Svalbard

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Svalbard
Polar bear sign Svalbard.jpg
A sign warning of polar bears on a road in Svalbard
Norway-Svalbard.svg
Sovereign state Flag of Norway.svg  Norway
Svalbard Treaty 9 February 1920
Svalbard Act 17 July 1925
Administrative centre
and largest town
Longyearbyen
78°13′N15°39′E / 78.22°N 15.65°E / 78.22; 15.65 Coordinates: 78°13′N15°39′E / 78.22°N 15.65°E / 78.22; 15.65
Ethnic groups
(2019)
56.9% Norwegian
43.1% other [lower-alpha 1] [1]
Government Devolved locally administered unincorporated area within a constitutional monarchy
  Monarch
Harald V
  Governor
Lars Fause
Area
 Total
61,022 km2 (23,561 sq mi)(not ranked)
Highest elevation
1,717 m (5,633 ft)
Population
 2020 estimate
2,939 [2]
 Density
0.044/km2 (0.1/sq mi)(248th)
Currency Norwegian krone (NOK)
Time zone UTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST)
UTC+02:00 (CEST)
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy
Driving side right
Calling code +47
Postal code
917x
ISO 3166 code
Internet TLD
Late-summer satellite view of Spitsbergen, showing the Holmstrom Glacier and meltwater pools stained deep-red by glacial silt, from erosion of soft, iron-rich Devonian sediments Svalbard oli 2020236 detail.jpg
Late-summer satellite view of Spitsbergen, showing the Holmstrom Glacier and meltwater pools stained deep-red by glacial silt, from erosion of soft, iron-rich Devonian sediments

Svalbard ( /ˈsvɑːlbɑːr/ SVAHL-bar, [3] Urban East Norwegian:  [ˈsvɑ̂ːɫbɑr] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )), previously known as Spitsbergen, or Spitzbergen, is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. North of mainland Europe, it is about midway between the northern coast of 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. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen. [4]

The islands were first used as a base by the whalers who sailed far north in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway. They also established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol remain the only mining companies in place. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, with the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault playing critical roles in the economy. Apart from Longyearbyen, other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats are used for inter-settlement transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear serves as the main gateway.

Approximately 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords. The archipelago has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude. The flora is adapted to take advantage of the long period of midnight sun to compensate for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and is home to polar bears, reindeer, the Arctic fox, and certain marine mammals. Seven national parks and twenty-three nature reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched, yet fragile, natural environment.

While part of the Kingdom of Norway since 1925, Svalbard is not part of geographical Norway; administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area administered by a governor appointed by the Norwegian government, and a special jurisdiction subject to the Svalbard Treaty that is outside of the Schengen Area, the Nordic Passport Union, and the European Economic Area. Svalbard and Jan Mayen are collectively assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code "SJ". Both areas are administered by Norway, though they are separated by a distance of over 950 kilometres (590 miles; 510 nautical miles) and have very different administrative structures.

Etymology

The name Svalbard is composed of the well-attested Old Norse words svalr ('cold') and barð ('edge', 'ridge', 'turf', 'beard'), adapted to Norwegian phonology. The name therefore refers to the mostly grass covering and notable lack of trees or bushes. The meaning edge or ridge is not really relevant here. The term was corrupted in the Icelandic from a neuter term to a masculine term also confusing the meaning and the Norwegian name appears to be based on the later version and there was no reversion in Icelandic as did happen with many other names that had become obscured.

The name Spitsbergen originated with Dutch navigator and explorer Willem Barentsz, who described the "pointed mountains" or, in Dutch, spitse bergen that he saw on the west coast of the main island, Spitsbergen. Barentsz did not recognize that he had discovered an archipelago, and consequently the name Spitsbergen long remained in use both for the main island and for the archipelago as a whole. [5]

Geography

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 [6] defines Svalbard as all islands, islets, and skerries from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. [7] [8] The land area is 61,022 km2 (23,561 sq mi), and dominated by the island of Spitsbergen, which constitutes more than half the archipelago, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. [9] All settlements are on Spitsbergen, except the meteorological outposts on Bjørnøya and Hopen. [6] The Norwegian state took possession of all unclaimed land, or 95.2% of the archipelago, at the time the Svalbard Treaty entered into force; Store Norske, a Norwegian coal mining company, owns 4%, Arktikugol, a Russian coal mining company, owns 0.4%, while other private owners hold 0.4%. [10]

As Svalbard is north of the Arctic Circle, it experiences midnight sun in summer and polar night in winter. At 74° north, the midnight sun lasts 99 days and polar night 84 days, while the respective figures at 81° north are 141 and 128 days. [11] In Longyearbyen, midnight sun lasts from 20 April until 23 August, and polar night lasts from 26 October to 15 February. [7] In winter, the combination of full moon and reflective snow can give additional light. [11] Due to the Earth's tilt and the high latitude, Svalbard has extensive twilights. Longyearbyen sees the first and last day of polar night having seven and a half hours of twilight, whereas the perpetual light lasts for two weeks longer than the midnight sun. [12] [13] On the summer solstice, the sun bottoms out at 12° sun angle in the middle of the night, being much higher during night than in mainland Norway's polar light areas. [14] However, the daytime strength of the sun remains as low as 35°.

