Sunday, 20 March 2016

Mushamna and Villa Oxford, on the Woodfjorden of Svalbard

Svalbard means roughly “cold coast”. This arctic archipelago is also known under the name of Spitsbergen.

Svalbard Islands, in the North Atlantic ocean, are an arctic archipelago under sovereignty of Norway since 1920. The islands are populated mainly in its capital town Longyearbyen, in an international scientific station, Ny Ålesund, and in a small Russian mining station; all those surrounded by sceneries of breathtaking fjords and glaciers. Besides, there are several wooden huts for traditional hunters' seasonal occupation scattered along the northern coast.

Mushamna, Worsleyhamna (Villa Oxford) and Gråhuken, on the northernmost shores of Svalbard.

Mushamna is a bay on the east shore of Woodfjorden, across from Liefdefjorden, in the farthest northern coast of Svalbard.

Here, the Liefdefjorden meets the Woodfjorden.

Mushamna seen from the fjord

This station has been for many years a seasonal shelter for traditional trappers, hunters who build traps to catch their preys. A cabin is situated on a headland about 1 km north of the lagoon. Another smaller cabin, at Gråhuken, was occupied by the Austrian writer Christiane Ritter in 1930; it's located on the same coast, 15 km to north, at almost 80º N. I have published on the subject in a previous post:

Mushamna, northern Svalbard
Coordinates: 79° 35' N, 14° 00' E

The first trapping station in Mushamna was the work of  Hilmar Nøis in 1927; legendary trapper Reidar Hovelsrud built a new one with driftwood in 1987, and it's now the largest trapping hut in Northern Svalbard.

The cabin has an outer compartment for storing skins, a central compartment with workshop and an inner compartment with living room, kitchen and sleeping area.

Recently a small sauna has been added for comfort:

Around the cabin, piles of fire wood and a rack where food and furs can hung out of reach of the polar bears.

The trapping station with skins of ringed seals hung up to dry.

The tenancy begins late July and lasts for one year. The main prey is the Arctic fox, which is captured using trapdoors or hit traps. Seals, ptarmigan, pink-footed geese and a small number of reindeer are also captured.

An increasing number of visitors from arctic cruises stop by Mushamna for a visit to the site.

The skin rack at twilight

Auroras happen with some frequency, one of the most expected gifts of Nature.

Villa Oxford

Coordinates: 79°41' N, 13°37' W

Worsleyhamna – also known as Villa Oxford – is located on the northern shore in Liefdefjorden. It was built as a satellite station by Hilmar Nøis in 1924. Nøis furnished his cabin with pannels from a transport crate for a seaplane, at the end of the first expedition around Svalbard for mapping and aerial photography.

Let's just hope the number of arctic foxes will always keep in balance...