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Mag­da­le­n­efjord

Map of Magdalenefjord area, northwestern Spitsbergen

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Gene­ral: Mag­da­le­n­efjord in nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen is a very sce­nic, his­to­ri­cal­ly inte­res­ting fjord. It is regu­lar­ly visi­ted also by lar­ger crui­se ships, as the pen­in­su­la Grav­ne­set (“gra­ve point”) has a nice beach, rela­tively well shel­te­red and thus good for easy lan­dings in most con­di­ti­ons except strong eas­ter­ly winds, sur­roun­ded by a spec­ta­cu­lar pan­ora­ma of poin­ted moun­tains and gla­ciers. More tou­rists are visi­t­ing Grav­ne­set than any other site in Sval­bard out­side the sett­le­ments, but this may chan­ge to some degree as from 2015 no ships car­ry­ing hea­vy fuel on board may enter the lar­ge natio­nal parks and natu­re reser­ves in Sval­bard any­mo­re. Mag­da­le­n­efjord is insi­de the Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen Natio­nal Park. The wea­ther is influ­en­ced by the north Atlan­tic and accord­in­gly often rough with wind, low clouds and pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on.

Waggonwaybreen, Magdalenefjord

Sce­ne­ry in inner Mag­da­le­n­efjord. Wag­gon­way­breen to the left, Bro­ke­breen to the right.

Geo­lo­gy: Base­ment rocks. Meta­mor­phic rocks (Gneiss, phyl­li­te, mica schist) domi­na­te the area. Inland nor­the­ast of Mag­da­le­n­efjord, Cale­do­ni­an gra­ni­te, the “Hor­n­e­mann­top­pen gra­ni­te”, build up the Hor­n­e­mann­top­pen moun­tain area. Stron­gly uplifted fol­lowing north Atlan­tic rif­ting in the upper Cret­ace­ous and lower Ter­tia­ry. This is why the sce­ne­ry is so spec­ta­cu­lar.

Land­s­cape: Alpi­ne sce­ne­ry with jag­ged moun­tain peaks, to which the island of Spits­ber­gen (“poin­ted moun­tains”) owes its name. The hig­hest moun­tain of the area is Hor­n­e­mann­top­pen east of Mag­da­le­n­efjord with 1115 metres. Apart from Grav­ne­set, the­re is litt­le even land at sea level in Mag­da­le­n­efjord. The land is most­ly very rocky, shore­li­nes are cove­r­ed with stones and wal­king is most­ly deman­ding. Fur­ther inland, the area is stron­gly gla­cia­ted.

Waggonwaybreen, Magdalenefjord

Wag­gon­way­breen (cent­re) and Mie­t­he­breen (left) in inner Mag­da­le­n­efjord.

Flo­ra and fau­na: The topo­gra­phy does not allow for much vege­ta­ti­on, which is limi­ted to mos­ses and lichens near bird colo­nies. Litt­le auks are bree­ding in lar­ge num­bers in scree slo­pes ever­y­whe­re around Mag­da­le­n­efjord. Ama­zin­gly, a few rein­de­er are occa­sio­nal­ly roa­ming around on mos­sy slo­pes. Polar bears and wal­rus­ses are seen more or less regu­lar­ly.

Little auks, Magdalenefjord

Litt­le auks in Mag­da­le­n­efjord.

Histo­ry: Mag­da­le­n­efjord is in the nor­thwes­tern part of Spits­ber­gen, about the first part of the island that was dis­co­ve­r­ed by Wil­lem Bar­entsz during his famous voya­ge in 1596. It is pos­si­ble that Bar­entsz took the land in pos­ses­si­on. Wether or not he did this, this exer­cise was exe­cu­t­ed by the Eng­lish­man Robert Fother­by in 1614, fol­lo­wed by Eng­lish wha­lers who estab­lis­hed a wha­ling sta­ti­on at Grav­ne­set in the 17th cen­tu­ry, inclu­ding blub­ber ovens and a lar­ge ceme­tery. All of this is strict­ly pro­tec­ted by now and on Grav­ne­set, the his­to­ri­cal sites are, against usu­al habit in Spits­ber­gen, fen­ced off.

In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers built a litt­le hut on the north side of Mag­da­le­n­efjord, which is still visi­ble as a ruin. It was only used during tra­ve­ling.

The first ascent of Hor­n­e­mann­top­pen was made in 1931 by mem­bers of the “Aus­tri­an Spits­ber­gen expe­di­ti­on” with G. Machek and R. Unter­stei­ner.

In 1977, an Aus­tri­an moun­tai­neer was kil­led by a polar bear in a camp on the north side of the fjord, near the moun­tain Alke­kon­gen. The group did not have any fire­arms or sui­ta­ble deter­rents.

Cross for Austrian mountaineer, Magdalenefjord

Cross for the Aus­tri­an moun­tai­neer who was kil­led by a polar bear in 1977.

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last modification: 2019-03-26 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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