Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Published 21.06.2008. Written by Endre Før Gjermundsen.

Field campaign in Austfjorden, Mars/April 2008

"Austfjorden 2008" was the first field campaign for the Icebound project and Endres’ PhD. Even if several samples were collected and lots of geological and geomorphological sites were visited it was a proof-of concept field work before the more sustained field work in Northwest Spitsbergen this season and the fieldwork in the years to come. We now had a chance to see how well our technical approaches to the sample collection worked and receive first test samples for checking our working hypothesis.


As opposed to Northwest Spitsbergen we were staying in huts and did not use tents at all. We had our base in the cosy cabin Overgangshytta, in the innermost part of Austfjorden. This hut is owned by the Longyearbyen Jeger og Fiskeforening (Hunting and fishing organisation). Every week members of the organisation can join a lottery to see if they will be provided the hut for the coming weekend. It’s a nice and popular hut and it is used most weekends. We were staying in the area for one and a half weeks in March. For the weekend we had to move out to Austbotnhytta, a binary station for the Austfjordneset trapping station. This is a very small hut and does not offer much space for 3 people. In addition there were others who wanted to stay in this hut with us. During one of our two nights here a visitor knocked on the door while we were sleeping. The creature managed to enter the hallway, but fortunately he or her was scared by our loud surprised voices after this sudden wake up and the polar bear ran away.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

The participants of this field work were Anne Hormes, Endre Før Gjermundsen and Karsten Piepjohn. Karsten is a structural geologist at the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe in Germany.. Karsten has been actively involved in making many of the new geological maps of Spitsbergen. Karsten was eager to look at some geological structures in bed-outcrops in this area so it suited him well to join our team.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

It was luxury to be able to stay in huts during the whole fieldwork. Even if we were staying at low elevation it’s still very cold in the middle of March, and the huts keep the heat much better than tents. Huts are also a lot safer for polar bears; at least you normally get the time to wake up before they get inside.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Skis were not brought for this fieldwork, so snowmobiles were used for all our longer transportations and we were hiking to reach the steeper areas we visited. We were mainly working on the east side of Austfjorden, between 11 and 865 m a.s.l.. Our geological catch consisted of 20 samples from erratic boulders and trimline sites. We are awaiting preliminary results for some of these samples during the first part of 2009.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

According to similar studies in Baffin Island performed by Jason Briner, earlier work in West Spitsbergen by Jon Landvik and colleagues (2005) and our first results from Nordaustlandet, our working hypothesis is that the fjord systems on Svalbard were covered with fast flowing ice streams during the last glacial maximum. As we sampled boulders in different elevations along Austfjorden we would expect that we might receive a deglaciation story of the fjord system. In spring 2009 we will move to higher elevations and check our working hypothesis that maybe some trimlines have been formed during earlier glaciations than around 20000 years ago.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

During our transfers along Austfjorden, we made 3 looong coffee stops by this year’s trapper couple in Austfjordneset, Nils og Tordis Aga. Each time we entered their door a freshly baked, incredibly delicious chocolate cake was put on the table. We are most certain that these chocolate cakes were the best ever served on Svalbard.

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Photo: Endre Før Gjermundsen

Participants of the field campaign in Austfjorden, Mars/April 2008

Anne Hormes

Anne Hormes

Associate Professor in Quaternary Geology

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Endre Før Gjermundsen

Endre Før Gjermundsen

Ph.D. student, Glacial geology

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