logo Hornsund

home page





  Water masses
   and tides

  Ice in the fjord
  Geographical names
  Remains of the past


"Spitsbergen is extremely beautiful.
It combines the three great elements: mountains, sea and ice.
The area of Hornsund belongs to the most spectacular.
It changes its face with weather and season changes."

Stanislaw Siedlecki "Home by the Pole"

Wilczek Peninsula and Hohenlohefjellet in the background

Hornsund is the large southernmost fjord on Spitsbergen and divides Sřrkappland to the south from the Wedel Jarlsbergland to the north.

The fjord's mouth faces west to the Greenland Sea, and is 12 km wide. The fjord length is 30 km, the mean depth is 90 m, and the maximal depth is 260 m. Hornsund cuts different geological formations, from the Precambrian to the west to the upper Mesozoic to the east, and it is perpendicular to the main regional fractures of Spitsbergen. The coastline of Hornsund is very diversified, with a number of embayments constituting mouth parts of valleys filled up with glaciers of mountain type protruding into the sea. Some of these embayments have appeared as late as the beginning of the last century due to recession of glaciers. Recession of Horn Glacier The area and coastline of Hornsund has been gradually expanding following the retreat of glaciers. There is good archival documentation dating back to 1900, showing the changes in glacial range. During the 20th century, the fjord area has increased by 100 km2, expanding 1 km2 per year in recent decades. In the period 1961 - 1985 individual tidewater glacier fronts retreated 125 to 380 m per year.

There is some evidence based on marine fauna research that Hornsund is in fact a strait (sund) bridged on its eastern side with glaciers.

Hornsundtind, 1431 m a.s.l.
high peak conquered first time in 1938 during German research expedition led by dr H. Rieche.

Wienertinden, 925 m
Mountain massifs aligned longitudinally and coastal plains dominate in the landscape of the Hornsund surroundings. Plains are mainly marine terraces.

The mountain ranges surrounding Hornsund are well visible from the windows of Polish Polar Station. The most spectacular is Hornsundtind (1431 m a.s.l.), the highest peak of south Spitsbergen of alpine character.
Fugleberget (569 m) and Ariekammen (517 m) are the peaks situated nearest to the station. The watershed of these mountains, and the river in nearby glacier-free Revdalen valley provide the focus of hydrological research.

The 10 m high cross on Wilczekodden peninsula was erected by Polish researchers in 1982.

Coastal plains are covered with very rich tundra vegetation. Mountain slopes and cliffs are breeding places for numerous sea birds in the summer. The most numerous species is little auk. Birds nest on tundra as well. You will meet here also polar foxes and reindeer. Hornsund is the region where the most important movements of polar bears between western parts of Spitsbergen and Storfjorden take place throughout the year.

The Hornsund area is situated within South Spitsbergen National Park, containing Wedel Jarlsbergland, Torellland and Sorkappland with adjacent waters.
Due to the unique and pristine richness of the marine fauna and flora in Hornsund, it was nominated (along with Kongsfjorden) as one of the 12 European Biodiversity Flagship Sites by the 5th Framework Programme of the European Community.

Sofiekammen range and Hans Glacier in front of it

Water masses

Warm Atlantic water from Westspitsbergen Current, cold arctic waters from Sorkapp Current and mixed waters of shelf origin are all present in Hornsund. Brepolen, the innermost fjord bay, contains dense, cold water with salinity over 34 psu (practical salinity units) and temperatures below -1.5°C all year (below the normal freezing point due to very high salinity and density). Melt water from glaciers in Hornsund is discharged in large amounts, estimated to be 0.7 km3 per year. This causes surface water salinity in the inner fjord basins to drop below 28 psu. Sea currents enter Hornsund along its southern coast, and exit along the north coast. At glacier faces, local upwellings may occur seasonally.

Snow and ice melting introduce a lot of of mineral particles to the fjord, ranging up to 100 mg/dm3 at glacier bays and 10 mg/dm3 in the central part. These suspended mineral particles cause the water transparency to range from 0.5 m in the inner fjord area to 13 m in the central part.