Glacial ice covers 36,502 km2 (14,094 sq mi) or 60% of Svalbard; 30% is barren rock while 10% is vegetated. [15] :3 The largest glacier is Austfonna (8,412 km2 or 3,248 sq mi) on Nordaustlandet, followed by Olav V Land and Vestfonna. During summer, it is possible to ski from Sørkapp in the south to the north of Spitsbergen, with only a short distance not being covered by snow or glacier. Kvitøya is 99.3% covered by glacier. [16]

The landforms of Svalbard were created through repeated ice ages, when glaciers cut the former plateau into fjords, valleys, and mountains. [15] RP|4–6}} The tallest peak is Newtontoppen (1,717 m or 5,633 ft), followed by Perriertoppen (1,712 m or 5,617 ft), Ceresfjellet (1,675 m or 5,495 ft), Chadwickryggen (1,640 m or 5,380 ft), and Galileotoppen (1,637 m or 5,371 ft). The longest fjord is Wijdefjorden (108 km or 67 mi), followed by Isfjorden (107 km or 66 mi), Van Mijenfjorden (83 km or 52 mi), Woodfjorden (64 km or 40 mi), and Wahlenbergfjorden (46 km or 29 mi). [17] Svalbard is part of the High Arctic Large Igneous Province, [18] and experienced Norway's strongest earthquake on 6 March 2009 at magnitude 6.5. [19]

History

Svalbard, here mapped for the first time, is indicated as "Het Nieuwe Land" (Dutch for 'the New Land'), center-left. Portion of 1599 map of Arctic exploration by Willem Barentsz. Barentsz arctic map.jpg
Svalbard, here mapped for the first time, is indicated as "Het Nieuwe Land" (Dutch for 'the New Land'), center-left. Portion of 1599 map of Arctic exploration by Willem Barentsz.
In the Golden Age of Dutch exploration and discovery (c. 1590s-1720s), Dutch navigators were the first explorers and mapped many largely unknown isolated areas of the world, including the Svalbard archipelago and Jan Mayen in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic.svg
In the Golden Age of Dutch exploration and discovery (c. 1590s–1720s), Dutch navigators were the first explorers and mapped many largely unknown isolated areas of the world, including the Svalbard archipelago and Jan Mayen in the Arctic Ocean.

Dutch discovery, exploration, and mapping of a terra nullius

The Dutchman Willem Barentsz made the first discovery of the archipelago in 1596, when he sighted the coast of the island of Spitsbergen while searching for the Northern Sea Route. [20]

The first recorded landing on the islands of Svalbard dates to 1604, when an English ship landed at Bjørnøya, or Bear Island, and started hunting walrus. Annual expeditions soon followed, and Spitsbergen became a base for hunting the bowhead whale from 1611. [21] [22] Because of the lawless nature of the area, English, Danish, Dutch, and French companies and authorities tried to use force to keep out other countries' fleets. [23] [24]

17th–18th centuries

The whaling station of the Amsterdam chamber of the Northern Company in Smeerenburg, by Cornelis de Man (1639), but based on a painting of a Dansk hvalfangststation (Danish whaling station) by A.B.R. Speeck (1634), which represented the Danish station in Copenhagen Bay (Kobbefjorden) Traankokerijen bij het dorp Smerenburg Rijksmuseum SK-A-2355.jpeg
The whaling station of the Amsterdam chamber of the Northern Company in Smeerenburg, by Cornelis de Man (1639), but based on a painting of a Dansk hvalfangststation (Danish whaling station) by A.B.R. Speeck (1634), which represented the Danish station in Copenhagen Bay (Kobbefjorden)

Smeerenburg was one of the first settlements, established by the Dutch in 1619. [25] Smaller bases were also built by the English, Danish, and French. At first the outposts were merely summer camps, but from the early 1630s, a few individuals started to overwinter. Whaling at Spitsbergen lasted until the 1820s, when the Dutch, British, and Danish whalers moved elsewhere in the Arctic. [26] By the late 17th century, Russian hunters arrived; they overwintered to a greater extent and hunted land mammals such as the polar bear and fox. [27]

