André Ruiter Historic Landscapes

Colesbukta

An abandoned Russian settlement in Spitsbergen

About the project

Grumant (or Grumantbyen) was a Russian mining town in Spitsbergen, the largest of the Svalbard archipelago’s islands. It was founded in 1912 and abandoned in 1965. Colesbukta was originally a whaling station but served as port for Grumant. Both settlements were connected by a 6km long railway. The population peaked at 1,106 in 1951-1952.

Grumant and Colesbukta are abandoned now and the remains are suffering from the harsh conditions of the arctic climate. I visited Colesbukta on 16 April 2006 during a snowmobile trip to Barentsburg. It was impressive to wander around this ghost town. The abandoned houses, the small cemetery and the desolate environment. I tried to imagine how it was like when the village was inhabited.

I think my love for photographing historic landscapes started here, although it took me another three years before I really embraced this theme after my visit to Bluie East Two in Greenland.