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Prins Karls Forland & Forlandsund/St. Jonsfjord

Map Prins Karls For­land

Map Prins Karls Forland

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Gene­ral: Island with mar­kant, long shape at the west coast of Spits­ber­gen bet­ween Isfjord and Kongsfjord, sepa­ra­ted from Spits­ber­gen by For­lands­sund. This strait is part­ly very shal­low, so only very small ships can sail through it. The island is 86 km long, but only 5-11 km wide and has a land area of 650 km2. Prins Karls For­land is a natio­nal park on its own.

Geo­lo­gy: Most­ly meta­mor­phic base­ment rocks (schists, phyl­li­te, quar­zi­tes etc.,). Lower Ter­tia­ry sand­sto­nes and con­glo­me­ra­tes in the nor­t­hern part on the eas­tern side at the coast.

Prins Karls Forland

St. Jons­fjord with fold­ed sedi­ment lay­ers in the back­ground.

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

Land­scape: Part­ly alpi­ne moun­ta­ins with very poin­ted peaks and wild gla­ciers, which are very spec­ta­cu­lar and remind one of the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la. The hig­hest moun­tain, Mona­cof­jel­let, is 1081 m high. Part­ly wide coas­tal plains. Seen from a distance, the sou­thern part of the island looks like a sepa­ra­te island as it is sepa­ra­ted from the moun­tai­nous north from a vast low­land area. The­re are very nice rock gla­ciers, old beach ridge series, frost pat­ter­ned ground etc.

Click here for pan­ora­ma images of Prins Karls For­land.

Prins Karls Forland

Gla­ciers on the eas­tern side of Prins Karls For­land.

Prins Karls Forland

Coas­tal plain on the eas­tern side of Prins Karls For­land with beach rid­ges and lagoons.

Engelskbukta/St. Jons­fjord: Both are within the Ter­tia­ry fold belt near the west coast and thus have beau­tiful moun­ta­ins. The inte­riour is stron­gly gla­cia­ted, and the­re are cal­ving gla­cier fronts in St. Jongsfjord. In Engelskbuk­ta, the gla­cier Com­fort­less­breen ter­mi­na­tes on shore in a wild land­scape of morai­nes and a lar­ge out­wa­sh plain. The land­scape is most­ly steep, but the­re is nice tun­dra on more gent­le slo­pes around Engelskbuk­ta.

Prins Karls Forland


South of Engelskbuk­ta, the­re is a rather uni­form, fea­tur­e­less coas­tal plain, which extends far into the strait For­lands­sund which sepa­ra­tes the main island from Prins Karls For­land. This very con­spi­cuous spit of land is cal­led Sar­stan­gen, and it con­ti­nues as an under­wa­ter shal­low across For­lands­sund, making pas­sa­ge impos­si­ble for lar­ger ves­sels.

Prins Karls Forland

Colours and gla­ciers in St. Jons­fjord.

Prins Karls Forland

Flo­ra and Fau­na: Varied. The flo­ra can be quite scar­ce, part­ly becau­se of the steep and gla­cia­ted ter­rain, but also in the low­lands. Others of the­se have rich tun­dra, espe­ci­al­ly when near one of the huge bird cliffs. Lar­ge num­bers of Brunich’s Guil­l­emots, Kit­ty­wa­kes, Glau­cous Gulls etc. are bree­ding on the­se steep cliffs, espe­ci­al­ly at the nor­t­hern­most point which has its name ‘Fug­le­hu­ken’ (Bird point) for a good reason. The birds are bree­ding high up on steep cliffs, so you can­not see them from a clo­se distance. The­re are reinde­er and foxes on the tun­dra. As a bio­lo­gi­cal spe­cial, the­re is a har­bour seal colo­ny on Prins Karls For­land in the For­lands­und, which is the only one in Sval­bard and the nor­t­hern­most one in the world. It may be a relict colo­ny from a peri­od 6-8000 years ago when both air and water were 1-2°C war­mer and the spe­ci­es may gene­ral­ly have been more com­mon in Sval­bard.

Harbour seals at Prins Karls Forland

Har­bour seals at Prins Karls For­land.

The­re are also wal­rus living in the For­lands­und – should you get to the area, make sure they are being trea­ted with care, it is still the only area with haul-out sites at the west coast and the pro­cess of re-estab­li­shing old popu­la­ti­on num­bers has still just star­ted. Keep your distance!

Histo­ry: Prins Karls For­land was one of the first parts, if not the first part, which was sigh­ted by Wil­lem Barent­sz in 1596; some place names still date back to this sum­mer such as ‘Spits­ber­gen’, ‘Fug­le­hu­ken’ etc. Wha­lers and trap­pers have used the island and left their traces.

Remains of a Pomor hunting station, southern Prins Karls Forland

Remains of a Pomor hun­ting sta­ti­on, sou­thern Prins Karls For­land.



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last modification: 2019-03-27 · copyright: Rolf Stange