Deep tunnels beneath the mountain, exit at the base of the glacier, with 200-metre thick ice overhead. Svartisen, Norway’s second largest glacier, is the site of an independent glaciological research laboratory, built in 1995 for researchers around the world.
However, for passengers on the Hurtigruten sailing between Nesna and Ørnes, the sight of Svartisen is so spectacular that the image is instantly frozen into their memories.
At approximately 370 square kilometres, Svartisen is Norway’s second largest glacier after the Jostedal Glacier. It stretches across the municipalities of Meløy, Rødøy, Beiarn and Rana, between the Holandsfjord, Glomfjord and Melfjord in the west, and Blakkadalen in the east.
Despite being the lowest lying glacier on the European continent before the last Ice Age retreat, Svartisen is home to several mountains over 1,500 metres high. Snøtinden in the west rises to 1,595 metres above sea level, while the peaks of Sniptinden and Istinden in the east are 1,586 and 1,572 metres above sea level respectively.
Centuries ago, the glaciers in this region stretched their “fingers” all the way to the seashore. Engabreen, a glacier arm of Svartisen, currently stretches almost to the Holandsfjord. However, climatic changes during the past century caused the ice to retreat almost two kilometres, until the 1960s. The glacier then began expanding back down towards the water, but in recent years it has begun shrinking again.
Significant industrial area
The glacier provides resources that are used while striving to preserve nature as much as possible. Melted glacier ice has provided cheap hydroelectric power at Norsk Hydro’s giant plant at Glomfjord (population 1,250) for fertiliser production. Water from the glacier is accumulated beneath the glacier through 45 tunnels to a huge tunnel that ends in a power station down at the seashore. This way every metre of descent is utilized.
Recently, a new industrial park has also been developed to take advantage of the power resources generated in the region.
Glacier and mountain activities
Cruise ships sail into Holandsfjord for a view of Engabreen. Once at port, an excursion to Svartisen Glacier provides the chance for an even closer look at this frozen beauty. Hikers will also find large caves in the limestone mountains in the east of this area with marked trails.