The tradgedy of Svenskhuset
Svalbard offers several thrilling stories, and to imagine what life once looked like here, without electricity or any other modern technique is fascinating. Below can you read about Svenskhuset, a place where dramatic and significant events have occurred.
The so-called Svenskhuset is a wooden house located on Cape Thordsen in Isfjorden on Svalbard. It was built in 1872 on the initiative of Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, since he wanted to extract the minerals that were discovered here during his expedition in the area in 1864. However, the project never really took off, but remains of the house and the small rail that were built are still visible today.
Probably, the house is most known for the series of events often referred to as the tragedy of Svenskhuset. During the autumn of 1872, a seal hunters’ ship got stuck in the ice at Gråhuken in northern Svalbard. The crew was rescued by the members of the Nordenskiöld expedition, who were overwintering in Mosselbukta, but 17 of the hunters, those without families at home, were sent to row 200 miles south in order to reach Svenskhuset, where Nordenskiöld knew they could find victuals stay until spring. A few months later, a rescue expedition from the mainland was sent to retrieve the men but made the horrendous discovery that they were all dead. Some in their beds, some buried outside the house. Not until 2008, after extensive investigations that even included opening the grave where several of the men had been buried, it was concluded that the men had died of lead poisoning, probably because of poorly soldered preserves.
The house was also used during the Swedish physio-meteorological expedition to Svalbard between 1882 and 1883 - Sweden's contribution to the first international polar year. Meteorologist Nils Ekholm and engineer Salomon August Andrée conducted research projects here along with several other researchers, doctors and assistants.
The house is now taken care of by the Sysselman and its surroundings are part of the Isfjorden National Park. Here are all traces of human activity protected as cultural heritage, which also applies to Svenskhuset.