Calypsobyen [77° 33.5' N 14° 32' E]
By Bjørn Fossli Johansen (ed.), Jørn Henriksen, Øystein Overrein, Kristin Prestvold
One of the Northern Exploration Company’s (NEC) largest installations was established at Calypsostranda, just north-west of Recherchefjorden. Coal was extracted here in the early 1900s, but the enterprise never attained full production. Today, Calypsobyen offers an exciting landing that gives visitors a glimpse of the era of Neo-Industrialism, when all opportunities for profit were tried out.
The history of Calypsobyen
At Calypsostranda, on the southern shore of Bellsund, there is a cluster of buildings erected by the NEC in 1918-1919. The beach (Calypsostranda) and the cluster of buildings (Calypsobyen) were named after the HMS Calypso, which belonged to the British Navy Training Squadron that surveyed the area in 1895. Bellsund was one of the strongholds of the NEC’s activity at the beginning of the 20th century. Attempts were made to extract coal at Calypsostranda and in the years following World War I the NEC erected several buildings on the site to support the mining operations. At the time Calypsobyen housed the company’s headquarters.
The coal seam surfaces right on the beach, but the deposit soon proved too small. Calypsobyen is also very exposed to weather. Swells often wash directly onto the north-facing beach and there is no shelter. Landings and shipping of coal was almost impossible to carry out. Like many other NEC ventures, this one was also short-lived: it was shut down in 1920.
Brief description of the site:
On the beach, a narrow gauge railway with carriages, several boat wrecks and a big barge are among the equipment left over from the mining era
Calypsobyen is one of the largest installations for coal mining in Svalbard, except for modern ones in operation today. In Calypsobyen there were a total of eight buildings of different age and function – six of them are still standing, even with some original furniture. For these reasons the installations have a significant historical value and also a high utility value today. Calypsobyen is on the Governor of Svalbard’s list of high priority cultural heritage sites. Substantial repairs were done in 1993, 1995 and 1998-1999. Smaller repairs have been undertaken in recent years.
The cultural remains and the Arctic terns close to the landing site are all vulnerable to human comings and goings.
Land directly at the beach Calypsostranda, but avoid the railways and other cultural remains close to the shore. Be aware of nesting Arctic terns in and around the barge on the beach.
The tundra behind Calypsobyen offers opportunities for a pleasant hike.
Published May 2009
Norwegian Polar Institute