Lookout post

Even though humans only discovered Spitsbergen in 1596 (by the Dutch explorer William Barentsz), there is already a rich history. Whaling by Dutch and British whalers, several scientific expeditions, attempts to reach the pole, Norwegian and Russian trappers and the second world war all left their remains in the landscape. According to Norwegian law everything from before 1946 is to be considered cultural remain and has to be left alone. This makes these remains from 1945 one of the most recent cultural remains to be found on the archipelago. This is a German weather station called Haudegen in Rijpfjord on the north coast of Nordaustlandet. In the summer of 1944 11 Germans lead by Wilhelm Dege were dropped here by submarine to record the weather and sent regular records to Norway. This was important to make accurate weather forecasts for the northern shipping route to Murmansk.

20170902_Arjen_Drost_52547-HDR
Lookout on the hill above the station

Even though the station was in one of the most remote locations of the archipelago, they still needed to have somebody at watch to see if they were not discovered. This small observation post is located on a hill above the main station and is extremely well hidden. Built in a crack between the rocks and partially covered in stone you nearly have to be next to it before you notice it. This was my third visit to this place and the first two I made it to the top of this hill without noticing the hut. This time one of the colleagues knew about the hut and pointed it out to me.

How it ended with the people in the station? Well, they were supposed to be relieved in the summer of 1945, but of course none came (as the war ended in May of that year). As soon as Wilhelm Dege heard the war was over, he stopt encrypting the weather reports he made, so everybody could make use of it. He continued doing so until the beginning of September 1945 (4 months after the end of the war) when a Norwegian sealing ship showed up. After a small celebration, they must have been quite happy, they surrendered and were taken to Norway, making them the last Germans to surrender in Europe.

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.

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