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Kapp Linne

Map Kapp Linne

A = Alk­hor­net, T = Trygg­ham­na, F = Fest­nin­gen, G = Grønfjord, B = Barents­burg, C = Coles­buk­ta, Gr = Gru­mant­by­en, L = Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Gene­ral: Kapp Lin­né is at the west coast south of the ent­rance to the Isfjord. In 1933, a radio and wea­ther sta­ti­on was estab­lished. The­re is a bird sanc­tua­ry direct­ly west and south of the sta­ti­on area, which may not be ente­red bet­ween 15th May and 15th August. The sou­thern side of the Isfjord bet­ween Kapp Lin­né and the Grønfjord is geo­lo­gi­cal­ly, land­scape-wise and his­to­ri­cal­ly very inte­res­t­ing – one of my favou­ri­te are­as in Sval­bard.

Geo­lo­gy: The sou­thern coast of the Isfjord bet­ween Kapp Lin­né and the Grønfjord is geo­lo­gi­cal­ly inte­res­t­ing and well-known as ‘Fest­nin­gen-Sec­tion‘. On a coas­tal stretch of less than 10 km, you find a rela­tively com­ple­te cross sec­tion from the pre-Devo­ni­an base­ment until the lower Ter­tia­ry, the youn­gest pre-Qua­ter­nary bed­rock in Sval­bard. This is due to the steep eas­tern dip of the stra­ta, they are stan­ding more or less ver­ti­cal­ly with a N-S trend, which is becau­se of the tec­to­nics during the lower Ter­tia­ry Alpi­dic oro­ge­ny. With a walk of a few kilo­me­t­res, you may cover more than 300 mil­li­on years of Earth histo­ry! You start at Kapp Lin­né with weak­ly to medi­um-meta­mor­pho­sed base­ment rocks (phyl­li­te, quar­zi­te). In the nor­t­hern slo­pes of Lin­né­f­jel­let, you can see the base­men­t/­co­ver-rock boun­da­ry; when you have rea­ched the ridge which forms the nor­t­hern elon­ga­ti­on of Lin­né­f­jel­let, you have pas­sed the boun­da­ry and rea­ched the hard Car­bo­ni­fe­rous quar­zi­tic con­glo­me­ra­tes (Devo­ni­an sedi­ments are miss­ing in this area). Very con­spi­cuous is the moun­tain on the eas­tern side of Lin­né­vat­net (Lake Lin­né). Its nor­t­hern elon­ga­ti­on stick out into the Isfjord, forming a pro­mi­nent cap, the so-cal­led Kapp Sta­ros­tin, which gave its name to the hard, Per­mi­an car­bo­na­te rocks of which it con­sists. The­se car­bo­na­tes, most­ly lime­s­tone, are rich in fos­sils such as bra­chio­po­des and spon­ges and they are known by the name Kapp Sta­ros­tin For­ma­ti­on. The­se rocks are com­mon in many parts of Sval­bard. West of Kapp Sta­ros­tin, bet­ween the cape and the Lin­né­el­va (Lin­né river), the­re are sink holes (karst phe­no­me­na) due to solu­ti­on of car­bo­na­te rocks. The Meso­zoic suc­ces­si­on starts with Tri­as­sic sedi­ments east of Kapp Sta­ros­tin (the Per­mi­an-Tri­as­sic boun­da­ry is miss­ing in Sval­bard, as the­re is a regio­nal hia­tus). The Meso­zoic sedi­ments con­sist of rela­tively uni­form clay- and silts­to­nes and sub­or­di­na­te sand­stone. Some of the lay­ers are quite fos­sil-rich (ammo­ni­tes, shells etc.). At the cor­ner to the Grønfjord, you find the lower Creta­ce­ous, that is the youn­gest Meso­zoic rocks in Sval­bard (the upper Creta­ce­ous, and thus unfort­u­na­te­ly the C/T boun­da­ry, is miss­ing due to a regio­nal hia­tus). Very con­spi­cuous is the ‘Fest­nin­gen Sand­stone‘, a lay­er of very hard, quar­zi­tic sand­stone within the lower Creta­ce­ous. As the other sedi­ments in the Fest­nin­gen sec­tion, it is stan­ding in a ver­ti­cal posi­ti­on and, due to its hard­ness, stands out like a wall in the land­scape. Its nor­t­hern elon­ga­ti­on forms a small island which reminds one of a fort­ress, hence the name ‘Fest­nin­gen’ (Nor­we­gi­an: fort­ress). In the 1960s, foot­prints of Dino­saurs (Igu­a­n­odons) were found here, but the rele­vant rock­wall has fal­len into the sea sin­ce. New tracks are sup­po­sed to come to the light of day every once in a while, but I have never found any so far – if you see some, plea­se let me know. On the island of Fest­nin­gen its­elf, the­re is a litt­le light house; the­re are geese and other birds bree­ding here as well as on the main­land near­by (keep your distance!!! For geo­lo­gi­cal excur­si­ons, you should come out­side the bree­ding sea­son, pre­fer­a­b­ly in August). East of Fest­nin­gen, on the wes­tern side of the Grønfjord, you find the lower Ter­tia­ry sedi­ments, which are simi­lar to the geo­lo­gy around Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The Festningen-Sandstone at its type locality (which is Festningen)

The Fest­nin­gen-Sand­stone at its type loca­li­ty (which is Fest­nin­gen).

