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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onSett­le­ments and sta­ti­ons → Advent­fjord-Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Adventfjord-Longyearbyen

Ho = Hotellneset (Airport, camping site), Afj = Adventfjord, L = Longyearbyen, H = Hjorthamn/Moskushamn, A = Advent City

Ho = Hotell­ne­set (Air­port, cam­ping site), Afj = Advent­fjord, L = Lon­gye­ar­by­en, H = Hjorthamn/Moskushamn, A = Advent City

Gene­ral: Most den­se­ly popu­la­ted part of Sval­bard. Lon­gye­ar­by­en is resi­dence of the Nor­we­gi­an admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Sys­sel­man­nen = Gou­ver­nour), ser­vices and infra­st­ruc­tu­re (air­port, port, hos­pi­tal, shops, hotels etc), sci­ence (Polar insti­tu­te, uni­ver­si­ty, muse­um etc.), tour ope­ra­tors. The area has a lot to offer for ever­y­bo­dy inte­res­ted not only in histo­ry and today’s sett­le­ments, but also in land­s­cape, flo­ra and fau­na.

The­re are some rules regar­ding pro­tec­tion of natu­re, cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge and tou­rists and to make tou­rism tole­ra­ble for ever­y­bo­dy, also near and in the sett­le­ments. See here.

Longyearbyen

Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Geo­lo­gy: Lower Cret­ace­ous and lower Ter­tia­ry (upper Cret­ace­ous is mis­sing in Sval­bard). Most­ly unde­for­med sedi­ments, gent­ly dipping to south. Becau­se of this, the slo­pes on the nort­hern side of the Advent­fjord are most­ly Cret­ace­ous except from the hig­hest parts. The Cret­ace­ous Fest­nin­gen-Sand­stone is a pro­mi­nent lay­er of quart­zi­tic sand­stone, which often forms pro­tru­ding cliffs due to its rela­ti­ve hard­ness. This is nice­ly visi­ble on the nort­hern side of the Advent­fjord, whe­re the­re are two cliff-buil­ding, hard lay­ers in the hig­her slo­pes. The lower one is the Fest­nin­gen sand­stone, the upper one a simi­lar lay­er of lower Ter­tia­ry sand­stone (‘Fir­kan­ten For­ma­ti­on’).

Both Cret­ace­ous and Ter­tia­ry con­sist litho­lo­gi­cal­ly of shal­low mari­ne and coas­tal sand-, silt- and clay­stones. The sand­stones are deri­ved from del­taic sedi­ments, the clay­stones point to stron­ger mari­ne influ­ence in a lar­ger distance from the coast. Obvious­ly, the­re were several transgressional/regressional cycles (rela­tiv sea-level rise and fall). This beco­mes nice­ly clear during a day­t­rip on the Nor­dens­kiöld­top­pen, a moun­tain more than 1000 metres high near Lon­gye­ar­by­en towe­ring abo­ve Pla­tåf­jel­let. Here, dark clay­stones alter­na­te with silt- and sand­stone. The clay­stones repre­sent pha­ses of hig­her sea level, when the coast was far away and only fine grains were depo­si­ted here. When the coast got nea­rer again due to a rela­ti­ve drop of sea level, sand was depo­si­ted which was was­hed into the sea by rivers. Some of the sand­stone lay­ers are very fos­sil-rich, lea­ves simi­lar to tho­se of nazel­nut trees are very com­mon the­re (check the morains of the gla­ciers which bring ever­ything tog­e­ther or, which is easier, the muse­um in Lon­gye­ar­by­en).

Both Cret­ace­ous and Ter­tia­ry are coal-bea­ring. The hard coal was mined during the 20th cen­tu­ry on both sides of the fjord (see below).

Horizontal layers of sediment (sandstone, siltstone) from the lower Tertiary. Fuglefjellet, west of Longyearbyen

Hori­zon­tal lay­ers of sedi­ment (sand­stone, siltstone) from the lower Ter­tia­ry. Fuglef­jel­let, west of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

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

Land­s­cape: Most striking, at least in com­pa­ri­son with other parts of Sval­bard, is the den­se land-use, but this does not mean that natu­re does not have anything to offer here. The land­s­cape is cha­rac­te­ri­sed by the pla­teau-shaped moun­tains which are so typi­cal for cen­tral and eas­tern Sval­bard, with high pla­teaus 400-500 metres abo­ve sea level. The pla­teaus are wide stone-deserts, part­ly with frost-pat­ter­ned ground and lar­ge­ly free of vege­ta­ti­on.

