Smeerenburg

The settlement of Smeerenburg on Amsterdam Island in north-west Svalbard, originated with Dutch whalers in 1617: one of Europe's northernmost outposts. During the first intensive phase of the Spitsbergen whale fishery, Smeerenburg served as the centre of operations in the north. (The name "Smeerenburg", in the Dutch language, literally means "blubber town"). The image at right shows the concretized remnants of whale oil that built up around the large (ca. 2-3m diameter) copper kettles in which the blubber was rendered. Leftover blubber was used as fuel for the fires.

The summer population of Smeerenburg has been estimated by the Dutch archeologist Louwrens Hacquebord (1987) to have numbered around 200.

Around 1660, with the decline of bay whaling, the settlement became abandoned.

In 1973 the ruins of Smeerenburg became part of Norway's North-West Spitsbergen National Park. [Comments made on location by Oceanwide expedition guide, 3 August 2005; confirmed by Prestvold, p. 2]

References

*Conway, W. M. 1906. No Man's Land: A History of Spitsbergen from Its Discovery in 1596 to the Beginning of the Scientific Exploration of the Country. Cambridge: At the University Press.
*Ellis, R. 1991. Men & Whales. Alfred A. Knopf.
*Prestvold, Kristin. 2001. Smeerenburg Gravneset: Europe's First Oil Adventure. Translated by Richard Wooley. [pamphlet] . Longyearbyen, NO: Governor of Svalbard, Environmental Section. (24 pp., no ISBN, available from the gift shop of the Svalbard Museum, Longyearbyen, NO.)


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