17th-century whaler graves on Spitsbergen threatened by melting permafrost. Deterioration of the permafrost due to climate change could endanger the conservation status of 17th-century whaler clothing in an old burial ground on Ytre Norskøya, off the coast of the island of Spitsbergen (Norway). In 1980, during the Smeerenberg project, a unique collection of woollen and silk clothing was excavated, but more recent excavations of eroding graves on Spitsbergen did not find much clothing. Permafrost thaw may have accelerated the break-down of fabrics. An expedition was undertaken to investigate the permafrost and the surface conditions of the graves in the entire burial ground. The soil conditions were scanned using three geophysical techniques, the burial ground was mapped with a drone, and the graves were measured and described by archaeologists. In this paper, we describe our methods and show the first results.
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