General: Wahlenbergfjord, named after a Swedish scientist of the early 19th century, is cutting deep from Hinlopen Strait into the western coast of Nordaustland, leaving only a relatively narrow bridge of ice free land between Wahlenbergfjord and Rijpfjord on the north coast, with just a good 20 km (as the crow flies) from coast to coast.
Wahlenbergfjord is often blocked by fjord ice well into the summer, and its northern and innermost parts are poorly charted and accordingly not visited by many ships. There are nevertheless several interesting landing sites, especially in Palanderbukta, which has got its name after a famous Swedish polar explorer, companion of Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld. For example, Palanderdalen and Zeipelodden offer good opportunities for scenic hikes.
Hiking group in moraine landscape in Palanderbukta.
Selanderneset at the entrance of Wahlenbergfjord. Horizontal sedimentary layers have been cut by erosion to form slopes with regular towers. Basalt layer on top.
Geology: Basement (Hecla Hoek), consisting of weakly metamorphic, mostly steeply dipping sediments on the northern side. Guldénøyane are made up of diorite (basalt) as most islands in Hinlopen Strait. The south side of Wahlenbergfjord is characterized by horizontal layers of Carboniferous and Permian sediments, mostly very rich in carbonates and often with a lot of fossils. Dioritic intrusions have been exhumed by erosion to form wide exposed plateaux on the mountain tops.
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Landscape: Very wide and open. Wahlenbergfjord is almost completely surrounded by wide ice caps, but there are stripes of ice-free land mainly on its southern side, which are getting quite wide especially around Palanderbukta. Steep mountain slopes have been cut by erosion to form regularly protruding towers, which is very scenic. Parts of the coast are steep or, especially on the northern side of the fjord, dominated by glaciers with calving ice cliffs. Landing opportunities are accordingly mainly in Palanderbukta, which has impressive polar desert landscapes with perfectly developed frost patterned ground and all the typical traces of holocene glacio-isostatic land uplift in some places. The general appearance of the scenery is very barren and desert-like.
Barren polar desert with ice wedges in Palanderbukta.
Flora and Fauna: Wahlenbergfjord is a polar desert area as Nordaustland in general. Vegetation is accordingly scarse and mostly restricted to favourable locations and scattered Svalbard poppy and Purple saxifrage. Droppings and antlers are evidence of occasional reindeer roaming around, an amazing fact in such a barren environment. The nearest polar bear will never be very far away, especially when there is drift ice in the area, in which case it is not unlikely to find walrus resting on ice floes. There used to be small colonies of Ivory gulls on some slopes, but they seem to have gone.
History: Wahlenbergfjord has been visited repeatedly by scientific expeditions in the 19th century, but without being the focus of attention, so it is historically not the most exciting place. There was a wintering of Norwegian trappers in the 20th century which ended in a tragedy. The two men probably died during an explosion in their main hut in Augustabukta in Hinlopen Strait. The ruin of a hut at Palanderdalen belonged to their hunting area.
The crew of the German war weather station Haudegen in Rijpfjord established a depot in Bodleybukta in innermost Wahlenbergfjord in case the station would be destroyed. Wahlenbergfjord is within reach during a day of forced marching from the location of the Haudegen station in Rijpfjord.