Spitsbergen

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Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen.png
Map of the Svalbard archipelago, with Spitsbergen emphasized in solid red. Inset shows the islands' place in Northern Europe.
Geography
Location Arctic Ocean
Coordinates 78°45′N16°00′E / 78.750°N 16.000°E / 78.750; 16.000 Coordinates: 78°45′N16°00′E / 78.750°N 16.000°E / 78.750; 16.000
Archipelago Svalbard
Area37,673 km2 (14,546 sq mi)
Area rank 36th
Highest elevation1,717 m (5,633 ft) [1]
Highest point Newtontoppen
Administration
Norway
Largest settlement Longyearbyen
Demographics
Population2,642 (2012)

Spitsbergen (formerly known as West Spitsbergen; Norwegian: Vest Spitsbergen or Vestspitsbergen, also sometimes spelled Spitzbergen) [2] [3] [4] is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 37,673 km2 (14,546 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-largest in the world. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Spitsbergen was covered in 21,977 km2 (8,485 sq mi) of ice in 1999, which was approximately 58.5% of the island's total area.

Norwegian language North Germanic language spoken in Norway

Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties, and some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.

Island Any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water

An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, such as the Philippines.

Svalbard Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area administered by a governor appointed by the Norwegian government. Since 2002, Svalbard's main settlement, Longyearbyen, has had an elected local government, somewhat similar to mainland municipalities. Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers.

Contents

The island was first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which it was abandoned. Coal mining started at the end of the 19th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognized Norwegian sovereignty and established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone.

Whaling hunting of whales

Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber, which can be turned into a type of oil which became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution. It was practiced as an organized industry as early as 875 AD. By the 16th century, it had risen to be the principle industry in the coastal regions of Spain and France. The industry spread throughout the world, and became increasingly profitable in terms of trade and resources. Some regions of the world's oceans, along the animals' migration routes, had a particularly dense whale population, and became the targets for large concentrations of whaling ships, and the industry continued to grow well into the 20th century. The depletion of some whale species to near extinction led to the banning of whaling in many countries by 1969, and to a worldwide cessation of whaling as an industry in the late 1980s. The earliest forms of whaling date to at least circa 3000 BC. Coastal communities around the world have long histories of subsistence use of cetaceans, by dolphin drive hunting and by harvesting drift whales. Industrial whaling emerged with organized fleets of whaleships in the 17th century; competitive national whaling industries in the 18th and 19th centuries; and the introduction of factory ships along with the concept of whale harvesting in the first half of the 20th century. By the late 1930s more than 50,000 whales were killed annually. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks.

Coal mining Process of getting coal out of the ground

Coal mining is the process of extracting coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and, since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United Kingdom and South Africa, a coal mine and its structures are a colliery, a coal mine a pit, and the above-ground structures the pit head. In Australia, "colliery" generally refers to an underground coal mine. In the United States, "colliery" has been used to describe a coal mine operation but nowadays the word is not commonly used.

Svalbard Treaty Treaty recognising Norwegian sovereignty over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard

The Svalbard Treaty recognises the sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, at the time called Spitsbergen. The exercise of sovereignty is, however, subject to certain stipulations, and not all Norwegian law applies. The treaty regulates the demilitarisation of the archipelago. The signatories were given equal rights to engage in commercial activities on the islands. As of 2012, Norway and Russia are making use of this right.

The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol are the only mining companies. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, featuring among others the University Centre in Svalbard and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft, and boats serve as local transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear provides the main point of entry and exit.

Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani Norwegian coal mining company

Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK), or simply Store Norske, is a Norwegian coal mining company based on the Svalbard archipelago. It was formed in 1916, after a Norwegian purchase of the American Arctic Coal Company (ACC).

Arktikugol Company

Arktikugol is a Russian coal mining unitary enterprise which operates on the islands of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. Owned by the Government of Russia, Arktikugol currently has limited mining in Barentsburg. It has carried out mining operations and still owns the towns of Pyramiden and Grumant, with its port at Colesbukta. The company is headquartered in Moscow and is the official agency through which Russia, and previously the Soviet Union, exercised its Svalbard policy.

University Centre in Svalbard university

The University Centre in Svalbard is a Norwegian state-owned limited company that is involved in research and provides some university-level education in Arctic studies. The company is wholly owned by the Ministry of Education and Research, and the universities of Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø, NTNU and NMBU appoint the board of directors. It is led by a director appointed by the board for a four-year term. The centre is the world’s northernmost research and higher education institution, in Longyearbyen at 78° N latitude. The courses offered fall into four main science disciplines: Arctic biology, Arctic geology, Arctic geophysics and Arctic technology.

