Svalbard - Hinlopen Strait
The gateway to Northern Svalbard
Information about Svalbard- Hinlopen Strait
Hinlopen Strait (or "Hinlopenstretet" in Norwegian) is a narrow channel between Spitsbergen and the Svalbard island of Nordaustlandet, often accessed via Freemansundet. At only 6 miles wide in places, the channel is often filled with pack ice and is impossible to navigate in the early parts of the season.
When ice at the north end of Hinlopenstretet still hinders the complete circumnavigation of Spitsbergen, longer Svalbard cruises will attempt to the explore the mid and southern section of the strait before heading back around the southern end of Spitsbergen. Many expedition leaders are keen to get into the strait that has tow of the highlights in the whole of Svalbard.
The ice cliff of Bråsvellbreen and the bird cliff at Alkefjellet. Both featured in the opening credits of the BBC Frozen Planet series. When it does clear, it opens up the possibility for cruise ships to circumnavigate Spitsbergen and the neighboring island of Nordaustlandet. This is uninhabited, and part of the Svalbard Nature reserve. Heavily glaciated, and with permanent ice cover in parts all year round, it's a beautiful landscape eroded by moving ice over millions of years.
The areas that do melt are classic arctic tundra and are home to roaming herds of reindeer. The shores of Nordaustlandet and north-east Spitsbergen are also used by walrus, and it's a highlight of trips here to observe them hauled out on the beaches.
Interesting facts about Svalbard- Hinlopen Strait
Our expert guide says: "The Strait usually starts to open up from its southern end as the sea ice melts. As you enter Hinlopenstretet you will very soon realise that you are truly entering the High Arctic, and the landscape becomes "polar desert" with very little vegetation. However, the area is rich with wildlife, including polar bears and several species of ducks and geese."