It is incredible when sailing around the pristine environments of Smeerenburgfjorden, that this place with so clear and fresh air has once been filled with the smell of boiling blubber.
The name of the fjord also embeds this history as Smerenburg means blubber town. It was here where the Dutch in the 17th century caught thousands of bowhead whales and even though the traces of this history is only vague in the cultural landscapes…
…paintings tell a story and myths of a town inhabited by 20.000, being a town with shops, bakeries, warehouses, church, fortresses, bars and brothels.
Truth is that this place, situated in one of the most spectacular settings was inhabited by 200 men. Nevertheless its history changed ecosystems with its massive intrusion and exploitation of a grand and slow creature, emphasizing the frailness of Arctic environments. The frailness of anthropogene influences, being fishing, hunting, mining, exploiting, traveling, tourism or merely just moving around in the landscapes.
Today animals walk peacefully around, they slumber as if their peace had never been disturbed.
But right across Smeerenburg is another story embedded in the place name of Virgohamna.
Here old stone structures almost camouflaged in the landscapes between natural rock and iron piles being a contrast as well as a naturally in color with the spring colors of the Arctic, tells a story of polar expedition history. It was here the starting points for expeditions to reach the North Pole were placed. It was here in these grand surroundings balloon sheds, airships, hangers and gas production works, going all the was back to 1636 where the station is said to be started, transforming the horizon of mountains…
…to be horizons with traces of man.
“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon”.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Maybe it was this belief, this hope and conviction, that has drawn man to this far end of the Arctic