The island has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other places at the same latitude. The flora benefits from the long period of midnight sun, which compensates for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also supports polar bears, reindeer and marine mammals. Six national parks protect the largely untouched, yet fragile environment. The island has many glaciers, mountains, and fjords.

There are 164 vascular plant species on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. This figure does not include algae, mosses, and lichens, which are non-vascular plants. For an island so far north, 164 species constitutes an astonishing variety of plant life. Because of the harsh climate and the short growing season, all the plants are slow growing. They seldom grow higher than 10 cm.

Midnight sun natural phenomenon when daylight lasts for more than 24 hours, occuring only inside or close to the polar circles

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle, when the Sun remains visible at the local midnight.

Polar night natural phenomenon when the night lasts for more than 24 hours, occuring only inside the polar circles

The polar night occurs in the northernmost and southernmost regions of the Earth when the night lasts for more than 24 hours. This occurs only inside the polar circles. The opposite phenomenon, the polar day, or midnight sun, occurs when the Sun stays above the horizon for more than 24 hours. "Night" is understood as the center of the Sun being below a free horizon. Since the atmosphere bends the rays of the Sun, the polar day is longer than the polar night, and the area that is affected by polar night is somewhat smaller than the area of midnight sun. The polar circle is located at a latitude between these two areas, at the latitude of approximately 66.5 degrees. In the northernmost city of Sweden, Kiruna, at 67°51'N, the polar night lasts for around 28 twenty-four-hour periods, while the midnight sun lasts around 50 twenty-four-hour periods. While it is day in the Arctic Circle, it is night in the Antarctic Circle, and vice versa.

Etymology

Portion of 1599 map of Arctic exploration by the Dutchman Willem Barentsz. Spitsbergen, here mapped for the first time, is indicated as "Het Nieuwe Land" (Dutch for "the New Land"), center-left. Barentsz arctic map.jpg
Portion of 1599 map of Arctic exploration by the Dutchman Willem Barentsz. Spitsbergen, here mapped for the first time, is indicated as "Het Nieuwe Land" (Dutch for "the New Land"), center-left.

Spitsbergen was named by its discoverer, the Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz, in 1596. The name Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains” (from the Dutch spits - pointed, bergen - mountains), [5] was at first applied to both the main island and the archipelago as a whole. In the 17th and 18th centuries, English whalers referred to the islands as "Greenland", [6] a practice still followed in 1780 and criticized by Sigismund Bacstrom at that time. [7] The "Spitzbergen" spelling was used in English during the 19th century, for instance by Beechey, [8] Laing, [9] and the Royal Society. [10]

Willem Barentsz navigator, cartographer, explorer

Willem Barentsz was a Dutch navigator, cartographer, and Arctic explorer. He went on three expeditions to the far north in search for a Northeast passage. During his third expedition, the crew was stranded on Novaya Zemlya for almost a year. Barentsz died on the return voyage in 1597. In the 19th century, the Barents Sea was named after him.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 24 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third-most-widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Archipelago A group of islands

An archipelago, sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands.

In 1906, the Arctic explorer Sir Martin Conway thought that the Spitzbergen spelling was incorrect, preferring Spitsbergen, as he noted that the name was Dutch, not German. [11] This had little effect on British practice. [12] [13] In 1920, the international treaty determining the fate of the islands was entitled the "Spitsbergen Treaty". The islands were generally referred to in the United States as Spitsbergen from that time, [14] although the spelling Spitzbergen was also commonly used through the 20th century. [15] [16]

Martin Conway, 1st Baron Conway of Allington British politician

William Martin Conway, 1st Baron Conway of Allington, known between 1895 and 1931 as Sir Martin Conway, was an English art critic, politician, cartographer and mountaineer, who made expeditions in Europe as well as in South America and Asia.

Under Norwegian governance, the archipelago was named Svalbard in 1925, the main island becoming Spitsbergen. By the end of the 20th century, this usage had become common.

