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Murchisonfjord, Kinnvika

Map Murchisonfjord

1 = Kinn­vi­ka

Gene­ral: Murch­ison­fjord is a rather small fjord on the wes­tern side of Nord­aus­t­land, in the nor­t­hern Hin­lo­pen Strait. It is about 15 km long and 10 km wide and named after Sir Rode­rick Murch­ison, an Eng­lish 19th cen­tu­ry geo­grapher. With its many small islands, its bar­ren, desert-like land­scapes, a geo­lo­gy that makes for some beau­tiful colours and struc­tures, some of Svalbard’s oldest fos­sils and last but not least some uni­que his­to­ri­cal sites inclu­ding the Swe­dish-Fin­nish sta­ti­on of Kinn­vi­ka which goes back to 1957, it is a very inte­res­t­ing area.

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Geo­lo­gie: Weak­ly meta­mor­phic sedi­ments, most­ly dolo­mi­tes and quar­zi­te, which belong to the base­ment (Hecla Hoek), with stee­p­ly dip­ping stra­ta. The same rocks as on Lågøya fur­ther north or fur­ther south on the nor­t­hern side of Wahl­enberg­fjord. In places, you can find some of Spitsbergen’s oldest fos­sils that are visi­ble with the naked eye: stromatho­li­tes, or colo­nies of cal­care­ous algae, dating back to the Neo­pro­tero­zoic. In other words, the age of the­se fos­sils is not far from one bil­li­on years. And yes, stromatho­li­tes are the guys to which we owe the oxy­gen in the atmo­sphe­re.

Book recom­men­da­ti­on for fur­ther, detail­ed and easi­ly under­stan­da­ble (yes, real­ly) infor­ma­ti­on on the topics geology/landscape.

Land­scape: Bar­ren, wide-open polar desert. The sur­roun­dings of Murch­ison­fjord are lar­ge­ly ice-free. The lar­ger num­ber of small islands in Murch­ison­fjord are a pecu­li­ar land­scape fea­ture. The­se are made up of hard, stee­p­ly dip­ping lay­ers, and the NNW-SSE trend is quite obvious on maps and charts.

Søre Rus­seøya is the lar­gest island in Murch­ison­fjord. Gent­ly rol­ling ele­va­tions with good views over the land­scape near and far; desert-like, bar­ren, stony tun­dra with the occa­sio­nal frost-pat­ter­ned ground and fos­sils lite­ral­ly as old as the hills (much older, actual­ly): upper pro­tero­zoic stromatho­li­tes, or in other words colo­nies of sin­gle-cel­led cal­care­ous algae, not much youn­ger than a bil­li­on years.

Ind­re Rus­seøya is smal­ler than Søre Rus­seøya, but may­be more varied in terms of land­scape fea­tures. It is a bit more struc­tu­red by rocky hills and has some beau­tiful bays and lagoons.

Flo­ra and fau­na: Very bar­ren. The only vege­ta­ti­on worth men­tio­ning is near a bird colo­ny at Flo­raber­get. Sightin­gs of wal­rus­ses are regu­lar.

Histo­ry: Rus­sing hun­ters (Pomors) used the area for hun­ting into the 19th cen­tu­ry and left some visi­ble traces. The most pro­mi­nent ones are two ortho­dox cros­ses which are still stan­ding on islands – the only ori­gi­nal ones of their kind in the who­le archi­pe­la­go which are still stan­ding.

One out of only two ori­gi­nal ortho­dox cros­ses erec­ted by Pomors in Spits­ber­gen on an island in Murch­ison­fjord.

Pomor cross, Krossøya, Murchisonfjord

20th cen­tu­ry trap­pers have visi­ted Murch­ison­fjord only on rela­tively few occa­si­ons, but the modern histo­ry of pro­fes­sio­nal polar bear hun­ting went on for as long as it was legal. Cari­bou is a trap­pers’ hut bit west of Kinn­vi­ka, on the coast of Hin­lo­pen Strait. The name seems local­ly unu­su­al, see­mingly indi­ca­ting north Ame­ri­can influence. It was built in 1972 by the Nor­we­gi­ans Fre­d­rik Rubach and Odd Ivar Ruud, father and son, who win­tered the­re sub­se­quent­ly to hunt polar bears. Polar bears were com­ple­te­ly pro­tec­ted in Spits­ber­gen in 1973, and this was accor­din­gly the last win­tering of hun­ters on Nord­aus­t­land. Unfort­u­na­te­ly, the hut is dete­rio­ra­ting, as you can see on the indoor pan­ora­ma here, which was taken in 2013.


Kinn­vi­ka is cer­tain­ly the most famous place in Murch­ison­fjord. Situa­ted in a well shel­te­red bay on the nor­t­hern side of the fjord, it was a rese­arch sta­ti­on built during the Inter­na­tio­nal Geo­phy­si­cal Year 1957-59 as a Swe­dish-Fin­nish effort. The sta­ti­on was quite sub­stan­ti­al, with no less than 10 buil­dings spread over some area in case one of them would catch fire. An old amphi­bi­an vehic­le is still the­re and some other stuff, some of it dating back to the Geo­phy­si­cal Year 1957-59, others is youn­ger: in 2003-04, Marie Tie­che and Hau­ke Trinks win­tered in Kinn­vi­ka, and the sta­ti­on was put into use again, fol­lo­wing the ori­gi­nal inten­ti­on of the place being a rese­arch area, during the latest Inter­na­tio­nal Polar Year of 2007-08, when sci­en­tists from 10 count­ries inves­ti­ga­ted the area in detail. The ice cap Ves­t­fon­na was an important focus of their work.

And of cour­se the Swe­dish and Fin­nish guys from 1957-59 did not for­get to build a sau­na! It is cer­tain­ly the nor­t­hern­most one in Sval­bard.

Hauke Trinks und Marie Tieche in Kinnvika

Hau­ke Trinks und Maria Tie­che in Kinn­vi­ka.

Gal­lery Murch­ison­fjord

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



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last modification: 2019-02-22 · copyright: Rolf Stange