19th century

After the Anglo-Russian War in 1809, Russian activity on Svalbard diminished, and ceased by the 1820s. [28] Norwegian hunting—mostly for walrus—started in the 1790s. The first Norwegian citizens to reach Spitsbergen proper were a number of Coast Sámi people from the Hammerfest region, who were hired as part of a Russian crew for an expedition in 1795. [29] Norwegian whaling was abandoned about the same time as the Russians left, [30] but whaling continued around Spitsbergen until the 1830s, and around Bjørnøya until the 1860s. [31]

20th century

Svalbard Treaty and Norwegian sovereignty

By the 1890s, Svalbard had become a destination for Arctic tourism, coal deposits had been found, and the islands were being used as a base for Arctic exploration. [32] The first mining was along Isfjorden by Norwegians in 1899; by 1904, British interests had established themselves in Adventfjorden and started the first year-round operations. [33] Production in Longyearbyen, by US interests, started in 1908; [34] and Store Norske established itself in 1916, as did other Norwegian interests during the war, in part by buying US interests. [35]

A proposed flag of Svalbard from 1930. It consists of the lion from the Norwegian coat of arms on a background of blue and white vair, possibly symbolising the Arctic landscape of the archipelago. Svalbard does not currently use a distinct flag. Proposed flag of Svalbard, Norway (1930).svg
A proposed flag of Svalbard from 1930. It consists of the lion from the Norwegian coat of arms on a background of blue and white vair, possibly symbolising the Arctic landscape of the archipelago. Svalbard does not currently use a distinct flag.

Discussions to establish the sovereignty of the archipelago commenced in the 1910s, [36] but were interrupted by World War I. [37] On 9 February 1920, following the Paris Peace Conference, the Svalbard Treaty was signed, granting full sovereignty to Norway. However, all signatory countries were granted non-discriminatory rights to fishing, hunting, and mineral resources. [38] The treaty took effect on 14 August 1925, at the same time as the Svalbard Act regulated the archipelago and the first governor, Johannes Gerckens Bassøe, took office. [39] The archipelago has traditionally been known as Spitsbergen, and the main island as West Spitsbergen. From the 1920s, Norway renamed the archipelago Svalbard, and the main island became Spitsbergen. [40] Kvitøya, Kong Karls Land, Hopen, and Bjørnøya were not regarded as part of the Spitsbergen archipelago. [41] Russians have traditionally called the archipelago Grumant (Грумант). [42] The Soviet Union retained the name Spitsbergen (Шпицберген) to support undocumented claims that Russians were the first to discover the island. [43] [44]

In 1928, Italian explorer Umberto Nobile and the crew of the airship Italia crashed on the icepack off the coast of Foyn Island. The subsequent rescue attempts were covered extensively in the press and Svalbard received short-lived fame as a result.

Second World War

Demolition of the wireless station during Operation Gauntlet in 1941 Demolition of wireless station at Spitzbergen, Operation Gauntlet, 1941 (22418716705).jpg
Demolition of the wireless station during Operation Gauntlet in 1941

Svalbard, known to both British and Germans as Spitsbergen, was little affected by the German invasion of Norway in April 1940. The settlements continued to operate as before, mining coal and monitoring the weather.

In July 1941, following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Royal Navy reconnoitred the islands with a view to using them as a base of operations to send supplies to north Russia, but the idea was rejected as impractical. [45] Instead, with the agreement of the Soviets and the Norwegian government in exile, in August 1941 the Norwegian and Soviet settlements on Svalbard were evacuated, and facilities there destroyed, in Operation Gauntlet. [46] [47] However the Norwegian government in exile decided it would be important politically to establish a garrison in the islands, which was done in May 1942 during Operation Fritham. [48]

Meanwhile, the Germans responded to the destruction of the weather station by establishing a reporting station of their own, codenamed "Banso", in October 1941. [49] This was chased away in November by a visit from four British warships, but later returned. A second station, "Knospel", was established at Ny-Ålesund in 1941, remaining until 1942. In May 1942, after the arrival of the Fritham force, the German unit at Banso was evacuated.

In September 1943 in Operation Zitronella a German task force, which included the battleship Tirpitz, was sent to attack the garrison and destroy the settlements at Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. [50] This was achieved, but had little long-term effect: after their departure the Norwegians returned and re-established their presence. [51]

In September 1944, the Germans set up their last weather station, Operation Haudegen in NordOstLand; it functioned until after the German surrender. On 4 September 1945, the soldiers were picked up by a Norwegian seal hunting vessel and surrendered to its captain. This group of men were the last German troops to surrender after the Second World War.

