General: The longest fjord of Spitsbergen. It cuts more than 100 kilometres into the north coast of the island and is separated from the Isfjord only by less than 30 kilometres of land. The southern part is a good trekking area which can be reached from the Billefjord. The middle and northern parts are less visited, as the Wijdefjord is not well charted and ships can not easily sail in there.
Geology: Contrast-rich. There are hard basement rocks (mostly granites and gneiss) on the east side in Ny Friesland. Because of the hardness and land uplift, the land elevation – and thus, also glaciation – is higher in average than west of Wijdefjord, in Andrée Land. There, bedrock consists of remants of the filling of the Andrée Land-graben, a Devonian molasse basin which was formed at the end of the Caledonian orogeny. The basin was filled with everything from coarse conglomerates to siltstone. Some of the layers have a beautiful brownish-red colour due to Hematite, an iron oxide which is a weathering product from (sub)tropical climate; at the time of deposition, more than 350 million years ago, Spitsbergen was just south of the equator. All of this has later been deformed (Svalbardian phase in the uppermost Devonian and Alpidic orogeny in the lower Tertiary), but not metamorphosed. Today, the rocks west of the Wijdefjord are known as the ‘Old Red’. The cumulative thickness of the Old Red is at least 7-8, probably more than 10 kilometres.
Recommended book for further, well-digestable (really!) info about geology and landscape of Svalbard.
Landscape: In Andrée Land on the west side of the Wijdefjord, the mostly soft sandstones give the landscape round shapes and warm colours, with a lower average elevation than east of the fjord (Ny Friesland). Thus and because Andrée Land is in the rain shadow of the mountains in east and west, there are only few and small glaciers. This is in strong contrast to Ny Friesland to the east of the Wijdefjord, where uplifted, hard basement rocks form a strongly glaciated high plateau, where Newtontoppen is situated, the highest mountain of Svalbard with 1717 metres. In the innermost part of the Wijdefjord, there is the wide calving front of the Mittag Lefflerbreen. The area between Austfjord (the innermost branch of the Wijdefjord) and Billefjord is a very nice area for trekking.
Catchment of the huge glacier Mittag-Lefflerbreen south of the Wijdefjord.
Flora and fauna: The flora is quite rich, especially on the west side of the fjord, which is under the influence of the Gulf Stream. The central parts of Spitsbergen, to which the inner parts of Isfjord and Wijdefjord belong, are slightly more continental than the outer coast, which makes the summer a bit warmer and thus the vegetation period longer.
History: Part of the dramatic Schröder-Stranz-Expedition (1912-13) happened in the Wijdefjord. The fjord has often been used by Norwegian trappers, a tradition which has been kept alive there on a small scale.