|Bear Island (Bjørnøya)|
|Highest elevation||Urd, Miseryfjellet
<1 inh / km²
|main place||Herwighamna (meteorological station)|
The Bear Island ( Norwegian Bjørnøya ) is located approximately midway between the North Cape and the island of Spitsbergen . It represents the southernmost land mass of the Norwegian territory Svalbard ( Spitzbergen ) and is 178 km² in size.
Bear Island was discovered on June 8, 1596 by the Dutch navigators Willem Barents and Jacob van Heemskerk , who they called Beeren-Eiland after killing a polar bear there . Until the signing of the Svalbard Treaty of 1920, which made the island subject to Norwegian sovereignty, the island was considered a no man's land . In this contract, which in the original languages English and French is written, in addition to the translations is Bear Iceland and Ile aux Ours also each of the Dutch original name Berry Eiland needed.
Despite the remoteness in the Arctic Ocean, the island was often used industrially in the last century ( mining , fishing , whaling ). However, settlements never lasted long. The island is now uninhabited, apart from some researchers from the Herwighamna meteorological station . In 2002 the island, including the surrounding marine area, was declared a nature reserve.
Bear Island was probably already known to sailors from the Viking Age , but the first documented discovery was not made until 1596 when the Dutch sailor Willem Barents sighted it on his third expedition. Steven Bennet explored the island in 1603 and 1604 and observed a large population of walruses . At the beginning of the 17th century, Bear Island was mainly used as a base for hunting walruses and other seal species . In 1861 a Swedish expedition to Spitzbergen took place under the direction of Otto Torell and Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld , which also included Bear Island. By 1971, the eggs of marine bird colonies were looted by commercial gatherers and hunters.
Bear Island was never heavily populated. The remains of a whaling station from the early 20th century can still be found in Walrus Bay (Hvalrossbukta) in the southeast. From 1916 to 1925 coal was mined in a small settlement in the northeast, in Tunheim . However, since the mining was very unprofitable, the settlement was soon abandoned. Here, too, the relics of the past have been well preserved due to the cool, dry climate and are still there today.
The strategic importance of Bear Island was recognized in the late 19th century when Russia and Germany made ownership claims. In 1899, the German Reich Office of the Interior sent the corvette SMS Olga under the pretext that the journey was for hydrographic and oceanographic research under the direction of the German Sea Fisheries Association (DSV) . The scientific crew on board only served as camouflage. The actual plan instructed the captain and the expedition leader to set up a base for German fish steamers on Bear Island, but for the time being to refrain from taking possession of the island. In the years 1898 and 1899 a private expedition with the Heligoland had already taken place under the direction of the journalist and adventurer Theodor Lerner . When the Olga called at Bear Island, the crew found that Lerner had already implemented an essentially identical private plan and claimed the island for themselves.
The Russian Empire also became aware of this confusion in the Barents Sea and sent the cruiser Svetlana to observe what was happening on the island. On July 21, 1899, the Russians set their flag in the north of the island, against which Lerner protested violently. However, the conflict was ended bloodlessly and diplomatically, as no state made any claims to sovereignty.
The entire island was completely privately owned by the mining company Bjørnøen AS between 1918 and 1932 , until the Norwegian state took over the company by buying up all of its shares. In 1919 a radio station was set up in Herwighamna in the north of the island ( Bjørnøya Radio , call sign : LJB), which was later expanded to include a meteorological station.
The island had important strategic importance during World War II and the Cold War , as the shipping routes from Murmansk and from ports on the White Sea to the Atlantic Ocean passed through the waters near Bear Island. Although Svalbard was not occupied by Germany during the Second World War, the Wehrmacht set up several weather stations there , primarily for automatic weather recording and transmission.