After the war, the Soviet Union proposed common Norwegian and Soviet administration and military defence of Svalbard. This was rejected in 1947 by Norway, which two years later joined NATO. The Soviet Union retained high civilian activity on Svalbard, in part to ensure that the archipelago was not used by NATO. [52]

Post-war

Abandoned aerial tramway previously used for transporting coal Kulltaubane.jpg
Abandoned aerial tramway previously used for transporting coal

After the war, Norway re-established operations at Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, [53] while the Soviet Union established mining in Barentsburg, Pyramiden, and Grumant. [54] The mine at Ny-Ålesund had several fatal accidents, killing 71 people while it was in operation from 1945 to 1954 and from 1960 to 1963. The Kings Bay Affair, caused by the 1962 accident killing 21 workers, forced Gerhardsen's Third Cabinet to resign. [55] [56] From 1964, Ny-Ålesund became a research outpost, and a facility for the European Space Research Organisation. [57] Petroleum test drilling was started in 1963 and continued until 1984, but no commercially viable fields were found. [58] From 1960, regular charter flights were made from the mainland to a field at Hotellneset; [59] in 1975, Svalbard Airport, Longyearbyen opened, allowing year-round services. [60]

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union comprised about two-thirds of the population on the islands (Norwegians making up the remaining third) with the population of the archipelago slightly under 4,000. [54] Russian activity has diminished considerably since then, falling from 2,500 to 450 people from 1990 to 2010. [61] [62] Grumant was closed after it was depleted in 1962. [54] Pyramiden was closed in 1998. [63] Coal exports from Barentsburg ceased in 2006 because of a fire, [64] but resumed in 2010. [65] The Russians experienced two air accidents: Vnukovo Airlines Flight 2801, which killed 141 people, [66] and the Heerodden helicopter accident, which killed three people. [67]

Longyearbyen remained purely a company town until 1989 when utilities, culture, and education was separated into Svalbard Samfunnsdrift. [68] In 1993, it was sold to the national government and the University Centre was established. [69] Through the 1990s, tourism increased and the town developed an economy independent of Store Norske and mining. [70] Longyearbyen was incorporated on 1 January 2002, adopting a community council. [68]

Population

Demographics

The dock house in Barentsburg BarentsburgFromDock.JPG
The dock house in Barentsburg

In 2016, Svalbard had a population of 2,667, of which 423 were Russian and Ukrainian, 10 Polish, and 322 non-Norwegians living in Norwegian settlements. [9] The largest non-Norwegian groups in Longyearbyen in 2005 were from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Thailand. [62]

Settlements

Company homes, Longyearbyen Longyearbyen colourful homes.jpg
Company homes, Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the archipelago, the seat of the governor and the only incorporated town. The town features a hospital, primary and secondary school, university, sports center with a swimming pool, library, culture center, cinema, [64] bus transport, hotels, a bank, [71] and several museums. [72] The newspaper Svalbardposten is published weekly. [15] :179 Very little mining activity remained at Longyearbyen; coal mines at Sveagruva and Luckerfjellet suspended operations in 2017 and were closed for good in 2020. [73] [74]

Ny-Ålesund is a permanent research settlement. Formerly a mining town, it is still a company town operated by the Norwegian state-owned Kings Bay. While there is some tourism there, Norwegian authorities limit access to the outpost to minimize impact on the scientific work. [64] Ny-Ålesund has a winter population of 35 and a summer population of 180. [75] The Norwegian Meteorological Institute has outposts at Bjørnøya and Hopen, with respectively ten and four persons stationed there. Both outposts can also house temporary research staff. [64] Poland operates the Polish Polar Station at Hornsund, with ten permanent residents. [64]

The abandoned Soviet mining town of Pyramiden Piramida Svalbard IMG 6283.JPG
The abandoned Soviet mining town of Pyramiden

Barentsburg is the only permanently inhabited Russian settlement after Pyramiden was abandoned in 1998. It is 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. [64] The village features facilities such as a school, library, sports center, community center, swimming pool, farm, and greenhouse. Pyramiden features similar facilities; both are built in typical post-World War II Soviet architectural and planning style and contain the world's two most northerly Lenin statues and other socialist realism artwork. [15] :194–203As of 2013, a handful of workers are stationed in the largely abandoned Pyramiden to maintain the infrastructure and run the hotel, which has been re-opened to tourism.

