9 Aug ’21

Polarquest2021
#SavetheWhite

Mapping an Abandoned WWII Station in Svalbard

The Polarquest crew have carried out the first drone mapping of the abandoned Nazi station of Knospe in Svalbard.

On August 2nd 2021, members of the Polarquest2021 team conducted an image-based modelling expedition of the Knospe historical site. The operation took place during an on-land fieldwork session near Signehamna, a few hundred metres to the west of Best Explorer’s mooring position.

They deployed a tethered drone over the site, provided by Geographic Research and Application Laboratory (GREAL) and configured by FlyToDiscover. The drone was operated by Gianluca Casagrande (European University of Rome) and Dominik Pałgan (University of Gdansk).

Dominik (left) and Gianluca (right) deploy the drone over Knospe. 
Exploring the Knopse site.

The survey was focused on the central area of the site, with the purpose of creating an aerial image (ortophotograph) and a 3D model of the former base for archaeological documentation and to monitor the site. Provisional versions of both were processed onboard Best Explorer (see below). A final, much more comprehensive work will be performed at the European University of Rome after the expedition. Geological analyses of images will be conducted at the University of Gdansk.

    Sample ortophoto showing remnants of Knospe.
    The overall area 3D model during processing.

    “Knospe” (later identified as “Nussbaum”) was one of several military stations established by Nazi forces after their occupation of the Svalbard archipelago during WWII. It is now a piece of Spitsbergen’s cultural heritage, often reached by tourists, particularly in summer.

    The scanned area had an overall perimeter of about 500 metres and included the zone where most of the remnants of the station are located. Other fragments and debris appear to be scattered over a larger area and some of them were photographed in geotagged high-res images.

    Over 70 years after its demise, the Knospe site shows wooden fragments, rusty metal containers, electric components, broken ceramic tableware and glass bottles, yielding even today precious information about the life of the group who occupied this remote spot of the Arctic and was involved in combat.

    The team continues there expedition around the Svalbard archipelago, and will next be carrying out thermal mapping in Bjokfjorden. Follow the journey using the live tracker below.

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