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Longyearbyen

Svalbard

Barentsburg

Bear Island

Sveagruva

Ny-Alesund

General View

Svalbard is the northernmost tip of Europe and, a few military bases aside, its settlements are the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet. Located between the 76 and 81 parallels, they are far more northerly than any part of Alaska and all but a few of Canada's Arctic islands.. In fact, they would be permanently locked in by ice if not for the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, and it is this comparative warmth that makes them habitable. The islands cover a total of 62,050km ², the largest of which are Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya..

The combined permanent population is less than 3000, nearly all of which is concentrated in the main settlements of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg on Spitsbergen.. The islands are governed by Sysselmann pa Svalbard, literally if slightly awkwardly translated into English as the Governor of Svalbard; the Governor is appointed by the Norwegian state, and his administrative team are responsible for policing, rescue, environmental policy, visas, weapon licences and other public services on the islands..

The islands were allegedly first discovered by Viking explorers in the 12th century. However the first recorded voyage here was by the Dutch in 1596, landing on the northwest of Spitsbergen. This coast served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries.. Norway's sovereignty was recognized in 1920; five years later it officially took over the territory. However, the Svalbard Treaty gives " absolute equality " to other nations wishing to exploit mineral deposits, and Russia continues to maintain a significant population on the island..

Although part of Norway, Svalbard remains a neutral territory.. There is a currently standing treaty that any sign of human presence from before 1946 must remain untouched, including loose objects. For this reason, the area around Longyearbyen, and several other parts of the archipelago, are littered with interesting artifacts including disused mining equipment, bits of rope and shovels, etc. Coal mining is the major economic activity on Svalbard. The treaty of 9 February 1920 gives the 41 signatories equal rights to exploit mineral deposits, subject to Norwegian regulation. Although US, UK, Dutch, and Swedish coal companies have mined in the past, the only companies still mining are Norwegian and Russian..

The settlements on Svalbard were essentially company towns. Barentsburg still exists as such, while Longyearbyen has begun to resemble a ' normal ' mainland town. The Norwegian state owned coal company is responsible, both directly and indirectly, for approximately half of the working hours in Longyearbyen.. There is also some trapping of seal, fox, and walrus. Tourism has also become increasingly important and now powers the economy of the main settlement Longyearbyen, changing it significantly. Nonetheless, the place is not often swarming with tourists..

The third main industry on Svalbard is scientific research and education. UNIS, the University Centre on Svalbard offers tertiary and postgraduate courses in Arctic sciences, and many countries also run research stations on the archipelago.. Svalbard is barren, rugged and desolate. Its mountains look like giant, precipitous slag heaps; steeply piled stacks of rubble, eroded by rain with peaks jutting out at improbable angles. Higher mountains are permanently covered in snow and many valleys are filled with glaciers..

There are no trees on the islands and the most common vegetation is a brownish green moss, the color of dead grass, that sprouts patchily up the mountainsides. However, many exotic Arctic flowers bloom here during the warm season.. Svalbard literally means " cold edge ", an apt name for this northern land. The climate is Arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current. Summers are cool (July average 6 1 C) and winters are cold (January average -15 8 C), but wind chill means that it usually feels colder..

The North Atlantic Current flows along west and north coasts of Spitsbergen, keeping water open and navigable most of the year. The peak travel season for boating and cruise is during Svalbard's brief summer, from June to August, when it's light and not too cold outside.. The " light winter " period (March May) is the high season for fly and stay guests, when there is both sunlight and snow, is also increasingly popular for winter sports.. Svalbard features the midnight sun from April 20 to August 23. Conversely, the sun stays under the horizon during the polar night from October 26 to February 15..

Norwegian and Russian public holidays apply in their respective settlements, but there are a few local festivals of interest;. Polar Jazz, end of January. 4-5 day jazz, blues, and bluegrass festival.. Solfestuka, around March 8th. ' The sun festival week ' - A celebration of the end of the polar night.. Dark Season Blues. Blues festival in end of October. An appropriately blues themed way to mark the approach of winter.. KunstPause Svalbard, around 14 November. An arts festival timed to match the beginning of the polar night..

General Info

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 group of islands range from 74 to 81 north latitude, and from 10 to 35 east longitude.. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeya.. Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but rather forms an unincorporated area administered by a state appointed governor. 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 lesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Svalbard is the northernmost place in the world with a permanent population.. The islands were first taken into use as a whaling base 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 and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault playing critical roles.. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve inter community transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear serves as the main gateway.. The archipelago features an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude. The flora take advantage of the long period of midnight sun to compensate for the polar night..

Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also features 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.. Approximately 60 of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords.. 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 500 nautical miles and have very different administrative structures..