Religion

Most of the population is Christian and affiliated with the Church of Norway. Catholics on the archipelago are pastorally served by the Territorial Prelature of Tromsø. [76]

Politics

MS Nordsyssel, the Governor's vessel, docked at Ny-Alesund Spitzbergen nordsyssel hg.jpg
MS Nordsyssel, the Governor's vessel, docked at Ny-Ålesund

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 established full Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago. The islands are, unlike the Norwegian Antarctic Territory, a part of the Kingdom of Norway and not a dependency. The treaty came into effect in 1925, following the Svalbard Act. All forty-eight 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. Therefore, Svalbard has a lower income tax than mainland Norway, and there is no value added tax. There is a separate budget for Svalbard to ensure compliance. Svalbard is a demilitarized zone, as the treaty prohibits the establishment of military installations. Norwegian military activity is limited to fishery surveillance by the Norwegian Coast Guard as the treaty requires Norway to protect the natural environment. [8] [77]

Svalbard is not governed by Norway's policies on migration and does not issue visas or residence permits itself. [78] [79] Foreigners do not need a visa or work and residence permits from the Norwegian authorities to travel to Svalbard. However, foreign citizens with a visa requirement for the Schengen Area must have a Schengen visa when travelling to and from Svalbard via mainland Norway. [80]

The Svalbard Act established the institution of the Governor of Svalbard (Norwegian : Sysselmannen), who holds the responsibility as both county governor and chief of police, as well as holding other authority granted from the executive branch. Duties include environmental policy, family law, law enforcement, search and rescue, tourism management, information services, contact with foreign settlements, and judge in some areas of maritime inquiries and judicial examinations—albeit never in the same cases as acting as police. [81] [82] Since 2015, Kjerstin Askholt has been governor; she is assisted by a staff of 26 professionals. The institution is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice and the Police, but reports to other ministries in matters within their portfolio. [83]

Lenin statue in Barentsburg Lenin statue in Barentsburg, Svalbard.jpg
Lenin statue in Barentsburg

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. [70] No care or nursing services are available, nor are welfare payments available. Norwegian residents retain pension and medical rights through their mainland municipalities. [84] The hospital is part of University Hospital of North Norway, while the airport is operated by state-owned Avinor. Ny-Ålesund and Barentsburg remain company towns with all infrastructure owned by Kings Bay and Arktikugol. [70] 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. [85] Svalbard is subordinate to Nord-Troms District Court and Hålogaland Court of Appeal, both in Tromsø. [86]

Although Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Schengen Agreement, Svalbard is not part of the Schengen Area or the EEA. [87] Non-EU and non-Nordic Svalbard residents do not need Schengen visas for Svalbard itself, but those travelling via mainland Norway require visas to pass through Norway. People without a source of income can be rejected by the governor. [88] No one is required to have a visa or residence permit on Svalbard. Regardless of citizenship, persons can live and work in Svalbard indefinitely. The Svalbard Treaty grants treaty nationals equal right of abode as Norwegian nationals. So far, non-treaty nationals have been admitted visa-free as well. While there is no visa requirement, everyone must meet certain requirements in order to stay in Svalbard. These requirements are governed by a separate policy called “Regulations relating to rejection and expulsion of persons from Svalbard”. Among the requirements is that residents must have the means to be able to reside on Svalbard. These requirements apply to both foreigners and Norwegian citizens, and the Governor of Svalbard may reject persons who do not meet the requirements [89] .[ clarification needed ] [90] [91] Russia retains a consulate in Barentsburg. [92]

In September 2010, a treaty was made between Russia and Norway fixing the boundary between the Svalbard archipelago and the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. Increased interest in petroleum exploration in the Arctic raised interest in a resolution of the dispute. The agreement takes into account the relative positions of the archipelagos, rather than being based simply on northward extension of the continental border of Norway and Russia. [93]

Economy

Tourists viewing a glacier Ecotourism Svalbard.JPG
Tourists viewing a glacier
British schoolboys camping, exploring and climbing 1987, north-west Svalbard Svalbard 1987 British schoolboys camping and climbing.jpg
British schoolboys camping, exploring and climbing 1987, north-west Svalbard

The three main industries on Svalbard 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, the mining yielded revenues of 2.008 billion Norwegian kroner (US$227,791,078), tourism 317 million kroner (US$35,967,202), and research 142 million kroner (US$16,098,404). [70] [95] In 2006, the average income for economically active people was 494,700 kroner, 23% higher than on the mainland. [96] 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 difficult to live on Svalbard without working for an established institution. [88]

Since the resettlement of Svalbard 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 uses 35% of its output to fuel the Longyearbyen Power Station. Since 2007, there has not been any significant mining by the Russian state-owned Arktikugol in Barentsburg. There has been test drilling for petroleum on land, but these did not give satisfactory results for permanent operation. Norwegian authorities do not allow offshore petroleum activities for environmental reasons, and the land formerly test-drilled have been protected as natural reserves or national parks. [70] In 2011, a 20-year plan to develop offshore oil and gas resources around Svalbard was announced. [97]