In 1942 the German Navy installed an automated weather radio station for the first time on Bear Island . More such weather radios were set up in 1943 and 1944. These stations independently determined weather data and radioed them to the German naval weather service. The stations were located south of Norhamna Bay, where an improvised runway had also been built. In mid-November 1944, the Abwehr , the Wehrmacht's military intelligence service, also set up a manned weather station code-named Taaget between the southeastern Sørhamna Bay and Walrus Bay . The station had a permanent crew of two people: a Norwegian, who died during the operation, and a Ukrainian. Since the station only transmitted inadequate data for a few weeks, this defense is considered a failure. The surviving volunteer was picked up again towards the end of March 1945.
German forces attacked the British northern convoys in the waters around Bear Island. In early July 1942, for example, the Soviet Union suffered major losses during the Rösselsprung operation east of Bear Island. The battle in the Barents Sea at the end of December 1942 also took place immediately south of Bear Island. There were further sea battles in 1943 southeast of the island. In November 1944 the Soviet Union submitted to the Norwegian government in exile under Trygve Lie to the proposal, Svalbard Treaty to cancel. The negotiations did not lead to an agreement until the end of the war and the Soviet proposals were never implemented. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union and later Russia maintained their presence on Svalbard, including the Russian settlement of Barentsburg .
In 2002 the island was declared a nature reserve with the exception of a 1.2 km² area around the meteorological station . The area also includes the surrounding waters within four nautical miles (7.4 km) of the coast. In 2008 the protection zone was extended to twelve nautical miles (22 km). The nature reserve today covers 177 km² on land and 2805 km² on the open sea.
Today the island is uninhabited with the exception of a few people who look after the meteorological station and the radio transmitter in Herwighamna. The station also maintains a helicopter landing station for the Norwegian Coast Guard. The Norwegian Polar Institute undertakes annual expeditions to Bear Island, mainly for the purpose of ornithological research. Other research projects, especially those relating to physical geography or climatology , are carried out irregularly.
There are few options for private individuals to get to Bear Island, as yachts and cruise ships rarely stop there. Tourism is almost non-existent on the island.
Hydrography, Geography and Climate
Bear Island is located 235 kilometers south of Spitsbergen as part of Svalbard and 397 kilometers north-northwest of Ingøy on the Norwegian mainland. It is located in the westernmost part of the Barents Sea on the Spitsbergen Bank , which extends as part of the continental shelf south of Svalbard and Edgeøya . The water depth near the island or east of it is barely more than 100 meters, in the south and especially in the west, where the continental shelf sinks deep into the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea , it is much greater.
The shape of the island roughly resembles a triangle with a tip pointing south, the maximum extent from north to south is 20 and from east to west 15.5 kilometers. The area of the island is 178 km². The southern coast of Bear Island is mountainous with the highest point, the Miseryfjellet , of 563 meters above sea level. Other notable mountains are the Antarcticfjellet in the southeast and the mountains Fuglefjellet, Hambergfjellet and Alfredfjellet in the southwest. The northern part of the island is a flat plain that makes up about two thirds of the island. The flat areas of Bear Island are littered with shallow freshwater lakes, which together cover an area of approximately 19 km². Numerous rivers enter the sea via waterfalls on the steep coastal sections . Bear Island was glaciated until about 9800 years ago , today permafrost conditions prevail.
Apart from a few flat sections of the coast that serve as landing stages or landing zones, the coast, especially in the south and south-east, consists of steep cliffs up to 400 meters high with clear traces of erosion . There is a small port in Herwighamna on the north coast.
Through the foothills of the North Atlantic Current, warm water masses reach Svalbard, which ensures a much milder climate there than in other places with a similar geographical latitude. The climate is maritime-polar with relatively mild temperatures during winter. In the coldest month of January from 1961 to 1990 the average temperature was −8.1 ° C. The warmest months of July and August had an average temperature of 4.4 ° C. Annual precipitation is low at 371 millimeters in the northern flatlands. The weather situation can be relatively stable during the summer months, even if there is fog on around 20 percent of the days in July and August.