History

Dutch whalers near Spitsbergen by Abraham Storck, (1690) Walvisvangst bij de kust van Spitsbergen - Dutch whalers near Spitsbergen (Abraham Storck, 1690).jpg
Dutch whalers near Spitsbergen by Abraham Storck, (1690)

The first recorded sighting of the island by a European was by Willem Barentsz, who came across it while searching for the Northern Sea Route in June 1596. [17] The first good map, with the east coast roughly indicated, appeared in 1623, printed by Willem Janszoon Blaeu. Around 1660 and 1728, better maps were produced. [18] [19]

The archipelago may have been known to Russian Pomor hunters as early as the 14th or 15th century, although solid evidence preceding the 17th century is lacking. Following the English whalers and others in referring to the archipelago as Greenland, they named it Grumant (Грумант). The name Svalbard is first mentioned in Icelandic sagas of the 10th and 11th centuries, but this may have been Jan Mayen.

Early claims

Map of Spitsbergen Spitsbergen labelled.png
Map of Spitsbergen

Early whaling expeditions to Svalbard in general and Spitsbergen in particular tended, because of currents and fauna, to cluster on the western coast of Spitsbergen and the islands off shore. Shortly after whaling began (1611), the Danish—Norwegian crown in 1616 claimed ownership of Jan Mayen and the Spitsbergen islands, as all of Svalbard was then known, but in 1613, the English Muscovy Company had done the same. The primary and most profitable whaling grounds of this joint-stock company came to be centered on Spitsbergen in the early 17th century, and the company's 1613 Royal Charter from the English Crown granted a monopoly on whaling in Spitsbergen, based on the (erroneous) claim that Hugh Willoughby had discovered the land in 1553. [20] [21] Not only had they wrongly assumed a 1553 English voyage had reached the area, but on 27 June 1607, during his first voyage in search of a "northeast passage" on behalf of the company, Henry Hudson sighted "Newland" (i.e. Spitsbergen), near the mouth of the great bay Hudson later named the Great Indraught (Isfjorden). In this way, the English hoped to head off expansion in the region by the Dutch, at the time their major rival. [22] [23] Initially, the English tried to drive away competitors, but after disputes with the Dutch (1613–24), they, for the most part, only claimed the bays south of Kongsfjorden. [24]

Danish expansion

A 1906 photograph of the Norwegian whaling factory ship Bucentaur in Bellsund, Spitsbergen Bucentaur i Bellsund 1906-08-17.jpg
A 1906 photograph of the Norwegian whaling factory ship Bucentaur in Bellsund, Spitsbergen

From 1617 onwards, a Danish-chartered company began sending whaling fleets to Spitsbergen. [25] This successful expansion by Denmark into the North Atlantic has recently been cited by historians as the first step of the Danish-Norwegian state into overseas colonialism. It eventually built a small overseas empire of East Indian trade posts, North Atlantic possessions (such as Greenland and Iceland), and a small Atlantic trade route between possessions on the Guinea Coast (in modern Ghana) and what are now the United States Virgin Islands. [26] [27] The entire Svalbard archipelago, nominally ruled first by Denmark–Norway, and later the Norwegians (as Union between Sweden and Norway from 1814 to 1905, independent Norway from 1905), remained a source of riches for fishery and whaling vessels from many nations. The islands also became the launching point for a number of Arctic explorers, including William Edward Parry, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, Otto Martin Torell, Alfred Gabriel Nathorst, Roald Amundsen, and Ernest Shackleton.

Spitsbergen Treaty

Hornsund Polish Arctic Station, photographed in 2003 Hornsund1 (js).jpg
Hornsund Polish Arctic Station, photographed in 2003

Between 1913 and 1920, Spitsbergen was a neutral condominium. The Spitsbergen Treaty of 9 February 1920, recognises the full and absolute sovereignty of Norway over all the arctic archipelago of Svalbard. [28] The exercise of sovereignty is, however, subject to certain stipulations, and not all Norwegian law applies. Originally limited to nine signatory nations, over 40 are now signatories of the treaty. Citizens of any of the signatory countries may settle in the archipelago. Once named Spitsbergen after its largest island, the Svalbard archipelago was made a part of Norway — not a dependency — by the Svalbard Act of 1925. Since this date, it has been a region of Norway, with a Norwegian-appointed governor resident at the administrative centre of Longyearbyen. Limitations on the imposition of certain Norwegian laws are outlined in the Spitsbergen Treaty. The largest settlement on Spitsbergen is the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen, while the second-largest settlement is the Russian coal-mining settlement of Barentsburg. (This was sold by the Netherlands in 1932 to the Soviet company Arktikugol). Other settlements on the island include the former Russian mining communities of Grumantbyen and Pyramiden (abandoned in 1961 and 1998, respectively), a Polish research station at Hornsund, and the remote northern settlement of Ny-Ålesund. [29]

