At the head of the valley where Longyearbyen lies, there are two glaciers, Larsbreen and Longyearbreen. Over thousands and thousands of years, Longyearbreen has eroded the mountain beds and pushed out rocks and gravel to create a large moraine. In the surrounding mountains, we can find 40-60 million year old plant and animal fossils. The trip starts in Nybyen, and you don’t need to take many steps before we have left the town behind and are in the wilderness.
There is no obvious path to follow as we make our way up towards the glacier, over the moraine area which changes from year to year. It is quite stony and uneven terrain, but the tempo kept at an easy level, so that we have plenty of time to look for fossils. Along the hike we will stop for a warm drink and a lovely view over the glacier landscape and village.
The mountains, filled with old sediments from rivers and swamps, can be read like ancient books - if you know where to look. On Svalbard, scientists have found signs of life from a billion years ago. Of course, in that era we are talking about microfossils and algal sediments. Most of the major fossils that have been unearthed on Svalbard over the last few decades have been marine reptiles from the Jurassic period, approximately 150 million years ago.
The Jurassic period is most well known for the dinosaurs which inhabited the lands, but the fossils found on Svalbard are marine reptiles, like plesiosaurs, which lived in the ocean. These would have sunk into the seabed when they died, whe they have remained for millenia. The Jurassic was the time of the reptiles, and these marine reptiles could be up to 13 metres long, and weigh up to 3 tonnes. On the Longyear glacier we will most likely find fossils up to 60 million years old.
This is a walking tour, and you must be able to walk approximately 2km through varied terrain. You must ensure you have warm clothing and shoes.
Safety is our highest priority, and the guide needs to be able to give directions you understand. To participate on one of our excursions, it is required that you speak and understand English or one of the Scandinavian languages.