18th century Russian Pomor station

The ruins of Svalbard’s Slavic hunters

18th century Russian Pomor station

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Exploring the Pomor past

The Pomors, a Russian people from the coasts of the White Sea, are thought to have begun building hunting stations in Svalbard as far back as the late 1500s, possibly before that. In fact, the Pomors have the longest evidenced history of activity in the Svalbard archipelago, with some stations active all the way into the 19th century. They leave behind a bounty of artifacts for Arctic visitors to enjoy.

Pomor whaling stations

Like the Dutch and British whalers, Pomors established multiple stations to accommodate their hunts. The Pomor bases, however, were commonly on the larger side, containing forges, storage houses, even saunas. Up to 20 hunters wintered at these stations, of which perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic were their wooden orthodox crosses. Sadly, most of these crosses have fallen to the elements or have been used as firewood by later residents.

Finding the Pomor ruins

We attempt to visit two 18th century Pomor stations during our Arctic voyages: One station is located at Tryghammna, a small bay whose name translates to “safe harbor,” and another at Kapp Lee, a headland on the northwestern coast of Edgeøya. Tryghammna is a lush fjord arm that features a variety of mosses, with likely reindeer and foxes in addition to its Pomor site. At Kapp Lee you’ll find wooden Pomor huts still relatively intact despite over a century of withstanding the harsh Arctic conditions. These conditions might make a landing impossible, but if not, enjoy a walk among weathered structures that can transport you to a distant time in which they were still very much in use.

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