There are a couple of photo galleries at the end of this page to illustrate some of the beautiful aspects – some popular visitor sites (and some less popular ones). Just scroll down or click on these links:
Kongsfjord, in earlier days of its history known as Kings Bay, is a fjord area with beautiful and varied landscape and a long history. Today, the area is frequently visited by scientists and tourists. Especially the scientific settlement of Ny-Ålesund attracts more and more visitors each year, including large cruise ships, which is not always very convenient for the working scientists. This development has, however, changed at least to some degree when ships carrying heavy fuel were banned from Spitsbergen’s protected areas such as national parks in 2014. This keeps most of the large cruise ships away from Kongsfjord and Ny-Ålesund. The settlement itself is not located inside a national park, but there are the shipping route to Ny-Ålesund leads through at least one out of two national parks (Forlandet National Park (Prins Karls Forland) and Nordvest Spitsbergen National Park).
Houses in Ny Ålesund in front of the impressive mountain- and glacier-scenery of inner Kongsfjord.
The smaller islands in the Kongsfjord and Guissezholmen near Kap Guissez between Kongs- and Krossfjord are bird sanctuaries: entry and approach closer than 300 metres to the nearest shore are prohibited during the breeding season (15th May to 15th August).
Blomstrandhalvøya is another popular visitor site with varied flora, fauna, history and good hiking opportunities. There are various opportunities for more demanding hikes also in other places in Kongsfjord. The calving glaciers in inner Kongsfjord such as Kronebreen are popular for ship cruising.
Of course, I do have a number of panoramas on various pages, also including a lot of information about the individual sites. Just click on these links for a quick visit to these beautiful places:
Die Tyskehytte, not far from the glaciers, was the wintering base for a group of scientists from German Democratic Republic – East Germany! – who wintered here in 1964-65.
Roald Amundsen in Ny-Ålesund near the “Blaues Haus”
(the “Blue House” used to be part of the German research station).
Varied and quite complicated. On the northern side of Kongsfjord, there are weakly metamorphosed carbonates (‘marble’) of the basement, for example on Blomstrandhalvøya, where optimists once started mining (see below). In the innermost Kongsfjord, there are a lot of Devonian and Permokarboniferous sediments exposed, which have also been strongly deformed during the lower Tertiary, but not metamorphosed. This mosaic of brownish-red Devonian sandstones and conglomerates (‘Old Red’) and yellowish-brown, younger carbonates and clastics, which lie directly next to and on top of each other and the basement, is very attractive. In inner Kongsfjord, you can see rocks from the basement and well into the upper Palaeozoic, with beautiful patterns from folding and faulting. Enjoy! 🙂
Geological mosaic east of Kongsfjord. The reddish Old Red with a steep cap of hard permo-carboniferous carbonates are prominent.
Brøggerhalvøya (Brøgger peninsula) between Kongsfjord and Engelskbukta is also a geological mosaic of basement rocks, Permocarboniferous and lower Tertiary sediments with conglomerates, sandstones and coal seams, the latter ones being the foundation of mining activities of Ny-Ålesund, which were abandoned in 1962. The coal was mostly mined below sea level. The mine area was a good kilometre southeast of the settlement, a lot of remains – rubbish more than anything else – can still be seen.
Very varied because of the geological mosaic. Mountaineous, ice-free lowland is limited and mostly confined to Brøggerhalvøya between Kongsfjord and Engelskbukta. The interiour is strongly glaciated, and several large glacier fronts calv into Lilliehöökfjord and Kongsfjord. Well-known mountains are the Tre Kroner (Three crowns), three striking mountains east of the Kongsfjord: Svea, Dana and Nora (Sweden, Denmark, Norway).
The glacier Kronebreen and two of the three famous mountains Tre Kroner in late september.
Flora and Fauna
Rich tundra vegetation in lowlands and on islands, and locally very fertile vegetation with rare plant species near bird cliffs. Because of the relatively favourable climate can flowers become comparatively large. The bird fauna is also quite rich, with a number of seabird colonies on the steep cliffs with Brünich’s guillemots, kittiwakes and glaucous gulls. An ornithological highlight is the long-tailed skua which has its only confirmed breeding sites in Svalbard here in Kongsfjord.
The tundra areas are important feeding sites for geese, mostly barnacle geese. The islands are home to large numbers of common eider ducks. Reindeer and arctic fox roam over the tundra. Even the settlement Ny-Ålesund has a good number of species to offer, including arctic terns which are likely to attack you (just leave them alone, never try to hit them!), possibly Arctic fox, geese, long-tailed duck and maybe even the ivory gull, if you are lucky.
Seabird colony at Ossian Sarsfjellet with kittiwakes and Brünich’s guillemots.
Already the 17th century whalers knew Kongsfjord – they called it Kings Bay – and there are graves and remains of blubber ovns in Engelsbukta, south of Kongsfjord. They also knew that there was coal on the southern side of the Kongsfjord, because they found bits on the beach. But mining didn’t start in Kongsfjord until the early 20th century. It never went smooth, only with interruptions and was abandoned in 1962 after a series of accidents with casualties, the last ones even leading to a governmental crisis in Norway, as the state was and still is the owner of Kings Bay Kull Kompani. This company is now called just ‘Kings Bay’, as there is no ‘kull’ (coal) mining anymore, but Kings Bay is still running the settlement of Ny-Ålesund, which has been developed to become an international research village.
The famous airship mast where Amundsen and Nobile started their expeditions in the 1920s”.
The history of Blomstrandhalvøya, then known as Marble Island, is also interesting. The British Northern Exploration Company established here a mine to extract marble, the quality of which was drastically overestimated, though. After a few years of trial mining, everything was abandoned, as first loads that had been shipped had turned out to be worthless. Remains are still visible (see the Blomstrand/Ny London/Marble Island panorama page for impressions and more information).
Houses dating back to the days of the marble trial mine on Blomstrandhalvøya: Ny London
(also known as “Marble Island” or “Camp Mansfield”).
When coal mining in Ny-Ålesund was history, scientists soon discovered the area as perfectly suited for polar research, of relatively easy access and already equipped with a lot of infrastructure. The settlement was soon developed to become a scientific village (see the Ny-Ålesund panorama pages for impressions and more information).
There was a Norwegian weather station (“geophysical station”) at Kvadehuken at the entrance to Kongsfjord from 1920 to 1924.