What To See

Svalbard's visitors come mostly to experience Arctic nature at its rawest and most powerful. The islands feature untouched glaciers and craggy mountains, but also polar bears, caribou, a peculiar short legged reindeer, polar foxes, whales, seals and walruses.. Svalbard is renowned for its variety of birds, including Arctic Terns, Arctic Fulmar and Puffins. Whales can be spotted off the coastlines particularly during late summer. Humpback whales, Orcas, Beluga Whales, and Narwhals all frequent the ocean waters near Svalbard..

During the short summer, the melting snow in the milder parts of the islands gives place to vast stretches of tundra vegetation, sometimes dotted with delicate flowers.. Note that although it is technically possible to prepare your own excursion while on Svalbard, the lack of infrastructure, the necessity of carrying (and knowing how to use) a rifle outside the settlements, as well as the harshness of the environment even during the summer make pre organized activities with professional guides a necessity for most visitors..

Activities can be booked online or in Longyearbyen.. Longyearbyen has a couple of museums and the world's northernmost church. The Soviet era settlements of Barentsburg, still running fitfully, and Pyramiden, abandoned in the 1990s, make offbeat attractions, being home to (among other things) the world's two northernmost Lenin statues.. Both can be visited by cruise or snowmobile from Longyearbyen..

How To Get In

Getting in is expensive and time consuming. In legal theory, citizens of the 41 signatories of the Svalbard treaty (including such unlikely countries as Afghanistan and the Dominican Republic) need no visas or other permits to visit – or even work – in Svalbard.. However, in practice it's difficult to arrive in Svalbard without transiting through Norway, and as Norway considers Svalbard a domestic destination, you'll need to pass through Norwegian immigration first. In the other direction, Norway reserves the right to check the passports of passengers coming from Svalbard..

Longyearbyen has the largest airport on the islands (IATA; LYR).. SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems) has scheduled flights from Oslo (IATA; OSL) Su F (4 5 hours, US $150 350 each way), and from Tromsø (IATA; TOS) Su Th (1 5 hours, US $100 300 each way).. Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle will have thrice weekly flights to Longyearbyen from Oslo (Mo, We, Fr 3 hours) from March 1 2013.. There are also occasional charters from Murmansk (IATA; MMK) or Moscow.. SAS considers flights to Longyearbyen from Oslo or Tromsø domestic, so a SAS EuroBonus award ticket from anywhere in Scandinavia to Svalbard costs just 10,000 EuroBonus points in SAS Go, and 20,000 in SAS Plus..

This little loophole is well known by SAS frequent flyers and award availability is quite limited, so book well in advance if planning to use this. SAS flights can also be bought over the Internet either direct from SAS or via certain meta agents.. The majority of flights are very expensive when booked on line but if you book well in advance you can usually find a few cheap flights a week.. If you are flying to Longyearbyen from far away, a cheaper option may be to book a round the world flight (RTW). RTWs are specially priced tickets which cover travel over several continents, several countries, or a certain (large) number of miles..

Note that some flights arrive at odd hours (such as 3AM). Many outdoor activities on Svalbard demand that you are 100% fit, and you might not be if your flight arrive at 3AM and your activity starts at 7AM.. A number of operators offer cruises around Svalbard in the high season.. These are the only practical means of visiting the more far flung bits of the archipelago like Ny Alesund, but they don't come cheap; a typical 3 day cruise starting from Longyearbyen may cost you from 7900 kr (c US $1500, cheapest cabin, twin sharing)..

There are also longer cruises, some starting all the way from Oslo, with rates going up to US $9500 for a 12 day trip.. There are countless cruise operators, but they all seem to book on the same boats. Spitsbergen Travel runs MS Fram and theMS Nordstjernen (1956), formerly Norwegian Hurtigruten ships.. Other small ship favorites are the Antarctica Dream, Clipper Adventurer, MV Plancius, Ortelius, Akademik Vavilov, Ioffe, and the Polar Pioneer. Most of these vessels have been designed to plow the icy waters of the Antarctica as well and comfortable facilities. While none of these can be described as " luxurious ", other vessels such as the Le Boreal, Sea Spirit, and Le Diamant are larger and designed to cater to the luxury traveler..

Some operators specialize in small ship cruise options and land safaris, such as Adventure Life and Haka Expeditions. If you want a full fledged cruise ship, P&O usually also drops in a few times a year on two week trips.. Actual passenger services to Svalbard are very limited. In the summer there is a cargo ship service from Tromsø once a week. The journey takes 2-3 days and prices are generally at least as steep as flights, but this cannot be considered as a usual measure of transport, as passengers are usually not allowed onboard..

