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Hopen

Hopen

Map Hopen

Gene­ral: Small, remo­te island in the far sou­the­ast of Sval­bard, part of the Sou­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve. Hopen is 37 km long and most­ly less than 2 km wide. Dif­fi­cult to visit becau­se of the fre­quent­ly hea­vy ice con­di­ti­ons and becau­se of the surf, which is often brea­king on the unpro­tec­ted beaches. Fog is fre­quent, becau­se water- and air­mas­ses mix in the area.

Norwegian meteorological station on Hopen

Nor­we­gi­an meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on on Hopen.

Geo­lo­gy: Hori­zon­tal Tri­as­sic sedi­ments simi­lar to tho­se on Edge- and Bar­entsøya, but without the intru­si­ve rocks.

Hopen

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

Land­s­cape: Once part of a wide pla­teau, which reached from Spits­ber­gen across Bar­ents- and Edgeøya to Hopen and even fur­ther. Pre-ice age rivers and then ice-age gla­ciers have stron­gly dis­sec­ted the pla­teau, only today’s islands remain. All the­re is left of Hopen is a long, nar­row stri­pe, which will, wit­hin geo­lo­gi­cal­ly short time, fall vic­tim to mari­ne ero­si­on and to the gla­ciers, which will pro­bab­ly come back in the next ice age – whenever this will hap­pen. Parts of the ‘ori­gi­nal’ pla­teau have sur­vi­ved so far: Hopen con­sists of a long belt of pla­teau-shaped moun­tains, which reach a maxi­mum height of 385 metres abo­ve sea level (Iver­sen­f­jel­let) and are sepa­ra­ted from each other by small val­leys, through some of which you can easi­ly cross the island. The coast is most­ly a steep and com­ple­te­ly inac­ces­si­ble cliff, the­re are only a few beaches and limi­ted low­land are­as whe­re lan­dings can be made under good con­di­ti­ons. Per­ma­frost and soli­fluc­tion have crea­ted a mud­dy ground of wea­the­red Tri­as­sic sedi­ments, which can be very soft and make wal­king dif­fi­cult. The dark sedi­ment rocks, tog­e­ther with the evi­dent lack of vege­ta­ti­on, lea­ve a very inhos­pi­ta­ble impres­si­on on rare visi­tors.

Hopen

Flo­ra and Fau­na: The flo­ra is high-arc­tic and limi­ted to a few favoura­ble spots; most of the island with its steep cliffs, ever-moving soli­fluc­tion soil and frost-shat­te­red debris is barren.The fau­na is sur­pri­sin­gly rich. The­re are huge sea­b­ird colo­nies on steep cliffs with Brunich’s Guil­lemots, Kit­ty­wa­kes, Ful­mars etc. Becau­se of the hea­vy drift ice which is often around Hopen, brought by cur­r­ents from the nor­the­ast, polar bears often visit the island, which is an important den­ning area in the win­ter.

Histo­ry: Pos­si­b­ly alrea­dy sigh­ted by Rjip in 1596, other­wi­se cer­tain­ly by other wha­lers during the ear­ly 17 cen­tu­ry. The dis­co­ve­rer could have been Tho­mas Mar­m­a­du­ke from Hull in 1613, who named Hopen (‘Hope Island’) after his ship, the ‘Hope­well’. Thor Iver­sen, a Nor­we­gi­an fishe­ry con­sul­tant, did sys­te­ma­tic rese­arch and map­ping ear­ly in the 20th cen­tu­ry. In tho­se days, Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers win­te­red several times on the island, some­ti­mes with rekord polar bear cat­ches.

During the second world war, the Rus­si­an freigh­ter ‘Deka­b­rist’ was tor­pe­do­ed near Hopen by a Ger­man sub­ma­ri­ne. Most peop­le drow­ned instant­ly, only a few mana­ged under gre­at dif­fi­cul­ty to get ashore. It was Decem­ber, the most dif­fi­cult time of the year with con­stant darkness, cold and hea­vy storms, and very few only sur­vi­ved the com­ing mon­ths until the remai­ning hand­full (inclu­ding a woman) were res­cued. 1943-44, the Ger­man air for­ce estab­lis­hed the war wea­ther sta­ti­on ‘Svar­ti­sen’ on the same place whe­re the Nor­we­gi­ans have their wea­ther sta­ti­on sin­ce after the war, which is still ope­ra­ting today, per­ma­nent­ly staf­fed by 4 per­sons.

Memo­ri­al for the crew of the Sov­jet ves­sel ‘Deka­b­rist’ near the Nor­we­gi­an sta­ti­on on Hopen.

Hopen

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