All in all, the area offers a very nice cross sec­tion through the geo­lo­gy of Sval­bard (not inclu­ding mag­ma­tic base­ment rocks and the Old Red. Car­bo­ni­fe­rous is cla­s­tic, the eva­po­ri­tes of the Bil­lefjord area are miss­ing). If you are inte­res­ted in geo­lo­gy and want to see a rela­ti­ve com­ple­te and easi­ly acces­si­ble (well, rela­tively) sec­tion, then you should think about the Kapp Lin­né-Fest­nin­gen area – but, as alre­a­dy men­tio­ned, you should come after the bree­ding sea­son. Midd­le or late August would be good. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the area has nice and inte­res­t­ing land­scape and histo­ry to offer.

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

Land­scape: You may find the area less spec­ta­cu­lar than other places in Spits­ber­gen, as the­re are no gla­ciers near teh coast. But the­re is a lot to see, it is one of my favou­ri­te are­as in Sval­bard – I don’t know how many times I have wal­ked up and down the coast bet­ween Kapp Lin­nè and Fest­nin­gen, and I will sure­ly do it again. The coast its­elf is most­ly a steep cliff, about five met­res high, with more or less flat tun­dra behind. Here, you can find nice frost-pat­ter­ned ground and beach rid­ges. Espe­ci­al­ly inte­res­t­ing is the tun­dra bet­ween Lin­né­el­va and Kapp Sta­ros­tin, as the­re are doli­nes (sink holes) from under­ground car­bo­na­te solu­ti­on, beach rid­ges and, if you go inland, a nice view over the lake Lin­ne­vat­net. A hike around the lake takes quite a cou­ple of hours and requi­res crossing two rivers and some mud­dy and stony are­as, but you can see nice stone stripes (frost pat­ter­ned ground on slo­ping sur­faces). A high­light is Fest­nin­gen (see abo­ve), a hard sand­stone lay­er stan­ding like a wall in the land­scape on the cor­ner to the Grønfjord (again, stay away from bree­ding geese and other birds in the sea­son). Wal­king is more dif­fi­cult east of Kapp Sta­ros­tin than west of it, as the tun­dra beco­mes wet­ter and the­re are some stee­p­ly incis­ed litt­le val­leys. The river Lin­né­el­va is usual­ly rela­tively easy to cross if you try half-way bet­ween the coast and the lake.

Flo­ra and Fau­na: Well, in the­se regards the­re are more inte­res­t­ing sites in the Isfjord. The tun­dra is rela­tively bar­ren, espe­ci­al­ly north of the lake Lin­né­vat­net. The­re are foxes and reinde­er. Hundreds of Com­mon Eider ducks used to breed near the buil­dings of Isfjord Radio at Kapp Lin­ne, even direct­ly next to the doors. Sin­ce the sta­ti­on is not staf­fed any­mo­re, foxes which did not dare to come clo­se do so now and have spoi­led the Eider popu­la­ti­on, unfort­u­na­te­ly.

Histo­ry: Remains from many dif­fe­rent chap­ters of Svalbard’s histo­ry can be seen, alt­hough they are usual­ly quite incon­spi­cuous – don’t expect the Bri­tish Muse­um, traces of the past are often quite subt­le in Sval­bard, but nevert­hel­ess inte­res­t­ing. The wha­lers used to have seve­ral sta­ti­ons in the Grønfjord in the 17th cen­tu­ry, inclu­ding one near Fest­nin­gen. The Pomors have also used the area as hun­ting ground. A lar­ge Pomor hun­ting sta­ti­on was at the mouth of the river Lin­né­el­va, some remains can still be seen (the incon­spi­cuous foun­da­ti­ons with pie­ces of bricks; the huts are youn­ger). Also legen­da­ry Ivan Sta­ros­tin used to live here, legend has it that he stay­ed for 32 years, most­ly wit­hout retur­ning to the main­land at all! He died here in 1826 and, appro­pri­at­ly, he is buried in the area; a pile of stones on the ridge near Kapp Sta­ros­tin (near the anten­na) could be his gra­ve.

Remains from the ‘gold-rush peri­od’, during which mine­rals have been inves­ti­ga­ted and claims taken into pos­ses­si­on for the pur­po­se of mining, can be seen at Kapp Mine­ral just east of Kapp Lin­né, a mine ent­rance is still visi­ble whe­re lead and zinc ore was extra­c­ted in the ear­ly 1920s. At Kapp Lin­né, the sta­ti­on Isfjord Radio pro­vi­ded radio com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on bet­ween the various sett­le­ments on Spits­ber­gen and the main­land of Nor­way. In later years, Isfjord Radio was con­nec­ted to the sett­le­ments via anten­nas, which nee­ded to be visi­ble from both sides. The next one is stan­ding at Kapp Sta­ros­tin. The last remai­ning tech­ni­cal staff was remo­ved from Isfjord Radio in 1999, today the sta­ti­on is not neces­sa­ry any­mo­re, sin­ce a glass fib­re cable has been laid from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the main­land. For some years, the buil­dings were still used as hotel Kapp Lin­né during the sea­son (snow mobi­le sea­son Febru­ary – ear­ly May, boat sea­son late June – ear­ly Sep­tem­ber); Gus­tav Hals­vik was the good soul of the loca­ti­on, I can’t ima­gi­ne the place wit­hout him. Unfort­u­na­te­ly, he is not the­re any­mo­re. The hotel is still used occa­sio­nal­ly. The sta­ti­on area is now part of the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge of Spits­ber­gen, it will be inte­res­t­ing to see what will be done with it in the future.



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