World War II

Allied soldiers were stationed on the island in 1941 to prevent Nazi Germany from occupying the islands. Norway came under German occupation in 1940. Germany took control of the oil fields and the weather station during this time, although most of the inhabitants on the island were Russian and Germany and the Soviet Union had a non-aggression pact until 22 June 1941. Once the non-aggression pact was ended, the United Kingdom and Canada sent military forces to the island to destroy German installations, both the Soviet coal mines and the German weather station. [30] In 1943, the German battleship Tirpitz and an escort flotilla shelled and destroyed the Allied weather station in Operation Zitronella. On 6 September, a squadron consisting of Tirpitz, the battleship Scharnhorst, and nine destroyers weighed anchor in Altenfjord and Kåfjord and headed for Spitsbergen, to attack the Allied base. At dawn on 8 September 1943, Tirpitz and Scharnhorst opened fire against the two 3-inch guns which comprised the defences of Barentsburg, and the destroyers ran inshore with landing parties, destroying a supply dump and wrecking a landing station. By noon, the hostilities had ended, with the landing parties returning to the ships, along with some prisoners. The German ships returned safely to Altenfjord and Kåfjord on 9 September 1943. This was the last operation for the Tirpitz. [31]

Government

Lilliehookfjorden Lilliehookfjorden1 (js).jpg
Lilliehöökfjorden

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 established full Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard. All 40 signatory countries of the treaty have the right to conduct commercial activities on the archipelago without discrimination, although all activity is subject to Norwegian legislation. The treaty limits Norway's right to collect taxes to that of financing services on Svalbard. Spitsbergen is a demilitarized zone, as the treaty prohibits the establishment of military installations. The treaty requires Norway to protect the natural environment. [32] [33] The island is administered by the Governor of Svalbard, who holds the responsibility as both county governor and chief of police, as well as authority granted from the executive branch. [34] Although Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Schengen Agreement, Svalbard is not part of the Schengen Area nor EEA. [35]

Residents of Spitsbergen do not need visas for Schengen but are prohibited from reaching Svalbard from mainland Norway without them. People without a means of income can be rejected as residents by the governor. [36] Citizens of any treaty signatory country may visit the island without a visa. [37] Russia retains a consulate in Barentsburg. [38]

Population

Longyearbyen Longyearbyen panorama.JPG
Longyearbyen

In 2009, Spitsbergen had a population of 2,753, of which 423 were Russian or Ukrainian, 10 were Polish and 322 were non-Norwegians living in Norwegian settlements. [39] The largest non-Norwegian groups in Longyearbyen in 2005 were from Thailand, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Germany. [40] Spitsbergen is among the safest places on Earth, with virtually no crime. [41]

Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the island, the seat of the governor, and the only incorporated town. It features a hospital, primary and secondary school, university, sports centre with a swimming pool, library, cultural centre, cinema, [42] bus transport, hotels, a bank, [43] and several museums. [44] The newspaper Svalbardposten is published weekly. [45] Only a small fraction of the mining activity remains at Longyearbyen; instead, workers commute to Sveagruva (or Svea) where Store Norske operates a mine. Sveagruva is a dorm town, with workers commuting from Longyearbyen on a weekly basis. [42]

Since 2002, Longyearbyen Community Council has had many of the same responsibilities of a municipality, including utilities, education, cultural facilities, fire department, roads and ports. [46] No care or nursing services are available, nor is welfare payment available. Norwegian residents retain pension and medical rights through their mainland municipalities. [47] The hospital is part of University Hospital of North Norway, while the airport is operated by state-owned Avinor. Ny-Ålesund and Barentsburg are company towns with all infrastructure owned by Kings Bay and Arktikugol, respectively. [46] Other public offices with presence on Svalbard are the Norwegian Directorate of Mining, the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Norwegian Tax Administration and the Church of Norway. [48] Svalbard is subordinate Nord-Troms District Court and Hålogaland Court of Appeal, both located in Tromsø. [49]

Ny-Ålesund is a permanent settlement based entirely on research. Formerly a mining town, it is still a company town operated by the Norwegian state-owned Kings Bay. While there is some tourism at the village, Norwegian authorities limit the access to the outpost to minimise impact on the scientific work. [42] Ny-Ålesund has a winter population of 35 and a summer population of 180. [50] Poland operates the Polish Polar Station at Hornsund, with ten permanent residents. [42]