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Bjørnøya
Due to the border location of Bear Island between cold polar waters and warm Atlantic waters, the water temperature can be very variable within a few nautical miles. In summer the water temperature can reach 10 ° C. In winter, pack ice reaches Bear Island via the Barents Sea , sometimes as early as October, although the pack ice does not have the greatest extent before February.
A succession of Precambrian to Triassic rocks is completely preserved by the high cliff outcrops. These well-preserved outcrops play an important role in researching the development of the Greenland Sea and the Arctic Ocean . Precambrian to Ordovician dolomites , limestones , quartzites and slate form the Bjørnøyas basement , on which there are Upper Paleozoic sediment sequences.
In the late Devonian or early Carboniferous a tectonically conditioned subsidence took place , probably in response to the NE-SW trench structure that exists today . The sedimentary succession on Bjørnøya is three kilometers thick, which can be distinguished by three discordances : The basis is formed by pre-Devonian sediments, followed by a late Paleozoic basin and a Permo-Triassic platform. The summit area of Miseryfjellet , Bjørnøya's highest point, consists of triadic sediments, which correspond to the youngest solid rocks on the island.
Flora and fauna
There are 54 species of vascular plants on the island . The climatic conditions are particularly favorable to hygrophilic and chionophilic (requiring snow cover in winter) plants and plant communities. Trees are completely absent. The only native mammals are some arctic foxes . Despite its name, Bear Island is not always inhabited by polar bears , but it can happen that many get to the island via the pack ice in the winter months. Occasionally the bears do not manage to return in time after the pack ice border has receded and spend the short summer on the island. Ringed seals and bearded seals , which live in the surrounding marine areas of Bear Island, serve the polar bears as prey. The walruses that used to be so numerous can only be found sporadically.
The only land birds on the island are snow buntings and ptarmigan , but the cliffs are densely of breeding long-tailed ducks , sea beach runners , phalarope , little auks , murres , thick-billed murres , guillemots , puffins , fulmars , kittiwakes , glaucous gulls inhabited. BirdLife International has therefore designated Bear Island as an Important Bird Area (SJ013). Short-billed geese , barnacle geese and other migratory birds rest on the island during their seasonal migration between the northern islands of Svalbard and mainland Europe. Arctic char lives in the island's freshwater lakes .
Although there is no industry on Bear Island or in its immediate vicinity, toxic and radioactive substances reach the island from far away through air pollution. On the bear island in the freshwater lake Ellasjøen, organic toxins, especially PCBs, were detected in high concentrations in biological samples, especially from arctic char . On April 7, 1989, the Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolez sank about 190 km southwest of Bear Island . Recovery has not been possible until today, but the torpedo shaft was temporarily sealed in 1994. Despite the seal, small amounts of radioactive material leak out. A massive environmental pollution of the surrounding waters by radioactive material from the reactor could lead to serious damage in the marine ecosystem in the near future.
The exploration of new oil fields in the Barents Sea or the recent development at the Snøhvit gas field off the northern Norwegian coast show that the environmentally sensitive polar and sub-polar regions of Norway and the Barents Sea have moved into the focus of the oil and natural gas industry. The environmental protection organization Bellona has criticized the fact that the Norwegian government had given the clearance for prospecting recklessly without first sufficiently investigating the ecological effects.
In March 2016, south of Bear Island off the coast of Hammerfest in the Goliath oil field, the starting shot was given for the production of crude oil in the Barents Sea. The € 5 billion joint project between Eni and Statoil envisages the production of 100,000 barrels of oil per day. The oil reserves are estimated at 28.5 million m³, the gas reserves at 8 billion m³. The Goliath oil production platform (of the FPSO type ) is the largest and most northerly in the world. Environmentalists hope the enormous costs will deter other companies from extracting oil and gas in the Arctic.
The 1979 British - Canadian film Bear Island in Hell in the Arctic , based on the 1971 novel Bear Island by Scottish thriller Alistair MacLean , plays on Bjørnøya, but was shot in Canada and England. Martin Mosebach wrote his 2001 novel Der Nebelfürst about Theodor Lerner's story .
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