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Ny Ålesund

B = Blom­strand­hal­vøya,
L = Lil­lie­höök­fjord,
M = Møl­lerfjord

Map Kongsfjord-Krossfjord

Gene­ral: Fjord area with beau­tiful and varied land­scape and a long histo­ry. Espe­ci­al­ly the sci­en­ti­fic sett­le­ment Ny Åle­sund attracts more and more visi­tors each year, inclu­ding lar­ge crui­se ships, which is not always very con­ve­ni­ent for the working sci­en­tists. The gulf stream keeps the cli­ma­te rela­tively mild (for regio­nal stan­dards at least) and the fjord open for most of the year. Parts of the are within the Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen Natio­nal Park and thus pro­tec­ted. The smal­ler islands in the Kongsfjord and Kap Guis­sez bet­ween Kongs- and Kross­fjord are Bird sanc­tua­ries, ent­ry or approach clo­ser than 300 met­res are pro­hi­bi­ted during the bree­ding sea­son (15th May to 15th August).

Houses in Ny Ålesund in front of the impressive mountain- and glacier-scenery of the inner Kongsfjord

Hou­ses in Ny Åle­sund in front of the impres­si­ve moun­tain- and gla­cier-sce­n­ery of the inner Kongsfjord.

Geo­lo­gy: Varied. Most­ly base­ment rocks. Around the Kross­fjord pre­di­mi­nant­ly Phyl­li­tes and mica schist, which were defor­med stron­gly both during the Cale­do­ni­an oro­ge­ny (Sil­uri­an) and the Alpi­dic oro­ge­ny (here lower Ter­tia­ry), when lar­ge sheets were over­th­rus­ted. Kongsfjord is quite coml­pi­ca­ted. On the nor­t­hern side, the­re are weak­ly meta­mor­pho­sed car­bo­na­tes (‘marb­le’) of the base­ment, for exam­p­le on Blom­strand­hal­vøya, whe­re opti­mists once star­ted mining (see below). In the inner­most Kongsfjord, the­re are a lot of Devo­ni­an and Per­mo­kar­bo­ni­fe­rous sedi­ments expo­sed, which have also been stron­gly defor­med during the lower Ter­tia­ry, but not meta­mor­pho­sed. This mosaic of brow­nish-red Devo­ni­an sand­sto­nes and con­glo­me­ra­tes (‘Old Red’) and yel­lo­wish-brown, youn­ger car­bo­na­tes and cla­s­tics, which lie direct­ly next to and on top of each other and the base­ment, is very attrac­ti­ve. In the inner­most Kongsfjord, you can see rocks from the base­ment and well into the upper Palaeo­zoic, with beau­tiful fold- and fault pat­terns. Enjoy!

Geological mosaic east of Kongsfjord. The reddish Old Red with a steep cap of hard permo-carboniferous carbonates are quite prominent

Geo­lo­gi­cal mosaic east of Kongsfjord. The red­dish Old Red with a steep cap of hard per­mo-car­bo­ni­fe­rous car­bo­na­tes are quite pro­mi­nent.

Brøg­ger­hal­vøya (Brøg­ger pen­in­su­la) bet­ween Kongsfjord and Engelskbuk­ta is also a geo­lo­gi­cal mosaic of base­ment rocks, Per­mo­car­bo­ni­fe­rous and lower Ter­tia­ry sedi­ments with con­glo­me­ra­tes, sand­sto­nes and coal seams, the lat­ter ones being the foun­da­ti­on of mining acti­vi­ties near Ny Åle­sund, which were aban­do­ned in 1962. The coal was mined well below sea level, the mine was a good kilo­met­re sou­the­ast of the sett­le­ment.

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

Land­scape: Very varied becau­se of the geo­lo­gi­cal mosaic. Moun­tai­neous, ice-free low­land is limi­t­ed and most­ly con­fi­ned to Brøg­ger­hal­vøya bet­ween Kongsfjord and Engelskbuk­ta. The inte­riour is stron­gly gla­cia­ted, and seve­ral lar­ge gla­cier fronts calv into Lil­lie­höök­fjord and Kongsfjord. Well-known moun­ta­ins are the Tre Kro­ner (Three crowns), three striking moun­ta­ins east of the Kongsfjord: Svea, Dana and Nora (Swe­den, Den­mark, Nor­way).

