Sjuøyane, or the Seven Islands, are located at the far north of the Svalbard archipelago. As the name implies, this is a group of seven islands: Phippsøya, Martensøya, Parryøya, Nelsonøya, Waldenøya, Tavleøya, and Rossøya.
Rossøya is the smallest and northernmost of the islands, making it the northernmost land of Norway. All of the islands have bizarre hat-shaped mountains, which make ideal breeding grounds for seabirds, and were named for members of the English North Pole expeditions, led by the explorers Phipps and Parry.
When the ice breaks up around the spring (April – May) the islands start to wake up with the return of the seabirds. With huge numbers of little auks being the most common, it’s also possible to see nesting colonies of common and Brunnich’s guillemots, and smaller colonies of Atlantic puffins. Phippsøya is home to one of the few remaining colonies of ivory gulls, which are dwindling in numbers and are now considered to be near threatened.
Location and Activities
The Seven Islands are part of the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, and are known for the walrus that live on a couple of the islands. The best known and most visited haul-out site for walrus is Isflakbukta on the island of Phippsøya. There are often up to 100 walrus lounging in the shallow bay, and they are exceptionally curious creatures, who often approach the beach and visiting groups.
As part of a visit to Isflakbukta, you’ll have the chance to see a cabin which was originally built during the mining expedition of Hans Merckoll in 1936. This small emergency cabin features two small bunks, and a basic deck area, with an entrance way used for storing firewood. It’s interesting to imagine spending the night here, but for sailors who sank their ships off the shore, it must have been a welcome sight.
Polar bears can also be seen anywhere on the islands. Some stay year-round on the islands, some visit with chunks of drift ice as they pass the islands. More ice in the area generally means more bears, as they hunt for seals which sleep on the passing chunks of ice. There have occasionally been Arctic fox and reindeer seen on the islands too, but numbers are low, and you’re more likely to see bears than foxes.