Barentsburg is the only remaining Russian settlement, after Pyramiden was abandoned in 1998. A company town, all facilities are owned by Arktikugol, which operates a coal mine. In addition to the mining facilities, Arktikugol has opened a hotel and souvenir shop, catering to tourists taking day trips or hikes from Longyearbyen. [42] The village has facilities such as a school, library, sports center, community center, swimming pool, farm and greenhouse. Pyramiden has similar facilities; both are built in typical Soviet style and are the site of the world's two most northerly Lenin statues and other socialist realism artwork. [51]

Economy

Skottehytta in Petuniabukta, Spitsbergen - polar base of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland Skottehytta-070820.jpg
Skottehytta in Petuniabukta, Spitsbergen - polar base of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland

The three main industries on Spitsbergen are coal mining, tourism and research. In 2007, there were 484 people working in the mining sector, 211 people working in the tourism sector and 111 people working in the education sector. The same year, mining produced a revenue of NOK 2,008 million, tourism NOK 317 million and research NOK 142 million. [46] In 2006, the average income for economically active people was NOK 494,700 — 23% higher than on the mainland. [52] Almost all housing is owned by the various employers and institutions and rented to their employees; there are only a few privately owned houses, most of which are recreational cabins. Because of this, it is almost impossible to live on Spitsbergen without working for an established institution. [36]

Since the resettlement of Spitsbergen in the early 20th century, coal mining has been the dominant commercial activity. Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, a subsidiary of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, operates Svea Nord in Sveagruva and Mine 7 in Longyearbyen. The former produced 3.4 million tonnes in 2008, while the latter sends 35% of its output to Longyearbyen Power Station. Since 2007, there has not been any significant mining by the Russian state-owned Arktikugol in Barentsburg. There has previously been some test drilling for petroleum on land, but this did not give results good enough to justify permanent operation. The Norwegian authorities do not allow offshore petroleum drilling activities for environmental reasons, and the land formerly test-drilled on has been protected as nature reserves or national parks. [46]

Spitsbergen Island coins were issued in 1946, with Russian Cyrillic lettering, in the USSR denomination of 10 and 20 kopecks. Then in 1993, coins were again minted in Russian values of 10, 20, 50, and 100 roubles. Both series have the motto "Arctic coal".

Abandoned mine at Longyearbyen Hillside mine on Svalbard.jpg
Abandoned mine at Longyearbyen

Spitsbergen has historically been a base for both whaling and fishing. Norway claimed a 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around Svalbard in 1977, [53] Norway retains a restrictive fisheries policy in the zone, [53] and the claims are disputed by Russia. [54] Tourism is focused on the environment and is centered on Longyearbyen. Activities include hiking, kayaking, walks through glacier caves and snow-scooter and dog-sled safaris. Cruise ships generate a significant portion of the traffic, including stops by both offshore vessels and expeditionary cruises starting and ending in Svalbard. Traffic is strongly concentrated between March and August; overnight stays have quintupled from 1991 to 2008, when there were 93,000 guest-nights. [46]

Research on Svalbard centers on Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, the most accessible areas in the high Arctic. Norway grants permission for any nation to conduct research on Svalbard, resulting in the Polish Polar Station, Indian Himadri Station, and the Chinese Arctic Yellow River Station, plus Russian facilities in Barentsburg. [55] The University Centre in Svalbard in Longyearbyen offers undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate courses to 350 students in various arctic sciences, particularly biology, geology and geophysics. Courses are provided to supplement studies at the mainland universities; there are no tuition fees and courses are held in English, with Norwegian and international students equally represented. [56] The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a "doomsday" seedbank to store seeds from as many of the world's crop varieties and their botanical wild relatives as possible. A cooperation between the government of Norway and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the vault is cut into rock near Longyearbyen, keeping it at a natural −6 °C (21 °F) and refrigerating the seeds to −18 °C (0 °F). [57] [58] The Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a 1,440 km (890 mi) fibre optic line from Svalbard to Harstad, needed for communicating with polar orbiting satellite through Svalbard Satellite Station and installations in Ny-Ålesund. [59] [60]

Transport

Ships, such as MS Horyzont, are a common way for scientists to get around the island MS Horyzont II Isbjornhamna-1.jpg
Ships, such as MS Horyzont, are a common way for scientists to get around the island