Calving glacier front in the Krossfjord.

Cal­ving gla­cier front in the Kross­fjord.

Flo­ra and Fau­na: Rich tun­dra vege­ta­ti­on, whe­re the topo­gra­phy allows this. Local­ly very rich vege­ta­ti­on below bird cliffs with high bio­di­ver­si­ty. Becau­se of the rela­tively favoura­ble cli­ma­te can flowers beco­me com­pa­ra­tively lar­ge. The bird fau­na is also quite rich, with a num­ber of sea­bird colo­nies on the steep cliffs with Brunich’s Guil­l­emots, Kit­ty­wa­kes, Glau­cous gulls, and very rare­ly even the Razor­bill, which you won’t fine else­whe­re in Sval­bard. Ano­ther orni­tho­lo­gi­cal high­light is the Long-tail­ed Skua which has its only bree­ding site in the Kongsfjord. The tun­dra are­as are important fee­ding sites for geese, most­ly Bar­na­cle geese. The islands are home to lar­ge num­bers of Com­mon Eider ducks. Reinde­er and fox roam over the tun­dra. Even the sett­le­ment Ny Åle­sund has a good num­ber of spe­ci­es to offer, inclu­ding Arc­tic terns which are likely to attack you (just lea­ve them alo­ne, never try to hit them!), pos­si­bly Arc­tic fox, geese, Long-tail­ed duck and may­be even the Ivo­ry gull near the dogyard.

Mister Amundsen in Ny Ålesund using an Arctic tern to cover his head

Mis­ter Amund­sen in Ny Åle­sund using an Arc­tic tern to cover his head.

Histo­ry: Alre­a­dy the wha­lers in the 17th cen­tu­ry knew the Kongsfjord, and the­re are gra­ves and remains of blub­ber ovns at least in Engels­buk­ta. They also knew that the­re was coal on the sou­thern side of the Kongsfjord, as they found bits on the beach. But mining didn’t start in the Kongsfjord – or King’s Bay, as it was cal­led back then – until the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. It never went smooth, only with inter­rup­ti­ons and was aban­do­ned in 1962after a series of acci­dents with casu­al­ties, the last ones even lea­ding to a govern­men­tal cri­sis in Nor­way, as the sta­te was and still is the owner of Kings Bay Kull Kom­pa­ni, now just ‘Kings Bay’, as the­re is no ‘kull’ (coal) mining any­mo­re, but Kings Bay is still run­ning the sett­le­ment.

The mast from which Amund­sen and Nobi­le laun­ched their air­ships.

The mast from which Amundsen and Nobile launched their airships

Very important within the histo­ry of polar explo­ra­ti­on are the attempts of Roald Amund­sen (& Co), Richard Byrd and Umber­to Nobi­le, to fly to the pole in the 1920s.

Inte­res­t­ing and typi­cal for the era is the sto­ry of Blom­strand­hal­vøya. The Eng­lish Nor­t­hern Explo­ra­ti­on Com­pa­ny estab­lished here a mine to extra­ct marb­le, the qua­li­ty of which was dra­sti­cal­ly ove­re­sti­ma­ted, though. After a few years of tri­al mining, ever­y­thing was aban­do­ned, first loads had been ship­ped and tur­ned out to be wort­hl­ess. Remains are still visi­ble.

Houses dating back to the days of the marble trial mine on Blomstrandhalvøya (Moss campion in the foreground)

Hou­ses dating back to the days of the marb­le tri­al mine on Blom­strand­hal­vøya (Moss cam­pi­on in the fore­ground).

The Ger­man Navy ran wea­ther sta­ti­ons in the bay Sig­ne­ham­na in Kross­fjord during the second world war (1941/42 »Knos­pe« and 1942/43 »Nuss­baum«).

Remains of the German war weather station in Signehamna (old batteries in the foreground)

Remains of the Ger­man war wea­ther sta­ti­on in Sig­ne­ham­na
(old bat­te­ries in the fore­ground).

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