The exploitation of the natural resources in Green Harbour, Spitsbergen (78ºN) in the pre-industrial whaling and hunting period
01 / 2007 - 01 / 2011
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - NWO
The exploitation of natural resources started in the 17th century when the European whalers discovered the economical possibilities of the waters around Spitsbergen. Whaling stations were established on many places along the west coast of the main island and the south coast of Edge Island. In the first half of the 17th century whales were caught in the bays of the islands. This changed in the second half of the 17th century and in the 18th century when whaling took place a little further of the coasts because of a change in temperature. The whale was killed in the coastal waters still, but the blubber was not cooked on the coast of Spitsbergen anymore, but at home in the countries of origin. In the 18th century Russian Pomor hunters came to the islands to hunt on walruses, foxes, polar bears and reindeer. These hunters sometimes wintered on these islands as well. The remains of their houses are found on many locations of the coasts of Spitsbergen. This project is focused on the activities of whalers and hunters, their exploitation of natural resources and their mutual influence. The study is composed of field- and archive research. The archive research will be concentrated on the merchant networks and institutions in the countries (Russia, UK and The Netherlands) involved in the exploitation activities. The field research will focus on a pre-industrial European whaling- and Russian Pomor hunting site on Kokerineset at Green Harbour on Spitsbergen. The pre-industrial site Kokerineset was discovered during a preliminary archaeological survey of Green Harbour in 2005. The site contains material culture of the European whaling and the (Russian) Pomor hunting period of the 17th and 18th centuries. A detailed survey of the site has shown many traces of whaling and hunting activities: a double furnace on the shoreline, sod houses on the first terrace and nine graves on the second terrace behind the settlement. The site may produce information about the way man exploited natural resources in the High Arctic during the pre-industrial period and thus opens the possibility for comparison with exploitation of natural resources in the region during the industrial period. The study of building materials and artifacts in situ might give insight in the way people of two totally different cultures were exploiting natural resources during the pre-industrial exploitation period of Spitsbergen and the cross cultural contacts they have had with each other.