History of Edge Island

Kapp Lee and the Storfjorden

Edge Island is a Norwegian island situated in the southeast of the Svalbard archipelago; with an expanse of 1,960 sq mi (5,073 square kilometers), it is the third-largest known island in this archipelago.

An Arctic archipelago, it forms part of the famous Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, home to reindeer and polar bears. A gigantic ice field covers its mysterious eastern side.

History – Edge Islands

The history of Edge Island’s discovery has been sadly a matter of dispute. Thomas Edge, signing in 1622 CE, announced the island was discovered by one of his ships in 1616 CE. However, Joris Carolus, in a map printed in 1614 CE and supposedly based on calculations made by him the same year, shows what seems to be Edge Island’s south coast. Carolus revealed the coastline cut into two parts: “Morfyn” in the east and “Onbekende Cust” (meaning “Unknown Coast” in Dutch) in the west.

Islands are registered offshore of Morfyn. Martin Conway claimed in 1901 CE that Carolus’ chart indicated he found Edgeøya, but, as Wielder points out, Conway was unaware of a map (inscribed in 1612 CE) by the Dutch cartographer Petrus Plancius, which represented a coastline to the east of Spitsbergen. The coastline, which ranged with islands offshore, was named “Gerrits Eylant.” Wielder believed this to be the first reported record of Edge Island’s south coast.

Schilder, a specialist on Dutch cartography, said Carolus simply copied both coastlines from precious charts. At the same time, he also thought that Plancius had copied some important names from a chart by Mouris Willemsz, not known to Wielder, that was published in 1608 CE or earlier by Cornelis Claeszoo. Willemsz’s chart, which Schilder says confirms Edge Island labeled as “Groen Landt,” doesn’t show Edge Island at all but only shows one coastline (not two) that is thought to represent Spitsbergen. In fact, what seems to be Bjørnøya is demonstrated to the southeast of Spitsbergen. Plancius had thus only produced a duplicate Spitsbergen.

Carolus, as well, made a copied Spitsbergen, as his Morfyn has a resemblance to Willemsz’s Groen Landt. This would symbolize that the island would not have been found until 1616 CE, as claimed by Edge. A 1617 CE letter written between the English whalers proves that Europeans had found the island at least at that late of date, or earlier, as Edge claimed.

While no significant settlement grew upon Edge Island, walrus hunting and whaling were extensive industries in the area until it was banned. Remains of these can be seen offshore of Bölscheøya or Edgeøya in the Thousand Islands group.

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