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august 2005
Last Modified:
august 2005

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Location description

Spitsbergen, also knows as Svalbard, is located in the polar sea north of Norway between the mainland and the North Pole. The islands consist of many different layers from many geologic periods. Many kinds of fossils from various geological periods have been found here. The largest island on Spitsbergen are Nordaustlandet, Barentsøya, Edgeøya, Kong Karls Land, Prins Karls Forland, and Bjørnøya. The langscape is mountainous, little vegetation, and covered by many glaciers.

The location of Spitsbergen changed many times during the many geological periods. In the Cambrian, it was located near the southpole, and in the Devonian near the equator.

The rocks from the Precambrium, Cambrium and Ordovicium tijdperken are mostly concentrated along the westcoast of the islands. The Precambrian rocks in the northwest are strongly metamophosed (recrystalised because of high temperature and pressure). In the Cambrian and Ordovician limestone was deposited. In the limestone you can find trilobites, graptolites, and other fossils.

In the Silurian period, the Caledonische orogeny (mountain forming phase) took place. The deposits were folded on a large scale and metamophised. Igneous rocks are also known from this period.

In the Devonian period there was an erosion phase. The erosionproducts can now be found as thick conglomerate layers, red sandsone, and shales. In this deposits primitive fishes, the first vertebrates, and primitive plants have been found.

In the Mississippian, Carboniferous period there was a tropical climate. Sandstone and coallayers were deposited. In the coaldeposits you can find plant fossils. In the Pennsylvanian, Carboniferous ther was a much dryer climate. Gypsum, and dolomite was deposited. In the dolomite brachiopods and gastropods have been found.

In the Permian, the Spitsbergen area was an shallow sea. Gypsum and dolomite was deposited again. These sediments contain many fossil brachiopods, silicate sponges and bryozoans. The deposits are exposed along the northcoast of Isfjorden, in the Linnédalen and near Axeløya in Bellsund.

In the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) Spitsbergen mover ever more to the north. Tn the Triassic land sediments as well as marine sediments were deposited. In the marine deposits from the Triassic and Jurassic many fossil bivalves ammonites and belemnites can be found. Fossil reptiles have alse been found.

In the Cretaceous sandstone was formed in river deltas and shallow seas. In the sandstone you can find plant remains, bivalves, gastropods and belemnites. Footprints from Allosaurus have been found too. In the Paleogene period the Greenland and Spitsbergen plates collided. In the west of Spitsbergen the deposits were folded. In the east sand and coal was deposited. In these deposits you can find beautiful plant fossils. Later in the Neogene period volcanic deposits were formed at several locations oon Spitsbergen.

The landscape we now today, was shaped by many iceages at the end of the Neogene period.

Photo 1 of 13

Geological map of Spitsbergen.
Added by: webmaster on 22-03-2012

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Because of the large distance, you best travel to Spitsbergen by ferry or plane from the mainland. The best period for a visit is the summer, because of the pole climate. Because of possible extreme conditions (weather, icebears), only go well prepared!

I do not know exact locations to collect fossils here, but the geological map will help you find good sites. From the main city, (paid) fossil collecting trips are organised.

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Limestone from the Cambrian and Ordovician period: Trilobites and graptolites. From the Devonian period primitive fishes (Cephalaspis tenuicornis and Protopteraspis vogti), the first vertebrates, and primitive landplants are known. Plantfossils (Stigmateria) in the coal layers from the lower Carboniferous period. In dolomite from the upper Carboniferous you can find brachiopods and gastropods. In sediments from the Permian period, you can find many brachiopods, silicate sponges and bryozoans.

In the marine deposits from the Triassic and Jurassic periods you can find bivalves, belemnites and ammonites. Also, reamins of reptiles have been found (i.e. plesiosaurus and Ichthyosaurus). In deposits from the Cretaceous period you can find plant remains, bivalves gastropods and belemnites. In Neogene coal layers many nice plant fossils have been found.

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Other locations in the area

Museum: Svalbard Museum


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