This august, the expedition vessel M/V Ortelius, owned by the Dutch company Oceanwide Expeditions, will host over 60 scientists for the largest Dutch scientific expedition ever to the Arctic. “Scientific Expedition Edgeøya Spitsbergen” takes researchers from a wide variety of disciplines to one of the most remote areas of the archipelago. The main purpose of the expedition is to measure the effects of human activities in the Arctic.

The M/V Ortelius is the working horse in the Oceanwide fleet. The former Russian ship currently is the strongest passenger expedition vessel available having the ice class L1 (1A). Additionally, the ship is equipped with a helicopter pad and hangar which allows trips and expedition cruises beyond the normal routes. Picture: Michael Wenger
The M/V Ortelius is the working horse in the Oceanwide fleet. The former Russian ship currently is the strongest passenger expedition vessel available having the ice class L1 (1A). Additionally, the ship is equipped with a helicopter pad and hangar which allows trips and expedition cruises beyond the normal routes. Picture: Michael Wenger

Edgeøya is an island located in southeast of the Spitsbergen archipelago. It forms part of the Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, home to the polar bear and reindeer. The island is 5,073 km2 (1,960 sq mi) in area, making it the third largest in the Spitsbergen archipelago. Going back in history, it was first mapped by a Dutch whaler named Joris Carolus in 1614. The island gained its name two years later when an English ship sailed by in 1616 captained by Thomas Edge, for whom the island is named.

Mark Van der Hulst, Technical director at Oceanwide (second on left), and Frits Steenhuisen (on the far left) from the University of Groningen discuss the setup of laboratory equipment on one of the outer decks of the Ortelius. Picture: Oceanwide Expeditions
Mark Van der Hulst, Technical director at Oceanwide (second on left), and Frits Steenhuisen (on the far left) from the University of Groningen discuss the setup of laboratory equipment on one of the outer decks of the Ortelius. Picture: Oceanwide Expeditions


Kapp Lee, on the island Edgeøya, was the location of the original Dutch polar research station from 1968 until it was abandoned in 1988. During those 20 years a large amount of data was collected on a range of subjects. The expedition in 2015 is a unique opportunity to go back to the original locations and collect new data that can be compared with the historic datasets. This will provide insight in the changes that have taken place in the last 20 to 40 years. The group of scientists (biologists, archaeologists, geologists, social scientists) will study the distribution of seabirds and whales, the ecology of walruses and seals, the effects of human use of nature, and social science research on the different perspectives of researchers, tourists and local residents of Spitsbergen.

For the ten day trip and the 60 scientists, a lot of material needs to be stowed in the vessel. Luckily, the ship’s capacity is enormous and allows the storage of large amounts of equipment. Picture: Oceanwide Expeditions.
For the ten day trip and the 60 scientists, a lot of material needs to be stowed in the vessel. Luckily, the ship’s capacity is enormous and allows the storage of large amounts of equipment. Picture: Oceanwide Expeditions.

Besides the scientists, the expedition will also accommodate tourists that have the opportunity to follow the scientists up-close and get first-hand information about the results and theories. A special place on board is reserved for three scientists (de Groot, Oosterveld and de Korte) that worked at the original research station in 1968 and even spent the winter on Kapp Lee in a comfortable shelter, surrounded by 24 hours of darkness and hungry polar bears. The entire trip is planned for ten days and will cover the entire area of Edgeøya and the south of the second island Barentsøya.

It is not the first time that a ship of Oceanwide Expeditions is involved in scientific work. In the past, the Ortelius as well as the Plancius had helped to obtain scientific data or transported scientists to their remote and hard-to-get field stations. As an AECO member, Oceanwide Expeditions is committed to responsible exploration of the Polar Regions and relies, among others, on scientific research to minimize the impact of human activities in these unspoiled remote areas.

Source: Oceanwide Expeditions, www.oceanwide-expeditions.com