NASA research facility in Ny-Alesund Ny-Alesund (js) 5.jpg
NASA research facility in Ny-Ålesund

Svalbard has historically been a base for both whaling and fishing. Norway claimed a 200-nautical-mile (370 km; 230 mi) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around Svalbard in 1977, [10] with 31,688 square kilometres (12,235 sq mi) of internal waters and 770,565 square kilometres (297,517 sq mi) of EEZ. [98] Norway retains a restrictive fisheries policy in the zone, [10] and the claims are disputed by Russia. [6]

Tourism is focused on the environment and is centered on Longyearbyen. Activities include hiking, kayaking, walks through glacier caves, and snowmobile and dog-sled safari. Cruise ships generate a significant portion of the traffic, including both stops by 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 overnight stays. [70]

Research on Svalbard centers on Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, the most accessible areas in the high Arctic. The treaty grants permission for any nation to conduct research on Svalbard, resulting in the Polish Polar Station and the Chinese Arctic Yellow River Station, plus Russian facilities in Barentsburg. [99]

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 mainland universities; there are no tuition fees and courses are held in English, with Norwegian and international students equally represented. [69]

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a 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). [100] [101]

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 satellites through Svalbard Satellite Station and installations in Ny-Ålesund. [102] [103]

The Arctic World Archive, a huge digital archiving concern run by Norwegian private company Piql and the state-owned coal-mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, opened in March 2017. [104] In mid-2020, it acquired its biggest customer in the form of GitHub, a subsidiary of Microsoft. [105]

One source of income for the area was, until 2015, visiting cruise ships. The Norwegian government became concerned about large numbers of cruise ship passengers suddenly landing at small settlements such as Ny-Ålesund, which is conveniently close to the barren-yet-picturesque Magdalena Fjord. With the increasing size of the larger ships, up to 2,000 people can potentially appear in a community that normally numbers less than 40. As a result, the government severely restricted the size of cruise ships that may visit. [106]

Unemployment is effectively nonexistent as there is no public assistance. [79]

Transport

Snowmobiles are an important mode of transport in Svalbard, such as here at Longyearbyen. Longyear01.jpg
Snowmobiles are an important mode of transport in Svalbard, such as here at Longyearbyen.

In Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, and Ny-Ålesund, there are road networks, 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.[ clarification needed ] Transport from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg (45 km or 28 mi) and Pyramiden (100 km or 62 mi) is possible by snowmobile in winter, or by ship all year round. All settlements have ports and Longyearbyen has a bus system. [107]

Svalbard Airport, Longyear, 3 kilometres (2 mi) from Longyearbyen, is the only airport offering air transport off the archipelago. Scandinavian Airlines has daily scheduled services to Tromsø and Oslo. Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle also has a service between Oslo and Svalbard, operating three or four times a week; there are also irregular charter services to Russia. [108] Finnair operated service from Helsinki, operating three times per week between June and August 2016, but Norwegian authorities disallowed this route, citing the 1978 bilateral agreement on air traffic between Finland and Norway. [109] [110] [111] Lufttransport provides regular corporate charter services from Longyearbyen to Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben, and Svea Airport for Kings Bay and Store Norske; these flights are generally not available to the public. [112] There are heliports in Barentsburg and Pyramiden, and helicopters are frequently used by the governor and to a lesser extent the mining company Arktikugol. [113]

Climate

Temperature change in Svalbard since 1898 in the context of global warming Temperature Bar Chart Europe-Norway-Svalbard-1898-2020--2021-07-13.png
Temperature change in Svalbard since 1898 in the context of global warming
Spitsbergen in August Spitzbergen-2 hg.jpg
Spitsbergen in August

The climate of Svalbard is dominated by its high latitude, with the average daily mean summer temperature at 4 to 7 °C (39 to 45 °F) (1991-2020 averages), and January averages at −13 to −9 °C (9 to 16 °F) (1991-2020). The more southern Bear Island has January mean temperatures as mild as −4.6 °C (24 °F) in the 1991-2020 base period. [114] The West Spitsbergen Current, the northernmost branch of the North Atlantic Current system, moderates Svalbard's temperatures, particularly during winter. Winter temperatures in Svalbard are up to 2 °C (4 °F) higher than those at similar latitudes in Russia and Canada. The warm Atlantic water keeps the surrounding waters open and navigable most of the year. The interior fjord areas and valleys, sheltered by the mountains, have larger temperature differences than the coast, giving about 20 °C (36 °F) warmer summer temperatures and 3 °C (5 °F) colder 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), and about 3 °C (5 °F) in summer. Bear Island has average temperatures even higher than the rest of the archipelago. [115]

