ed litt­le val­leys. The river Lin­né­el­va is usual­ly rela­tively easy to cross if you try half-way bet­ween the coast and the lake, but it may still be too high for ordi­na­ry rub­ber boots.

Flo­ra and fau­na

The tun­dra is rela­tively bar­ren, espe­ci­al­ly north of Lin­né­vat­net.

If you have come to Spits­ber­gen to see big arc­tic mammals, then Kapp Lin­né may not be your first place to go to. Polar bears visit the area more or less regu­lar­ly, and the­re have been occa­si­ons when polar bears hang out around Isfjord Radio for days, some­thing that can be a bit of a pla­gue. It has even hap­pen­ed that a bear ente­red the ent­rance area of the main buil­ding! So it is cer­tain­ly be important to take the usu­al pre­cau­tio­na­ry mea­su­res. First of all: keep your eyes open and your brain swit­ched on.

Some­ti­mes a group of wal­rus can be found res­t­ing on the beach a few kilo­me­t­res south of Kapp Lin­né.

Polar bear, Kapp Linné

Polar bear visi­ting Kapp Lin­né.

Arc­tic foxes and Spits­ber­gen reinde­er are regu­lar visi­tors. Hundreds of com­mon eider ducks used to breed near the buil­dings of Isfjord Radio, even under the doors steps. Seve­ral ground bree­ding spe­ci­es are com­mon in the area, so it is a good place for bird­wat­chers.


Remains from many dif­fe­rent chap­ters of Spitsbergen’s histo­ry can be seen, alt­hough they are usual­ly quite incon­spi­cuous – don’t expect an exhi­bi­ti­on wort­hy of the Bri­tish Muse­um: traces of the past are often quite subt­le in the Arc­tic, but they are nevert­hel­ess inte­res­t­ing.

17th cen­tu­ry wha­lers used to have seve­ral sta­ti­ons in the Grønfjord area, inclu­ding one near Fest­nin­gen, but the­re is not­hing left the­re to be seen the­se days.

The Pomors have also used the area as hun­ting ground. The­re was a lar­ge Pomor settlement/hunting sta­ti­on at Rus­se­kei­la at the mouth of Lin­né­el­va. The­re are still remains to be seen (the incon­spi­cuous foun­da­ti­ons with pie­ces of bricks; the huts are youn­ger). The famous Pomor patri­arch Ivan Sta­ros­tin used to live here, legend has it that he stay­ed for 32 years, most­ly wit­hout retur­ning to the main­land at all! He died the­re in 1826 and, appro­pri­at­ly, he was buried in the area; the­re is a pile of stones on the ridge near Kapp Sta­ros­tin (near the anten­na) that could be his gra­ve. Altog­e­ther, Rus­se­kei­la is one of Spitsbergen’s most pro­mi­nent Pomor loca­ti­ons

Pomor settlement, Russekeila

Remains of a Pomor sett­le­ment at Rus­se­kei­la.

Remains from the ‘gold-rush peri­od’, during which mine­rals have been inves­ti­ga­ted and claims taken into pos­ses­si­on for the pur­po­se of poten­ti­al mining, can be seen at Kapp Mine­ral just east of Kapp Lin­né, a mine ent­rance is still visi­ble whe­re lead and zinc ore was extra­c­ted in the ear­ly 1920s.

Trial mining, Kapp Mineral

Remains of tri­al mining at Kapp Mine­ral.

At Kapp Lin­né, the sta­ti­on Isfjord Radio pro­vi­ded radio com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on bet­ween the various sett­le­ments on Spits­ber­gen as well as ships in the area and main­land Nor­way. In later years, Isfjord Radio was con­nec­ted to the sett­le­ments via beam anten­nas. The nea­rest one is stan­ding at Kapp Sta­ros­tin. The last remai­ning tech­ni­cal staff was remo­ved from Isfjord Radio in 1999. Today, the sta­ti­on is tech­ni­cal­ly not neces­sa­ry any­mo­re, sin­ce a glass fib­re cable has been laid from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the main­land, and the buil­dings are used as a wil­der­ness hotel (see abo­ve).

Gal­lery – Kapp Lin­né and sur­roun­dings

Some impres­si­ons from the Isfjord coast: Kapp Lin­né – Kapp Mine­ral – Rus­se­kei­la – Kapp Sta­ros­tin – Fest­nin­gen.

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



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last modification: 2020-10-07 · copyright: Rolf Stange