We took a Zodiac from the ship to the Signehamna landing on the shore of Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
Sailing north on the western side of Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, our next stop was at the Signehamna landing site on Krossfjorden. With an Arctic historian who was part of our expedition team, we hiked about a mile from our Zodiac boat landing site to a small lake that was not visible from the fjord/landing site. Nearby we found the remains of the secret, hidden “Knospe” German World War II weather station. [See further information/history, below.] After lunch our ship sailed by the tidewater glacier at the end of the fjord and we were able to take some scenic photographs.
After hiking about a mile (1.6 km) from the landing site we came across this small lake and an important World War II site, nearby, Signehamna, Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
“Germany’s occupation of Norway in 1940 did not have any consequences for Svalbard and its settlement for a little while. This changed in June 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, as the Barents Sea now got a new strategical significance as gateway for important goods from the western allies for the Red Army. In August 1941, 1,955 Russians and 765 Norwegians were evacuated to the UK and the settlements on Spitsbergen largely destroyed to make sure the Germans would not benefit from them. This was quickly realised in Germany, and the opportunity was used to establish war weather stations. Weather data from the arctic were vital both for central Europe and for attacking the convoys to Murmansk. The importance of those convoys for the war in eastern Europe made both the Germans and the Allies put great effort into attacking and, respectively, protecting them. For Germany, this meant to establish a number of weather stations in the arctic, which the Allies of course tried to prevent. Competition between the different branches within the German military led to the somewhat strange fact that there were often more than one station wintering in Svalbard, whereas one might have done from a meteorological point of view. In 1941-42, the station ‘Bansö’ wintered in Adventdalen near Longyearbyen and ‘Knospe’ in Signehamna in the Krossfjord.
“In 1942, the Norwegians tried to get control over Svalbard again. An attempt was made together with the British with two small ships, the Isbjørn and the Selis. Four German airfcraft attacked the two ships in the night to 14th May in the Grønfjord; Isbjørn was sunk and Selis caught fire and 14 people were killed. The surviving force established a garrison with about 80 soldiers in Barentsburg, which had been largely destroyed in the previous summer. The German weather station Knospe in the Krossfjord was discovered, and a German soldier was shot there. A German submarine, which came to pick the crew of the weather station up, attacked the Norwegian camp in the Krossfjord. This attack also cost the life of one Norwegian. Later that year, the Germans again established a weather station in the Krossfjord on the same site (station ‘Nussbaum’).
“…the war for the weather continued. The Germans kept establishing secret weather stations in Svalbard as well as northeast Greenland and Franz Josef Land. Only in 1944-45, with an increasingly difficult situation in Europe, the Germans ran no less than four staffed weather stations in Svalbard, in addition to other, similar ones elsewhere in the north Atlantic. There is mostly not too much to be seen anymore at the weather stations [sites]. Time and the harsh weather, but mostly souvenir collectors, have taken most of it away, but a few remains can still be seen.” — www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com/spitsbergen-information/history/the-second-world-war.html
The remains of the German World War II remote semi-automated weather station – “Knospe” — that was invisible from the Signehamna landing site on Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
On our hike at the “Knospe” German World War II weather station, Seb, an historian who was an expedition guide sailing around Svalbard with us, told us some stories about the Norwegian – German fighting in Krossfjorden during World War II, related to the weather station. In order to resupply the lead-acid batteries that operated the weather observation equipment and transmitters at the station, every couple of weeks the Germans sailed a submarine into the bay. Sailors would haul up new batteries and inspect the station to ensure that all was working correctly. The Norwegians were successful in capturing one of the submarines and its highly secret and much sought after communications equipment – a fully functional Enigma cipher (code machine) and the accompanying top secret code book. These were forwarded to the Allied code breaking team in Bletchley Park in England where they played a critical role in enabling the Allies to start breaking the codes in secret German military communications. [Bletchley Park was the central site for British (and subsequently, Allied) codebreakers during World War II, located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England; at its peak, some 10,000 personnel (mostly women mathematicians, physicists, etc.) worked at Bletchley and its outstations.]
While the control of the weather stations in Spitsbergen went back and forth between the Germans (who had established them secretly) and the Norwegians, by 1944 control of the stations was less important to the Allies, because with their code breaking capability, the Allies also used the German military’s weather data to assist in Allied military planning. The most critical use of the Spitsbergen weather data was in the planning for D-Day. General Eisenhower argued strongly against the planners who read the weather forecasts and proposed delaying the Allied invasion of Europe (“Operation Overlord”) because of approaching storms. Eisenhower finally gave in and the amphibious landing and invasion by 160,000 Allied troops along a 50-mile stretch of beaches was rescheduled to June 6, 1944, which resulted in a successful invasion (nevertheless, as anticipated, one costly in terms of casualties and deaths of Allied soldiers). Standing there at the weather station suddenly gave whole new meaning to the stories in books and movies about Bletchley Park and Alan Turing and the D-Day invasion.
Downhill from the weather station was this small pond with beautiful hues in the water, Signehamna, Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
Viewed from our ship at anchor in Signehamna, Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, the tidewater glacier can be seen to be flowing downhill into the fjord (panorama)
The glacier, as seen later in the morning as we sailed by before exiting Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
A close-up of the tidewater glacier ice, Signehamna, Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
Details of the front edge of the tidewater glacier flowing into Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard
Our last glimpse of the tidewater glacier in Krossfjorden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, as our ship turned around to sail out of the fjord
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