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Kong Karls Land

Kong Karls Land, map

Gene­ral: Small, very remo­te group of islands in eas­tern­most Sval­bard. Three lar­ger islands and some smal­ler islets and rocks. Kong Karls Land is pro­tec­ted as part of the Nor­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve. It is not allo­wed to approach Kong Karls Land any nea­rer than 500 met­res, regard­less what means of trans­por­ta­ti­on is used – any boat from kay­ak to ice­brea­k­er, air­craft, heli­c­op­ter, ski, dog sledge, snow mobi­le… doesn’t mat­ter. The Sys­sel­man­nen (Gou­ver­nour) may give per­mis­si­on to visit Kong Karls Land, but this will not be done for tou­ristic pur­po­ses.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Kong Karls Land: Svenskøya in drift ice

Svens­køya in den­se drift ice.

Geo­lo­gy: Meso­zoic sedi­ments and intru­si­ons (Svens­køya and Kong­søya), tec­to­ni­cal­ly undis­tur­bed and thus in hori­zon­tal posi­ti­on. The dia­ge­ne­sis has not been com­ple­ted, so the sedi­ments are not well soli­di­fied – in other words, it can be very mud­dy (doesn’t mat­ter, as you can’t go ashore any­way). Low-lying Abeløya in the far east con­sists exclu­si­ve­ly of basal­tic intru­si­ons, simi­lar to the ones on Edgeøya. Within Sval­bard, Kong Karls Land is next to some vol­ca­nic ruins in the Bock­fjord area the only place whe­re vol­ca­nism actual­ly took place at the sur­face (extru­si­ve acti­vi­ty, as oppo­sed to intru­si­ve acti­vi­ty, traces of which we find in many places in shape of the abun­dant basal­tic (dole­ri­tic) intru­si­ons). Thus, Kong Karls Land is, geo­lo­gi­cal­ly spea­king, a link bet­ween Sval­bard and Franz Josef Land, whe­re extru­si­ve rocks are more com­mon.

Kong Karls Land

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

Land­scape: Pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins, less than 300 met­res high, and coas­tal plains. Big rocks whe­ree­ver bed­rock is made of basalt, other­wi­se often rather mud­dy. On the bea­ches, the­re is a lot of drift­wood. The over­all impres­si­on is high-arc­tic and bar­ren. Kong Karls Land is sur­roun­ded by den­se drift ice for most of the year. The­re are no gla­ciers, but some peren­ni­al snow fields.

Kong Karls Land


Flo­ra and Fau­na: High arc­tic. Flo­ra: high arc­tic, very bar­ren. Fau­na: Important polar bear ‘nur­sery’ during the rele­vant sea­son (Decem­ber-April). This is the reason why Kong Karls Land is so strict­ly pro­tec­ted. The hig­hest den­si­ty of polar bear dens is on the slo­pes of Tor­densk­jold­ber­get, a moun­tain on Kong­søya. In recent years, it has, howe­ver, hap­pen­ed that the fema­les don’t reach Kong Karls Land in sea­sons with litt­le sea ice in the ear­ly win­ter.

Histo­ry: Rare­ly visi­ted and late­ly map­ped due to the usual­ly very hea­vy ice con­di­ti­ons. Kong Karls Land appeared on maps during the second half of the 19th cen­tu­ry, quite much ove­re­sti­ma­ted in size in the ear­lier ver­si­ons. Visits of Pomors or 17th cen­tu­ry wha­lers are not known. The islands were for the first time more or less pro­per­ly map­ped in 1898, when they were visi­ted by both a Ger­man expe­di­ti­on (Theo­dor Ler­ner on the ship Hel­go­land) and a Swe­dish expe­di­ti­on (Alfred G. Nathorst with the Ant­ar­c­tic). Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers win­tered here at least once in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry to hunt polar bears, of which they got ple­nty, but they couldn’t take them home next sum­mer. The boat which should pick them up couldn’t get through the ice. As they could not spend ano­ther win­ter, they had to pull their small boat over the ice, until they reach open water near Edgeøya. They rowed across the Storfjord to the east coast of Spits­ber­gen, from whe­re they hik­ed to Lon­gye­ar­by­en (or Lon­gyear City, as it was cal­led tho­se days).



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last modification: 2023-12-22 · copyright: Rolf Stange