Most rocks abo­ve this level have been ero­ded – in other words, they have been the­re at some time. But now, only a few moun­tains tower hig­her than the pla­teau such as the Nor­dens­kiöld-Top­pen and Troll­stei­nen near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Here, one can still see what kind of rocks once cove­r­ed the who­le area, but the hig­hest (youn­gest) ones are still lower Ter­tia­ry. Around Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the lower Ter­tia­ry sand­stone of the ‘Fir­kan­ten For­ma­ti­on’ forms con­spi­cuous cliffs which are cut into regu­lar, spec­ta­cu­lar towers by ero­si­on. The slo­pes are most­ly cove­r­ed with scree (rocks with most­ly sharp edges, from frost shat­ter). Com­pa­red to other regi­ons wit­hin Sval­bard, Advent­fjord and Lon­gye­arda­len may appe­ar to be a bit grey-brown in colour with litt­le con­trast, which is due to the colour of the rocks, and the­re are only few and rela­tively small gla­ciers.

Plateau in an elevation of 4-500 metres near Longyearbyen (in the foreground the mountain Sarkofagen, Longyearbyen to the left just outside the photo. Adventdalen in the background)

Pla­teau in an ele­va­ti­on of 4-500 metres near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (in the fore­ground the moun­tain Sar­ko­fa­gen, Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the left just out­side the pho­to. Advent­da­len in the back­ground).

Flo­ra and Fau­na: Both are sur­pri­sin­gly rich, des­pi­te of the pre­sence of more than 1500 humans. The­re is nice tun­dra in Bjørn­da­len and on the lower slo­pes bet­ween the­re and Lon­gye­ar­by­en as well as in Advent­da­len. The­re, you may even find the polar birch, which is rare in Sval­bard – good luck 🙂  Near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the­re are small colo­nies of Litt­le auks nes­ting on the hig­her slo­pes. They breed under boul­ders, so you don’t see them nes­ting, but you see the birds fly­ing in and out and sit­ting on rocks. If you want to see Arc­tic terns, Kit­ti­wa­kes, Snow Bun­ting and, with some luck, even Red phalar­o­pes, then the cam­ping site near the air­port and the arti­fi­cial lagoon bet­ween the cam­ping site and the coast is a good place to visit (keep your distance from bree­ding birds, don’t dis­turb them, see rules). In the Advent­da­len, you may see King Eider near some small ponds if you know whe­re to look for them and you need some luck, too. The elu­si­ve Ivory gull may be seen near the dogyard just out­side Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the Advent­da­len. It is not too unusu­al to see fox and rein­de­er even in the cent­re of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

All in all – near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, you can see qui­te a lot of arc­tic flo­ra and fau­na. You can spend several days here, if you know whe­re to look – con­si­der to you hire your own gui­de, for a num­ber of inte­res­ting pla­ces, you will also need a rif­le, trans­por­ta­ti­on etc.

Histo­ry: Most­ly cha­rac­te­ri­sed by mining. Ame­ri­can John Mun­ro Lon­gye­ar saw the coal seams during a crui­se and foun­ded the Arc­tic Coal Com­pa­ny Ltd. Mining in ‘Advent Bay’ star­ted in 1906. Lon­gye­ar sold ever­ything to the Nor­we­gi­an ‘Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kull­kom­pa­ni’ (SNSK) in 1916 becau­se of the deve­lo­p­ment of the glo­bal mar­kets as well as local dif­fi­cul­ties. The SNSK, now sta­te-owned, still exists under the name ‘Store Nor­ske’ (Gre­at Nor­we­gi­an) and is the lan­dow­ner in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Mining has been redu­ced to a more sym­bo­lic level in mine 7 in near­by Advent­da­len. The cent­re of Nor­we­gi­an coal-mining is Sveagru­va.

During, the war, the­re have been fights in Spits­ber­gen on several occa­si­ons. Most sett­le­ments, inclu­ding Lon­gye­ar­by­en, were des­troy­ed.

Life on Sval­bard chan­ged signi­fi­cant­ly when the air­port was ope­ned in 1975.

Tou­rism has also a long histo­ry in the area. A hotel was even ope­ned in the late 19th cen­tu­ry for a few years, the place is still cal­led Hotell­ne­set. Today, you find the camp site here, the­re are no remains of the old hotel.

Longyearbyen downtown with supermarket (left) and glacier (background)

Lon­gye­ar­by­en ‘down­town’ with super­mar­ket (left) and gla­cier (back­ground).

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last modification: 2013-10-11 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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