General: Nordaustland (‘Northeastland’) is with 15 000 km2 the second-largest island of the Svalbard archipel. It is separated from Spitsbergen by the Hinlopen Strait and covered with large ice caps. Nordaustland is part of the Northeast Svalbard Nature Reserve and accordingly protected.
For panorama images from Hinlopen Strait and neighbouring parts of Spitsbergen and Nordaustland, click here.
Geology: Basement gneisses and granites in the north and northeast. In the northwest (Murchisonfjord to Lågøya) deformed, but well-preserved sediments (quarzites, carbonates) belonging to the basement with ripple marks, desiccation cracks, stromatholites etc.). In the southwest, fossil-rich Permian carbonates are exposed over wide areas (Kapp Starostin Formation), in places doleritic intrusions (upper Jurassic-Cretaceous). The islands in the Hinlopen Strait consist generally of such dolerites, Wilhelmøya with its Mesozoic sediments being the only exception.
Recommended book for further, well-digestable (really!) info about geology and landscape of Svalbard.
Landscape: Wide-open, with flat hills and, mostly in the north, plateau-shaped mountains. There are large ice-free areas near the coast in the north, west and southwest, but most of Nordaustland is covered with large ice-caps. On the northern coasts, there is a lot of driftwood and, unfortunately, trash brought up there by currents. The generally very barren landscapes leave the visitor with an intense feeling of high-arctic remoteness and make a strong contrast to the west coast of Spitsbergen with its pointed mountains and to the rich tundra of central Spitsbergen and Barents- and Edgeøya.
Barren, rocky landscape on the northern side of Nordaustland.
Flora and Fauna: High arctic. Most of the area is free of vegetation, in places there are lichens and mosses. Occasionally, there are saxifrages and other flowers, often Svalbard Poppy (Papaver daliahnum). Nevertheless, reindeer manage to survive there, no idea how they do that. Locally, bird breed, among others Ivory gull and Sabine’s gull. There are several haul-out sites (resting places) of walrus, and the area is home to polar bears. Female bears give birth to their youngsters on Nordaustland in the winter.
History: Due to its remoteness and the difficult ice conditions, the whalers did rarely visit Nordaustland and they didn’t establish any shore stations there. The Pomors appreciated the Hinlopen Strait area because of its rich wildlife as a good hunting ground. Norwegian trappers stayed on Nordaustland relatively few times only, sometimes the winterings ended with desaster due to scurvy or accidents. The English expeditions of Phipps (1773) and William Edward Parry (1827) passed through northwestern and northern parts of Nordaustland during their attempts to reach the north pole. A lot of mapping was done in the Hinlopen Strait area and up to Sjuøyane was done 1899-1904 by the Russian-Swedish Arc de Meridian expedition. The brave Swede Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was the first one to push into the interiour during an expedition 1872-73 after a cancellation of an attempt to reach the pole; later expeditions which did further research in the largely unknown inner parts of Nordaustland were the Oxford University Arctic Expedition with George Binney 1924 and the Swedish-Norwegian Expedition with Ahlmann in 1931. In 1912, a party of the ill-fated Schröder-Stranz-expedition got lost in the north of Nordaustlanded, their exact fate is not known. 1944-45, a German war weather station operated in the Rijpfjord (»Haudegen«-station). During the international polar year 1957-58, Sweden established the station Kinnvika in Murchisonfjord, which was abandoned in 1959.