Svalbard is where cold polar air from the north and mild, wet sea air from the south meet, creating low pressure, changeable weather and strong 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,[ clarification needed ] fog is common, with visibility under 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) registered 20% of the time in July and 1% of the time in January, at Hopen and Bjørnøya. [116] Precipitation is frequent, but falls in small quantities, typically less than 400 millimetres (16 in) per year in western Spitsbergen. More rain falls on the uninhabited east side, where there can be more than 1,000 millimetres (39 in). [116]

2016 was the warmest year on record at Svalbard Airport, with a remarkable mean temperature of 0.0 °C (32.0 °F), 7.5 °C (13.5 °F) above the 1961–90 average, and more comparable to a location at the arctic circle. The coldest temperature of the year was as high as −18 °C (0 °F), warmer than the mean minimum in a normal January, February or March. In the same year, the number of days when there was rainfall equalled the number of days when there was snowfall, a significant deviation from the usual pattern whereby there would be at least twice as many snow days. [117]

Global warming has resulted in noticeable climatic changes on Svalbard. Between 1970 and 2020, the average temperature on Svalbard rose by 4 degrees Celsius, and in the winter months by 7 degrees. [118] On July 25, 2020, a new record temperature of 21.7 degrees Celsius was measured for the Svalbard archipelago, which is also the highest temperature ever recorded in the European part of the Arctic; In addition, temperatures of over 20 degrees were measured four days in a row in July 2020. [119] As in large parts of the Arctic, the ice–albedo feedback effects can also be noticed on Svalbard: Due to the substantial ice melt, ice surfaces are transformed into open water, the darker surface of which absorbs more solar energy instead of reflecting it back; as a result, these waters heat up and further ice in the area melts faster and faster, creating more open waters, etc. A temperature increase of between 7 and 10 degrees is expected on Svalbard by the end of the century. [118]

Nature

Long-tailed skua Long-tailed Skua (js) 26.jpg
Long-tailed skua

In addition to humans, three primarily terrestrial mammalian species inhabit the archipelago: the Arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer, and accidentally introduced southern voles, which are found only in Grumant. [120] Attempts to introduce the Arctic hare and the muskox have both failed. [15] :33 There are 15 to 20 types of marine mammals, including: whales, dolphins, seals, walruses, and polar bears. [120]

Polar bears are the iconic symbol of Svalbard, and one of the main tourist attractions. [121] The animals are protected and people moving outside the settlements are required to have appropriate scare devices to ward off attacks. They are also advised to carry a firearm for use as a last resort. [122] [123] A British schoolboy was killed by a polar bear in 2011. [124] In July 2018, a polar bear was shot dead after it attacked and injured a polar bear guard leading tourists off a cruise ship. [125] [126] In August 2020 a Dutch man was killed by a polar bear at a campsite in Longyearbyen. The polar bear was shot dead. [127] [128]

As of 2021, Svalbard has around 300 so-called resident [129] polar bears. Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land share a common population of 3,000 polar bears, with Kong Karls Land being the most important breeding ground.

Female polar bear with cub Female polar bear (Ursus maritimus) with cub, Svalbard.jpg
Female polar bear with cub

The Svalbard reindeer (R. tarandus platyrhynchus) is a distinct subspecies; although it was previously almost extinct, it can be legally hunted (as can Arctic fox). [120] There are limited numbers of domesticated animals in the Russian settlements. [130]

Tundra at Bellsund Tundra1 (js).jpg
Tundra at Bellsund

About eighty species of bird are found on Svalbard, most of which are migratory. [131] The Barents Sea is among the areas in the world with most seabirds, with about 20 million individuals 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 Bjørnøya, Storfjorden, Nordvest-Spitsbergen, and Hopen are important breeding ground for seabirds. The Arctic tern has the furthest migration, all the way to Antarctica. [120] Only two songbirds migrate to Svalbard to breed: the snow bunting and the wheatear. Rock ptarmigan is the only bird to overwinter. [132] Remains of Predator X (Pliosaurus funkei) from the Jurassic period were discovered here; it is one of the largest dinosaur-era marine reptiles ever found. [133]

West coast of Bunsow Land at Isfjorden in Spitsbergen Bunsow Land Brisingefjellet IMG 7496.JPG
West coast of Bünsow Land at Isfjorden in Spitsbergen

Svalbard has permafrost and tundra, with both low, middle, and high Arctic vegetation. One hundred sixty-five species of plants have been found on the archipelago. [120] Only those areas which defrost in the summer have vegetations, which accounts for about 10% of the archipelago. [134] Vegetation is most abundant in Nordenskiöld Land, around Isfjorden and where affected by guano. [15] :29–30 While there is little precipitation, giving the archipelago a steppe climate, plants still have good access to water because the cold climate reduces evaporation. [116] [120] The growing season is very short, and may last only a few weeks. [15] :32 The Svalbard poppy (Papaver dahlianum) is the symbolic flower of Svalbard.

