The “White Island” of Kvitøya
Kvitøya is located in the far northeast of the Svalbard archipelago, close to the Russian border. Arctic travelers who visit this amazing area can enjoy viewing the colossal icecap of Kvitøyjøkulen, which covers 705 square km (272 square miles).
Kvitøya mammals and birdlife
While Kvitøya is fairly free of wildlife on top of its ice shield, animals are still plentiful on the few clear spots around the edges of the island. Kvitøya is home to the occasional polar bear as well as birds that prefer flat lands for their colonies, such as red-throated divers and Arctic terns. These arrive at Kvitøya during the breeding season, while there is also a robust walrus population (more females than males) that uses the island as a haul-out area.
The expedition history of Kvitøya
Kvitøya was discovered by Dutch navigator Cornelis Giles in 1707, who named the island “Giles Land.” Norwegian whaler Johan Kjeldsen changed the name to Kvitøya in 1876, after which the island became the final stop for a hydrogen balloon crew led by Swedish explorer Salomon August Andrée in 1897.
Attempting to fly over the North Pole, Andrée and his team were forced to set down among the pack ice farther south, then travel to Kvitøya on foot. Sadly, they died on the island, and it was not until 30 years later that a Norwegian sealer found the remains of the ill-fated expedition. A monument to the crew now stands on Kvitøya.