Tides in Hornsund are regular, moon, M2 type of 1.8 m maximal amplitude. West Spitsbergen lays on the same cotidal line, so tides in Longyearbyen and Hornsund are in similar phase.

Ice in the fjord
Inner fjord basins are ice covered for 3 to 7 months per year with stable fast ice. From December to July irregular inflows of ice pack from Storfjorden are observed, with rare inflows of multi-year ice from Olgastretet and Hinlopen.

do góry

Geographical names

Norwegian phrases in the names:
   berget - mountain
   breen - glacier
   dalen - valley
   elva - river
   kammen - ridge
   odden - peninsula
   tind, tinden, toppen - peak
   vika, hamna, bukta - bay

The name Hornsund was given during the trip of an English whaler named Jonas Poole on board the ship "Amitie" in 1610. He visited the fjord during stormy and icy conditions and so presumed the fjord was a strait (Norwegian name sund). Ships crew landing on shore found a reindeer antler (horn), resulting in the name "Horn sund".

The area to the north of Hornsund is named after Norwegian ambassador in France, Baron Wedel Jarlsberg, advocate of the Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard during the conference in Versaille.

Hornsund was investigated and charted in 1872 by an Austrian expedition led by Count Johann (Hans) Nepomuk Wilczek. The expedition arrived into Hornsund on board the Norwegian seal hunting boat "Isbjřrn" ("Polar Bear"). Several geographical names are associated with this expedition, including Wilczekodden, Isbjřrnhamna (from the ship's name), Hansbreen, the peaks of Wienertinden and Princesstoppen, and the ridges of Sofiekamen and Luciakammen (named after Wilczek's daughter's).

Some of the names come from the names of local animals, like Revelva (Fox River), Gĺshamna (Goose Bay), Fugleberget (Bird Mountain, from the thousands of little auks nesting on its slopes), Ariedalen and Ariebreen (from "arias" sung by little auks). Other names were given by research expeditions or originated from names of characteristic features of the terrain.

Look also at Polish names on Spitsbergen (explanations in Polish only) do góry

Remains of the past

Human activity left remains of whaling stations, trappers huts, graves, and research expedition installations in Hornsund.

Whaling stations were used in the area in the first half of the 17th century by British and Dutch whalers. The remains of buildings, camps, stoves, whale bones, and whalers' graves are concentrated in Gĺshamna and Gnĺlodden. Small towers from which men searched for signs of whales (lookouts) were located in the area of Gĺshamna - Hofferpynten, Wilczekodden and Marmorneset.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Russian hunters were active in Hornsund, there are remains of huts, crosses and graves.
Norwegian hunters arrived in the first half of the 19th century, looking for walruses, bears and foxes. Wooden traps were used for foxes, while polar bears were killed with simple baited self shooting mechanisms. Huts were erected from driftwood, stones, and boat parts, as well as materials transported from the mainland.

Some hunter's huts are still standing in the following places:

  • Eastern side of Gĺshamna, base of Hohenlohefjiellet (Camp Erna from 1919) maintained by summer archeological groups from Jagiellonian University (Kraków), Coast of Hyttevika bay (Claus Andersen hut from 1907), Wilczekodden peninsula (Isbjřrnhamna hut from 1936), Gnĺlodden peninsula (hut from 1935), Treskellen peninsula (hut from 1974).
    All the above mentioned huts are maintained by Polish Polar Station crew and are often used as summer camps.
Claus Andersen-hytta at Hyttevika bay is often used
by Polish researches during their field work

The remains of Norwegian and Russian hunting huts can be found in following locations:

  • Bjornbeinflyene, Palffyodden, Schonningholmane-Hoferpynten, Gnĺlodden, Ariebukta - northern shore of Revelva river, Worcesterpynten, Russepynten, Dunřyane, West shore of Gĺshamna bay (Grodahlhuset), Treskellen peninsula.

From the period of Russian-Swedish "Arc of Meridian Expedition 1899/1902" come the remains of winter hut called Konstantinovka (at Gĺshamna). do góry

site map, references and links