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Tempelfjord-Sassenfjord

Map: Tempelfjord - Sassenfjord

GD = Gips­da­len, T = Tunab­reen, VP = Von Post­breen, F = Fred­heim, S = Sas­send­a­len, DG = De Geerd­a­len, D = Dia­ba­sod­den, L = Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Gene­ral: Very scenic, inner­most branch of Isfjord. As Tem­pel­fjord is so beau­tiful and clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, it is a popu­lar desti­na­ti­on for day trips in the win­ter (March-ear­ly May) with snow mobi­les or dog sledge, but also in the sum­mer for boat excur­si­on. The coun­try east of Tem­pel­fjord is stron­gly gla­cia­ted. The names are a bit con­fu­sing: it is one and the same water­way that is cal­led Tem­pel­fjord in its inner part and Sas­senfjord fur­ther west, until it joints Bil­lefjord. But Sas­senfjord is inde­ed an elon­ga­ti­on of the lar­ge val­ley Sas­send­a­len, to which Tem­pel­fjord was a tri­bu­t­a­ry side val­ley befo­re it was drow­ned in sea­wa­ter.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Tem­pel­fjord is easy to reach as a day trip from Lon­gye­ar­by­en by snow mobi­le in March and April, and it is a beau­tiful place at that time of the year. Have a look here for some impres­si­ons:
Tem­pel­fjord April 2013
Tem­pel­fjord May 2013

Glacier front in the inner Tempelfjord

Gla­cier front of Tunab­reen in inner Tem­pel­fjord.

Geo­lo­gy: Most­ly Per­mo­car­bo­ni­fe­rous sedi­ments. The car­bo­ni­fe­rous con­sists of car­bo­na­tes, eva­po­rits (anhydrite/gypsym) and cla­sic sedi­ments, whe­re­as the upper­ly­ing Per­mi­an is usual­ly quite obvious becau­se of its hard (cliff­buil­ding) Lime­s­to­nes (Kapp Sta­ros­tin For­ma­ti­on). On the sou­thern side of the inner part of the fjord, Tri­as­sic clay-/silt- and sand­sto­nes are expo­sed. The Per­mi­an-Tri­as­sic boun­da­ry is not repre­sen­ted, though, as the­re is a hia­tus (upper­most Per­mi­an and lower­most Tri­as­sic rocks are miss­ing). The over­all dip is to the sou­thwest. The Bil­lefjor­den Fault Zone cuts through the ent­rance of the fjord and dis­places upper Palaeozoic/Mesozoic rocks north and south of it, alt­hough it was acti­ve most­ly during the for­ma­ti­on of the base­ment (at least pre-Car­bo­ni­fe­rous). Nice folds and faults are visi­ble in the Bil­lefjord, east of De Geerd­a­len and in the inner Nor­dens­ki­öld Land (the land area bet­ween Isfjord and Bell­sund).

Gypsym near Kapp Schoultz. In the background Tempelfjellet

Gypsym near Kapp Schoultz. Tem­pelf­jel­let in the back­ground.

On the south side of the Tem­pel­fjord, the­re are upper Juras­sic-Creta­ce­ous intru­si­ons (dolerite/diabas) in places, which belong the the same intru­si­ve suite which is very com­mon in eas­tern Sval­bard (Hin­lo­pen Strait, Barents– and Edgeøya, Tusenøya­ne etc.). Becau­se of their rela­ti­ve hard­ness, they often form pro­mi­nent cliffs, such as at Dia­ba­sod­den (‘Dia­bas Point’). This cliff is home to Brünich’s Guil­l­emots, Black guil­l­emots and Puf­fins. In De Geerd­a­len, Hyperit­fos­sen is a nice water­fall cas­ca­ding over a cliff of dole­ri­te (‘hyperi­te’) rocks (the­re are geese bree­ding on top of the cliffs, keep your distance during the bree­ding sea­son).

Land­scape: The scenic cen­ter­pie­ce, next to the moun­tain to which Tem­pel­fjord owes its name, is the ice cliff of Tunab­reen, the gla­cier in the inner part of Tem­pel­fjord. The pan­ora­mas below will make it quite clear why this is so.

As in other places, do the hard, Per­mi­an car­bo­na­tes form pro­mi­nent cliffs in the moun­tain slo­pes, which have been dis­sec­ted by ero­si­on, so often they form regu­lar towers. One of the most beau­tiful moun­ta­ins in Spits­ber­gen is Tem­pelf­jel­let (‘Temp­le moun­tain’), on the nor­t­hern side of the fjord with the same name (Skan­sen on the eas­tern side of the Bil­lefjord is simi­lar­ly beau­tiful). In the inner­most part of the Sas­senfjord, the­re is the cal­ving front of the gla­ciers Tunab­reen and Von Post­breen. The coast is most­ly for­med by steep cliffs and scree slo­pes, but the­re are very nice beach rid­ges on a coas­tal plain on the nor­t­hern side of the fjord at Bjo­na­ham­na.

On the sou­thern side of the fjord, whe­re Tri­as­sic sedi­ments are expo­sed due to the gene­ral sou­thwes­tern dip of the stra­ta, the slo­pes are most­ly less spec­ta­cu­lar and less regu­lar­ly shaped by ero­si­on, at least in com­pa­ri­son with the high stan­dards set by the magni­fi­cent Tem­pelf­jel­let. This does not mean that the land­scape is not nice here, it offers a num­ber of gre­at hiking opti­ons with beau­tiful views. A good area is Dia­ba­sod­den with a num­ber of day­trips to do in the area, from easy walks to serious moun­tain hikes.

Flo­ra and fau­na: The­re are seve­ral birdcliffs on the steep cliffs around the fjords here. Dia­ba­sod­den on the sou­thern side of the Tem­pel­fjord is easi­ly acces­si­ble and offers a nice cross sec­tion through the bio­lo­gy of the area: bree­ding Brünich’s guil­l­emots and Puf­fins, and arc­tic foxes and reinde­er are never far away here (keep your distance from bree­ding birds, espe­ci­al­ly geese which are often on top of cliffs!). And if you think that the­re will never be a polar bear so clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, then you may meet a big sur­pri­se…

Histo­ry: I don’t know of any visi­ble remains from the days of the wha­lers, but they must have been around, and so whe­re the pomors, who left some visi­ble remains. In the late 19 cen­tu­ry, Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers star­ted to use the area inten­si­ve­ly. Hil­mar Nøis, alre­a­dy during his life­time a legend, has built his home at Fred­heim at the mouth of the lar­ge val­ley Sas­send­a­len – one of few trap­per huts with two flo­ors in Sval­bard, which beca­me a cosy home soon when Nøis’ wife moved in (The first one got mad quick­ly during the win­ter in Spits­ber­gen. But the second one, Hel­frid Nøis, obvious­ly like it the­re, she lived a num­ber of years in Fred­heim tog­e­ther with Hil­mar until they final­ly reti­red). Click here for a pan­ora­ma tour of Hil­mar Nøis’ famous hut Fred­heim.

An attempt to mine gypsym was done at Kapp Schoultz on the south side of the Sas­senfjord, a few remains can still be seen. It didn’t go any­whe­re, the occu­rence tur­ned out to be eco­no­mic­al­ly wort­hl­ess.

Remains of trial gypsym mine at Kapp Schoultz.

Remains of tri­al gypsym mine at Kapp Schoultz.

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last modification: 2019-03-29 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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