Sailing along the West Coast
Cruise ships usually sail only along the west side of the archipelago. After rounding the South Cape (Sørkapp) of Spitzbergen the ship passes the 15km/9mi-wide Hornsund, which even in summer is often covered with thick drift ice. Above its coasts rise Alpine peaks (Hornsundtind, 1,431m/4,695ft) and mighty pinnacles (Sofiekammen, 925m/3,035ft).
Some 50km/30mi north of the wide Bellsund is the Isfjord (100km/60mi long including its branches), which cuts more than halfway across the island of Spitzbergen. While the north side is partly covered by glaciers, the south side falls down to the fjord in steep-sided tabular hills. In this fjord are the two principal settlements on the island, Longyearbyen on Advent Bay and Barentsburg on the Grønfjord.
Up the west coast, in the Forlandsund, is the long island of Prins Karls Forland with its jagged glacier-covered peaks (Monacofjell, 1,084m/3,557ft). Beyond the northern tip of the island the Kongsfjord is seen on the right, with the pyramidal peaks known as the Tre Kroner (Three Crowns, 1,225m/4,020ft) rising above a 14km/9mi-wide glacier.
On the south side of the Kongsfjord lies the former mining settlement of Ny Ålesund (mines closed down in 1962 after a number of accidents). Features of interest in the little town are the Ny Ålesund Railway (steam engine of 1909), a monument to the mining history of Spitzbergen; the world's most northerly post office (special postmark); and the airship mooring mast from which Roald Amundsen set out in the airship "Norge" in 1926 to fly over the North Pole (monument commemorating the flight). Two years later Umberto Nobile also set out from here in an airship but was wrecked on the return flight, and Amundsen was lost in the course of a rescue mission.
To the north of the Kongsfjord are the Krossfjord and the Møllerfjord, with Møllerhavn. Some 30km/19mi north are the Sju Fjella - seven rivers of ice reaching down to the sea between steep and jagged rocks. Still farther north is the Magdalenefjord, at the head of which is the Waggonway glacier, 2km/1.25mi-wide, with a cliff-like front up to 100m/330ft high.
To the north of Magdalenefjord lies the island of Danskøy (Danes' Island), at the northwestern corner of Spitzbergen. In 1897 a Swede named Andrée set out from here to fly to the Pole in a balloon, but after three days was compelled to make an emergency landing and on the way back on foot through the pack-ice perished on Kvitøy, the most easterly island in the Svalbard archipelago. Both on Danskøy and on the neighboring Amsterdamøy there were whaling bases in the 17th and 18th centuries.
On the north coast of Spitzbergen, which has few glaciers, are two long fjords, the Woodfjord and the Wijdefjord (100km/60mi long), at the head of which are the two highest peaks in Svalbard, Newtontoppen and Perriertoppen, each 1,717m/5,633ft high.