Cruising Magdalenafjord

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Flanked by soaring peaks and dramatic glaciers, Magdalenafjord is the most popular anchorage point along the west coast of Spitsbergen, part of Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago bordering the Arctic Ocean. Despite the fjord’s remote location, its dramatic scenery attracts some 20,000 visitors annually. Gravneset Peninsula on the fjord’s southern side is the main landing site, with its stunning beach and a sheltered bay known as Trinity Haven. In 1596, William Barents became the first person to explore the fjord. Eight kilometers (five miles) long and five kilometers (three miles) wide, it later became a whaling center for the English, who were in turn followed by the Dutch. At Gravneset, near the mouth of the fjord, you can still see the remains of two stoves used to boil blubber. And, on a midpeninsula hill, there is a large cemetery with a memorial and the graves of about 130 whalers. Today, however, most visitors to the fjord come to admire the marine life. In addition to fin, humpback and rare Greenland right whales, little auks can be spotted on the shore, along with other bird species including arctic terns, skuas, barnacle geese and eider ducks.