Within Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Ålesund, there are road systems, but they do not connect with each other. Off-road motorized transport is prohibited on bare ground, but snowmobiles are used extensively during winter — both for commercial and recreational activities. Transport from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg (45 km or 28 mi) and Pyramiden (100 km or 62 mi) is possible by snowmobile during winter, or by ship all year round. All settlements have ports, and Longyearbyen has a bus system. [61]

Svalbard Airport, Longyear, located 3 kilometres (2 mi) from Longyearbyen, is the only airport offering air transport for the island. Scandinavian Airlines has daily scheduled services to Tromsø and Oslo; there are also irregular charter services to Russia. [62] Lufttransport provides regular corporate charter services from Longyearbyen to Ny-Ålesund Airport and Svea Airport for Kings Bay and Store Norske; these flights are in general not available to the public. [63] There are heliports in Barentsburg and Pyramiden, and helicopters are frequently used by the governor and to a lesser extent the mining company Arktikugol. [64]

Climate

Snow is common throughout the year Mountains (js) 11.jpg
Snow is common throughout the year

The climate of Svalbard is dominated by its high latitude, with the average summer temperature at 4 °C (39 °F) to 6 °C (43 °F) and January averages at −12 °C (10 °F) to −16 °C (3 °F). [65] The North Atlantic Current moderates Spitsbergens's temperatures, particularly during winter, giving it up to 20 °C (36 °F) higher winter temperature than similar latitudes in Russia and Canada. This keeps the surrounding waters open and navigable most of the year. The interior fjord areas and valleys, sheltered by the mountains, have less temperature differences than the coast, giving about 2 °C (4 °F) lower summer temperatures and 3 °C (5 °F) higher winter temperatures. On the south of Spitsbergen, the temperature is slightly higher than further north and west. During winter, the temperature difference between south and north is typically 5 °C (9 °F), while about 3 °C (5 °F) in summer. [66]

Spitsbergen is the meeting place for cold polar air from the north and mild, wet sea air from the south, creating low pressure and changing weather and fast winds, particularly in winter; in January, a strong breeze is registered 17% of the time at Isfjord Radio, but only 1% of the time in July. In summer, particularly away from land, fog is common, with visibility under 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) registered 20% of the time in July. [67] Precipitation is frequent but falls in small quantities, typically less than 400 millimetres (16 in) annually in western Spitsbergen. More rain falls in the uninhabited east side, where there can be more than 1,000 millimetres (39 in) annually. [67]

Nature

Svalbard poppy Svalbard poppy (Papaver dahlianum).jpg
Svalbard poppy

Three terrestrial mammalian species inhabit the island: the Arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer, and accidentally introduced southern vole, which are only found in Grumant. [68] Attempts to introduce the Arctic hare and the muskox have both failed. [69] There are fifteen to twenty types of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals, walruses, and polar bears. [68] Arctic charr inhabit Linne´vatn and other freshwater lakes on the island. [70]

Polar bears are the iconic symbol of Spitsbergen and one of the main tourist attractions. [71] While they are protected, persons going outside settlements are required to carry a rifle to kill polar bears in self-defence, as a last resort should they attack. [72] Spitsbergen shares a common polar bear population with the rest of Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land. The Svalbard reindeer (R. tarandus platyrhynchus) is a distinct sub-species. While it was previously almost extinct, hunting is permitted for both it and the Arctic fox. [68]

About thirty types of bird are found on Spitsbergen, most of which are migratory. The Barents Sea is among the areas in the world with most seabirds, with about 20 million counted during late summer. The most common are little auk, northern fulmar, thick-billed murre and black-legged kittiwake. Sixteen species are on the IUCN Red List. Particularly Storfjorden and Nordvest-Spitsbergen are important breeding ground for seabirds. The Arctic tern has the furthest migration, all the way to Antarctica. [68] Only two songbirds migrate to Spitsbergen to breed: the snow bunting and the wheatear. Rock ptarmigan is the only bird to overwinter. [73]

Svalbard reindeer Svalbardrein pho.jpg
Svalbard reindeer

Remains of Predator X from the Jurassic period were discovered in 2008. It is the largest dinosaur-era marine reptile ever found — a pliosaur estimated to be almost 15 m (49 ft) long. [74] Svalbard has permafrost and tundra, with both low, middle and high Arctic vegetation. 165 species of plants have been found on the archipelago. [68] Only those areas which defrost in the summer have vegetation. [75] Vegetation is most abundant in Nordenskiöld Land, around Isfjorden and where effected by guano. [76] While there is little precipitation, giving the island a steppe climate, plants still have good access to water because the cold climate reduces evaporation. [67] [68] The growing season is very short, and may last only a few weeks. [77]