Prins Karls Forland was protected as Forlandet National Park in 1973 Prins-karls-forrland pho.jpg
Prins Karls Forland was protected as Forlandet National Park in 1973
Total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015, Longyearbyen Total solar eclipse of March 20, 2015 by Damien Deltenre (licensed for free use). (32844461616).jpg
Total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015, Longyearbyen

There are seven national parks in Svalbard: Forlandet, Indre Wijdefjorden, Nordenskiöld Land, Nordre Isfjorden Land, Nordvest-Spitsbergen, Sassen-Bünsow Land and Sør-Spitsbergen. [135] The archipelago has fifteen bird sanctuaries, one geotopic protected area and six nature reserves—with Nordaust-Svalbard and Søraust-Svalbard both being larger than any of the national parks. Most of the nature reserves and three of the national parks were created in 1973, with the remaining areas gaining protection in the 2000s. [136] All human traces dating from before 1946 are automatically protected. [122] The protected areas make up 65% of the archipelago. [96] Svalbard is on Norway's tentative list for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [137]

The total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015 included only Svalbard and the Faroe Islands in the band of totality.

Education

Longyearbyen School serves ages 6–18. It is the primary/secondary school in the northernmost location on Earth. Once pupils reach ages 16 or 17, most families move to mainland Norway. [138] Barentsburg has its own school serving the Russian community; by 2014 it had three teachers, and its welfare funds had declined. [139] A primary school served the community of Pyramiden in the pre-1998 period. [15]

There is a non-degree offering tertiary educational institution in Longyearbyen, [138] University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), the northernmost tertiary school on Earth. [140]

Sports

Association football is the most popular sport in Svalbard. There are three football pitches (one at Barentsburg), but no stadiums because of the small population. [141] There is also an indoor hall adopted for multiple sports including indoor football. [142]

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.

Spitsbergen Largest island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway

Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway.

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 Largest settlement and administrative centre of Svalbard, Norway

Longyearbyen is the world's northernmost settlement and largest inhabited area of Svalbard, Norway. It stretches along the foot of the left bank of the Longyear Valley and on the shore of Adventfjorden, the short estuary leading into Isfjorden on the west coast of Spitsbergen, the island's broadest inlet. As of 2002 Longyearbyen Community Council became an official Norwegian municipality. It is the seat of the Governor of Svalbard, whose mayor is Arild Olsen.

Barentsburg Russian coal mining settlement in Svalbard, Norway

Barentsburg is the second-largest settlement in Svalbard, Norway with about 455 inhabitants (2020). The settlement is almost entirely made up of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians.

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 Ghost town in Svalbard, Norway

Pyramiden is an abandoned Soviet coal mining settlement on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard which has become a tourist destination. 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, the cold climate preserving much of what has been left behind.

Grumant Ghost town in Svalbard, Norway

Grumant is a former Soviet company town in Svalbard, Norway, established in 1912 and abandoned in 1965. The population—including Coles Bay, which served the settlement's port—peaked at 1,106 in 1951. The name Grumant is of Pomory origin, and is also used to refer to the whole of the Svalbard archipelago. It may be a corruption of Greenland, with which the land was confused.

Politics of Svalbard Political system 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 Norwegians; 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.

Arktikugol Russian coal mining unitary enterprise

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.

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.

Indre Wijdefjorden National Park National park in northern Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Indre Wijdefjorden National Park is located in a steep fjord landscape in northern Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. It covers the inner part of Wijdefjorden—the longest fjord on Svalbard. The national park was established on 9 September 2005 and covers 1,127 km2 (435 sq mi), of which 745 km2 (288 sq mi) is on land and 382 km2 (147 sq mi) is sea. The marine environment changes vastly from the mouth of the fjord, through a still, cold, water basin, becoming deeper before reaching the glacier Mittag-Lefflerbreen at the inner-most sections of the fjord.

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.

Agriculture in Svalbard Svalbards agriculture

Agriculture in Svalbard – the archipelago containing the world's northernmost permanently inhabited settlements – 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 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.

References

Notes

  1. Mainly international tourist, science and industry workers.
  2. .sj allocated, but not used.

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