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Palanderbukta, Spitsbergen
Palanderbukta, Spitsbergen

The second largest island of the Spitsbergen archipel is Nordaustlandet. Due to its more northeastern position (further away from the gulf stream) this island has an even harsher climate as the main island. This, together with a lack of nutrients results in very little vegetation. Most of the non-glaciated parts are polar deserts. However, every now and then one finds some patches of vegetation like in this image. On closer inspection a white bone can be found on the left hand side of the patch. This is part of a whale vertebra that washed ashore thousands of years ago. In this time the land has risen due to isostatic rebound and the bone has very slowly released its nutrients, mainly phosphorous and calcium. This resulted in little growth of vegetation and one of the few green patches in the area…

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.


  • Such a fascinating environment… gravel plains; and i believe very little precipitation. Am off to google ‘isostatic rebound’ and look forward to learning more in your next post.


    • Very little precipitation indeed.
      Isostatic rebound is the effect that land rises after the melt of large glaciers/ice caps. During the last ice age Nordaustlandet was covered by one large glacier. All this ice pressed the land down (into the magma). Now the ice has melted partly (there are still huge ice caps on the island) the land bounces back up. A bit like when you have a piece of wood in the water with something heavy on top of it and then remove the heavy thing. In contrast with the wood does the land only rise very slowly (still a few cm a year, if I’m correct) and therefor we sometimes find beach ridges or whale bones 100s of meters inland and sometimes tens of meters above sea level.

      And thanks again for the compliment and the comment. Nice to have some interaction 🙂


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