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Nature and history of a fjord in northeast Spitsbergen

Sorgfjord map

Sorg­fjord is loca­ted on the nor­the­ast cor­ner of Spits­ber­gen.


Situa­ted just under 80°N at the nor­the­as­tern cor­ner of Spits­ber­gen at the ent­rance to the Hin­lo­pen Strait, Sorg­fjord is a scenic litt­le fjord with a lot of inte­res­t­ing histo­ry. In his­to­ri­cal times, Sorg­fjord was also cal­led ‘Treu­ren­burg Bai’. The sce­n­ery may not be as spec­ta­cu­lar as in some other fjords – the­re are no gla­ciers rea­ching the sea with cal­ving cliffs, and the moun­ta­ins are low, pla­teau-shaped, but it is cha­rac­te­ristic and beau­tiful in its very own way and the­re are good hiking oppor­tu­ni­ties.


The­re are seve­ral pages on this web­site dedi­ca­ted to indi­vi­du­al sites in Sorg­fjord. The­se pages have back­ground infor­ma­ti­on, pho­to gal­le­ries and 360-der­gree-pan­ora­mas.


Upper Pre­cam­bri­an, non-meta­mor­phic sedi­ments such as quar­zi­tes and dolo­mi­tes, tec­to­ni­cal­ly defor­med and most­ly stee­p­ly dip­ping. The same rocks are found fur­ther south in Lom­fjord, in nor­the­as­tern Hin­lo­pen Strait and on Lågøya.

Sorgfjord: Heclahuken

The moun­tain Hecla­hu­ken on the east side of Sorg­fjord.

For tho­se with some spe­cial inte­rest in some of the finer details of geo­lo­gy, Sorg­fjord has some inte­res­t­ing sites to offer. If you have, for exam­p­le, ever won­de­red about the dif­fe­rence bet­ween laye­ring and cleava­ge, then the rocks in the image below, found on the south side of Cro­zier­pyn­ten, may illus­tra­te that very well. In this pic­tu­re, you see both laye­ring and cleava­ge. Laye­ring (in the pho­to hori­zon­tal) ori­gi­na­tes during depo­si­ti­on of the sedi­ment, while cleava­ge comes from tec­to­nic pres­su­re. Cleava­ge is always youn­ger than laye­ring (you can’t squeeze any­thing that isn’t the­re yet). In the pho­to, cleava­ge runs through the rocks from the lower left to the upper right.

Sorgfjord: Heclahuken

Stee­p­ly dip­ping upper Pre­cam­bri­an sedi­ments (light-grey quar­zi­tic sand­stone and dark silt- and clay­stone) on the eas­tern side of the Sorg­fjord (Cro­zier­pyn­ten).

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


Low pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins with wide coas­tal plains, on which the­re are well-deve­lo­ped series of beach rid­ges. The inte­riour south of Sorg­fjord is stron­gly gla­cia­ted.

Sorg­fjord is a beau­tiful area for hiking. The nor­t­hern part of Mag­da­len­af­jel­let can be rea­ched rela­tively easi­ly with a bit of stami­na and sure-foo­ted­ness.

Sorgfjord, landscape

View from Mag­da­len­af­jel­let over the low­land in inner Sorg­fjord.

Flo­ra and Fau­na

Sorg­fjord appears to be quite bar­ren, a polar desert envi­ron­ment. This bay is usual­ly not an out­stan­ding wild­life site. Occa­sio­nal­ly reinde­er, and the moun­ta­ins are, as can be expec­ted, good places to find ptar­mi­gan. The fre­quen­cy of wal­rus sightin­gs has increased in recent years, a very posi­ti­ve sign of the come­back of this spe­ci­es after it had been hun­ted almost to regio­nal extinc­tion until the 1950s. Migra­to­ry wild­life is, of cour­se, always pos­si­ble, and that may well inclu­ding polar bears.


Con­side­ring it is a rela­tively small fjord, the­re is an ama­zing lot of sto­ries con­nec­ted to the place. The name ‘Sorg­fjord’ (Worry bay) goes back to the wha­lers and may refer to dif­fi­cul­ties with the ice in this cor­ner of Spits­ber­gen, whe­re the Gulf Stream is loo­sing its influence. It could also refer to armed con­flicts bet­ween dif­fe­rent wha­ling nati­ons: In 1693, the Sorg­fjord saw the nor­t­hern­most sea batt­le ever when thee French war­ships brought up 40 Dutch wha­ling ships. 13 Dutch ships were cap­tu­red, the rest escaped. A litt­le gra­vey­ard at Eolus­ne­set on the wes­tern side of Sorg­fjord reminds us of the dan­gers of a whaler’s life. It was used by wha­lers in the 17th and 18th cen­tu­ries, cer­tain­ly inclu­ding Dutch wha­lers, pos­si­bly also from other count­ries.

Sorgfjord, Whalers' graveyard

Wha­lers’ gra­vey­ard at Eolus­ne­set.

