Smeerenburg, Amsterdam Island - Svalbard - 3 - Amsterdam°ya

Svalbard / Spitsbergen pictures, travel in the Arctic

Smeerenburg (literally "blubber town") on Amsterdam Island was first established by Dutch whalers in 1614 as a temporary summer only whaling station. By 1619 a more permanent presence had been made with timber buildings and copper kettles around which the remains of the walls that can be seen in the picture above were made.

By the 1630's Smeerenburg was at its height there were a number of buildings and a fort to help see off whalers from other nationalities who were trying to get in on the act in this place. There were up 200 men working here processing whales ashore and pouring the rendered oil into wooden barrels to be taken back home to Amsterdam.

Seven men overwintered here successfully in 1633-34, a further seven stayed the following winter though all died and overwintering was not repeated.

The latest report of Smeerenburg being in use was from 1657, shortly afterwards it was abandoned in favour of other processing methods.

There are many greatly exaggerated descriptions of the size of Smeerenburg from much later in the 1800's onwards of it being a sizeable town with a summer population of 12,000 to 18,000 men with many buildings of various kinds. Archeological excavations that took place from 1979-81 found no evidence for the more grandiose claims.

79° 52.6' N, 011° 05.2' E

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