There are six national parks on Spitsbergen: Indre Wijdefjorden, Nordenskiöld Land, Nordre Isfjorden Land, Nordvest-Spitsbergen, Sassen-Bünsow Land and Sør-Spitsbergen. [78] The island also features Festningen Geotope Protected Area; some of the northeastern coast is part of Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. [79] All human traces dating from before 1946 are automatically protected. [72] Svalbard is on Norway's tentative list for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [80]

See also

Related Research Articles

Geography of Svalbard

Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean roughly centered on 78° north latitude and 20° east longitude. The archipelago is the northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway. The three main islands in the group consist of Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. There are also a number of smaller islands, such as Barents Island (Barentsøya), Kvitøya, Prins Karls Forland, Kongsøya, Bear Island, Svenskøya, Wilhelm Island and other smaller islands or skerries.

Svalbard and Jan Mayen Two parts of Norway under separate jurisdictions

Svalbard and Jan Mayen is a statistical designation defined by ISO 3166-1 for a collective grouping of two remote jurisdictions of Norway—Svalbard and Jan Mayen. While the two are combined for the purposes of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) category, they are not administratively related. This has further resulted in the country code top-level domain .sj being issued for Svalbard and Jan Mayen, and ISO 3166-2:SJ. The United Nations Statistics Division also uses this code, but has named it Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands.

Longyearbyen Place in Svalbard, Norway

Longyearbyen (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈlɔŋjeːrbyːən] is the largest settlement and the administrative centre of Svalbard, Norway. As of December 2015, the town had a population of 2,144. Longyearbyen is located in the Longyear Valley and on the shore of Adventfjorden, a bay of Isfjorden located on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Since 2002, Longyearbyen Community Council has had many of the same responsibilities of a municipality, including utilities, education, cultural facilities, fire brigade, roads and ports. The town is the seat of the Governor of Svalbard. It is the world's northernmost settlement of any kind with more than 1,000 permanent residents.

Barentsburg Russian coal mining settlement in Svalbard, Norway

Barentsburg is the second-largest settlement on Svalbard, with about 500 inhabitants (2007), almost entirely Russians and Ukrainians. It is the site of the Barentsburg Pomor Museum.

The polar archipelago of Svalbard was first discovered by Willem Barentsz in 1596, although there is disputed evidence of use by Pomors or Norsemen. Whaling for bowhead whales started in 1611, dominated by English and Dutch companies, though other countries participated. At that time there was no agreement about sovereignty. Whaling stations, the largest being Smeerenburg, were built during the 17th century, but gradually whaling decreased. Hunting was carried out from the 17th century by Pomors, but from the 19th century it became more dominated by Norwegians.

Pyramiden Abandoned town in Svalbard, Norway

Pyramiden is an abandoned Russian coal mining settlement on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, Pyramiden was closed in 1998 and has since remained largely abandoned with most of its infrastructure and buildings still in place. Since 2007, there have been efforts to make it a tourist attraction.

Operation Zitronella military operation

Operation Zitronella, also known as Operation Sizilien (Sicily), was an eight-hour German raid on Spitzbergen, in the Svalbard Archipelago, on 8 September 1943. The battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst, plus nine destroyers, sailed to the archipelago, bombarded settlements in Isfjorden and covered a landing party. Six Norwegians were killed and 31 were taken prisoner; One German died of wounds and fifteen were wounded.

Politics of Svalbard

Svalbard lies under the sovereignty of Norway, but the Svalbard Treaty places several restrictions. Norway cannot use the archipelago for warlike purposes, cannot discriminate economic activity based on nationality and is required to conserve the natural environment. Uniquely, Svalbard is an entirely visa-free zone. Everybody may live and work in Svalbard indefinitely regardless of country of citizenship. Svalbard Treaty grants treaty nationals equal right of abode as Norwegian nationals. Non-treaty nationals may live and work indefinitely visa-free as well. "Regulations concerning rejection and expulsion from Svalbard" is in force on non-discriminatory basis.

Svalbard has a population of approximately 2,395 people as of 2011. Approximately 70% of the people are Norwegian; the remaining 30% are Russian and Ukrainian. The official language of Svalbard is Norwegian. Russian is used in the Russian settlements, but formerly, Russenorsk was the lingua franca of the entire Barents Sea region.