In 1827, the Eng­lish­man Wil­liam Edward Par­ry ancho­red on the east side of Sorg­fjord with his ship Hecla. The bay, loca­ted direct­ly south of Cro­zier­pyn­ten, has sin­ce been known as Hecla­ham­na (Hecla har­bor).

Crozierpynten, Sorgfjord

The litt­le head­land of Cro­zier­pyn­ten with Hecla­ham­na on the sou­thern (right) side.

The hill Flaggstanghau­gen on Cro­zier­pyn­ten is just 31 meters high. Some­ti­mes this is more than enough for a gre­at view. Hecla­ham­na is on the sou­thern side of Cro­zier­pyn­ten.

Par­ry tried to reach the north pole with spe­ci­al­ly con­s­truc­ted sledge boats that could both be rowed in open water and pul­led over ice, but he had to turn around at 82°40’N due to the dif­fi­cul­ties the ice pro­vi­ded and the cur­rent which was against him and his men. The dis­co­very of this NW-SE going cur­rent was, at least, a very signi­fi­cant one. As a con­se­quence, Spits­ber­gen was most­ly igno­red by fol­lo­wing expe­di­ti­ons aiming for the north pole, who favou­red arc­tic Cana­da and nor­t­hern Green­land ins­tead for their bases.

The­re is a pecu­li­ar cross on a low hill at Eolus­ne­set, known as Eolus­kor­set (Eolus cross. It was erec­ted on June 06, 1855, by skip­per J. Holm­gren, Cap­tain of the scho­o­ner Æolus (other spel­ling: Eolus) from Ber­gen. The ship was trap­ped in ice for some weeks, and in such cases it is of cour­se always good to build a cross – you never know. In 1861, Æolus was the­re again, with the know famous Swe­dish polar explo­rer and geo­lo­gist Otto Tor­ell on board.

Sorgfjord, Eolus cross

Eolus­kor­set / the Eolus cross at Eolus­ne­set.

The Swe­dish-Rus­si­an Arc-de-Meri­di­an Expe­di­ti­on (1899-1904) used the eas­tern side of the Sorg­fjord (Heclahamna/Crozierpynten) for one of their head­quar­ters.

Crozierpynten in Sorgfjord, station Arc-de-Meridian-expedition

Remains of the sta­ti­on of the Arc-de-Meri­di­an-expe­di­ti­on at Cro­zier­pyn­ten.

The list of tho­se who visi­ted Cro­zier­pyn­ten in the 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry is almost a who-is-who of arc­tic explo­ra­ti­on of tho­se years … the abo­ve-men­tio­ned Edward Par­ry (1827), the Swe­dish sec­tion of the Rus­si­an-Swe­dish Arc-de-meri­di­an-expe­di­ti­on estab­lished their win­tering quar­ters the­re in 1899, and the Her­zog Ernst, ship of the Schrö­der-Stranz-expe­di­ti­on, was forced to spend the win­ter 1912-13 the­re, while the lea­der hims­elf, Her­bert Schrö­der-Stranz, was most likely alre­a­dy dead on Nord­aus­t­land. This list is any­thing but com­ple­te. Not to men­ti­on all the trap­pers who win­tered the­re when the Swe­dish house was still stan­ding upright.

The sta­ti­on of the Arc-de-Meri­di­an expe­di­ti­on on the sou­thern side of Cro­zier­pyn­ten was built in 1899 by the Swe­dish sec­tion of the abo­ve-men­tio­ned expe­di­ti­on and sub­se­quent­ly used to win­ter the­re. The expe­di­ti­on is sur­pri­sin­gly litt­le known, but it was very suc­cessful and brought a wealth of topo­gra­phic and other sci­en­ti­fic mate­ri­al back home wit­hout any loss of life, quite in con­trast to many others in tho­se ear­ly years.

Later, Sorg­fjord was the pivo­tal point for the ill-fated Schrö­der-Stranz-Expe­di­ti­on.

Trap­pers did not win­ter too often in Sorg­fjord. They pre­fer­red Wij­defjord, the neigh­bou­ring fjord fur­ther west, which was easier to reach and pro­vi­ded bet­ter hun­ting oppor­tu­ni­ties. It was easier to get home again ear­ly in the sum­mer after a win­tering from Wij­defjord than from Sorg­fjord, whe­re the drift ice would often block the pas­sa­ge around Ver­le­gen­hu­ken from quite some time into the sum­mer. The­re is still the ruin of a trap­per hut on the north side of Eolus­ne­set, but it has never been more than a small, secon­da­ry hut used occa­sio­nal­ly on hun­ting trips from the main ter­ri­to­ry fur­ther west, in nor­t­hern Wij­defjord.

trapper hut, Eolusneset

Ruin of a trap­per hut at Eolus­ne­set.

Pho­to gal­lery – Sorg­fjord

Some impres­si­ons from the years 2007-2023. The­re are more pho­to gal­lery in the pages dedi­ca­ted to Cro­zier­pyn­ten, Eolus­ne­set and Mag­da­len­af­jel­let.

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



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last modification: 2023-10-15 · copyright: Rolf Stange