Isfjorden (Svalbard) fjord in Svalbard

Isfjorden is the second longest fjord in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. It lies on the west side of Spitsbergen, an island in the Arctic Ocean about midway between Norway and the North Pole, and the largest in the archipelago. The mountain of Alkhornet stands on the northern side of the entrance to the fjord, as does the coastal plain of Daudmannsøyra. A portion of Isfjorden is included in the national parks of Norway as Nordre Isfjorden Land National Park. Around the fjord lie many of the largest settlements in Svalbard: Barentsburg, Longyearbyen and Pyramiden.

Economy of Svalbard

The economy of Svalbard is dominated by coal mining, tourism and research. In 2007, there were 484 people working in the mining sector, 211 people working in the tourism sector and 111 people working in the education sector. The same year, mining gave a revenue of 2.008 billion kr, tourism NOK 317 million and research 142 million. In 2006, the average income for economically active people was NOK 494,700, or 23% higher than on the mainland. Almost all housing is owned by the various employers and institutions and rented to their employees; there are only a few privately owned houses, most of which are recreational cabins. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to live on Svalbard without working for an established institution. The Spitsbergen Treaty and Svalbard Act established Svalbard as an economic free zone and demilitarized zone in 1925.

Transport in Svalbard

Svalbard, Norway, is a vast, very sparsely inhabited Arctic archipelago. With fewer than 3,000 inhabitants in four communities, plus some smaller meteorological and scientific outposts, there are no communities connected by road. Off-road motorized transport is prohibited on bare ground, but snowmobiles are used extensively during winter, both for commercial and recreational activities. Transport from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg and Pyramiden is possible by snowmobile at winter, or by ship all year round. Road systems exist within the communities of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, Sveagruva and Ny-Ålesund. All settlements have ports and Longyearbyen has a bus system.

Barentsburg Heliport, Heerodden

Barentsburg Heliport, Heerodden is a private heliport located at Heerodden, serving the mining town of Barentsburg in Svalbard, Norway. The airport is owned and operated by Arktikugol, which also owns the company town. The airport features a 91-by-21-meter runway, two hangars and an administration building with a control tower. There are two Mil Mi-8 helicopters based at Heerodden, which are operated by Spark+. Flights are provided to Svalbard Airport, Longyear and Pyramiden Heliport.

Pyramiden Heliport

Pyramiden Heliport is a heliport located at Pyramiden in Svalbard, Norway. The airport is owned and operated by Arktikugol, who owns the mining town. The airport consists of a gravel runway and apron measuring 90 by 40 meters and a small terminal building. There is capacity for up to three helicopters on the apron. Flights are carried out by Spark+ using two Mil Mi-8 helicopters. Flights are flown to Barentsburg Heliport, Heerodden and Svalbard Airport, Longyear at irregular intervals.

Agriculture in Svalbard

Agriculture in Svalbard – the world's northernmost – has a short history, and remains a minor economic factor, but has nonetheless had a culturally and socially significant role, as well as an ecologic impact. Svalbard is also home to the Global Seed Vault, which serves to protect the world's biological and agricultural diversity. Polar Permaculture Solutions, AS was formed in January 2015. Polar Permaculture has been focused on producing locally grown food in town, and also with composting food waste.

Archaeology of Svalbard

The archaeology of Svalbard is the study of human activity in the northerly Arctic Ocean archipelago's past. The geography, environment and climate of Svalbard have resulted in exceptional preservation conditions. Archaeological fieldwork on Svalbard is both expensive and physically exhausting, but new technology and infrastructure has allowed easier access. This easier access has also resulted in more damage caused by tourists.

Barentsburg Pomor Museum

The Barentsburg Pomor Museum is a small museum located in Barentsburg, a town in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Created during the 1920s by the Dutch, the coal mining settlement was sold to the Soviet Union in 1932, and so it was the USSR which founded the museum in 1963. Today owned entirely by the Government of Russia through Arktikugol, Barentsburg is a shadow of its former self, with only a few hundred inhabitants compared to over a thousand during its heyday. The museum remains intact however, receiving most of its visitors in the form of tourists. It shares the same building as the town's Sports and Culture Centre.

Pyramiden Museum

The Pyramiden Museum is a small museum located in Pyramiden, an abandoned town in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The museum features exhibits on biology and history, for example in the form of taxidermal polar wildlife, geological samples from the surrounding area, a few archaeological artefacts from the Pomors, some information on the coal mining industry, and a slew of Soviet memorabilia.

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