Very seldom, cargo ships also operate from Murmansk to Barentsburg, but this service has in recent years been reduced to one rotation per year. There is also the Polish sailing yacht Eltanin, which provides supplies for research stations.. It sails once a year from Gdynia (usually May); however, the journey takes about 3 weeks..

How To Get Around

The only " highway " links the Longyearbyen airport to the Mine 7 via Longyearbyen. It is for the most part unsealed and anyway very short. There are paved streets in the settlement of Longyearbyen itself and many of the local residents tend to have cars.. Snowmobiles are common transportation in wintertime.. Travel between islands and settlements can be done by plane or helicopter any time of year.. Boats can be used in summer. MS Polargirl runs a mail service several times a week between Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Pyramiden and passengers are taken on these trips. Many people go with an expectation of seeing a polar bear on a boat safari..

This is possible but by no means guaranteed..

Videos

How To Get In

Getting in is expensive and time consuming. In legal theory, citizens of the 41 signatories of the Svalbard treaty (including such unlikely countries as Afghanistan and the Dominican Republic) need no visas or other permits to visit – or even work – in Svalbard.. However, in practice it's difficult to arrive in Svalbard without transiting through Norway, and as Norway considers Svalbard a domestic destination, you'll need to pass through Norwegian immigration first. In the other direction, Norway reserves the right to check the passports of passengers coming from Svalbard..

Longyearbyen has the largest airport on the islands (IATA; LYR).. SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems) has scheduled flights from Oslo (IATA; OSL) Su F (4 5 hours, US $150 350 each way), and from Tromsø (IATA; TOS) Su Th (1 5 hours, US $100 300 each way).. Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle will have thrice weekly flights to Longyearbyen from Oslo (Mo, We, Fr 3 hours) from March 1 2013.. There are also occasional charters from Murmansk (IATA; MMK) or Moscow.. SAS considers flights to Longyearbyen from Oslo or Tromsø domestic, so a SAS EuroBonus award ticket from anywhere in Scandinavia to Svalbard costs just 10,000 EuroBonus points in SAS Go, and 20,000 in SAS Plus..

This little loophole is well known by SAS frequent flyers and award availability is quite limited, so book well in advance if planning to use this. SAS flights can also be bought over the Internet either direct from SAS or via certain meta agents.. The majority of flights are very expensive when booked on line but if you book well in advance you can usually find a few cheap flights a week.. If you are flying to Longyearbyen from far away, a cheaper option may be to book a round the world flight (RTW). RTWs are specially priced tickets which cover travel over several continents, several countries, or a certain (large) number of miles..

Note that some flights arrive at odd hours (such as 3AM). Many outdoor activities on Svalbard demand that you are 100% fit, and you might not be if your flight arrive at 3AM and your activity starts at 7AM.. A number of operators offer cruises around Svalbard in the high season.. These are the only practical means of visiting the more far flung bits of the archipelago like Ny Alesund, but they don't come cheap; a typical 3 day cruise starting from Longyearbyen may cost you from 7900 kr (c US $1500, cheapest cabin, twin sharing)..

There are also longer cruises, some starting all the way from Oslo, with rates going up to US $9500 for a 12 day trip.. There are countless cruise operators, but they all seem to book on the same boats. Spitsbergen Travel runs MS Fram and theMS Nordstjernen (1956), formerly Norwegian Hurtigruten ships.. Other small ship favorites are the Antarctica Dream, Clipper Adventurer, MV Plancius, Ortelius, Akademik Vavilov, Ioffe, and the Polar Pioneer. Most of these vessels have been designed to plow the icy waters of the Antarctica as well and comfortable facilities. While none of these can be described as " luxurious ", other vessels such as the Le Boreal, Sea Spirit, and Le Diamant are larger and designed to cater to the luxury traveler..

Some operators specialize in small ship cruise options and land safaris, such as Adventure Life and Haka Expeditions. If you want a full fledged cruise ship, P&O usually also drops in a few times a year on two week trips.. Actual passenger services to Svalbard are very limited. In the summer there is a cargo ship service from Tromsø once a week. The journey takes 2-3 days and prices are generally at least as steep as flights, but this cannot be considered as a usual measure of transport, as passengers are usually not allowed onboard..

Very seldom, cargo ships also operate from Murmansk to Barentsburg, but this service has in recent years been reduced to one rotation per year. There is also the Polish sailing yacht Eltanin, which provides supplies for research stations.. It sails once a year from Gdynia (usually May); however, the journey takes about 3 weeks..

How To Get Around

The only " highway " links the Longyearbyen airport to the Mine 7 via Longyearbyen. It is for the most part unsealed and anyway very short. There are paved streets in the settlement of Longyearbyen itself and many of the local residents tend to have cars.. Snowmobiles are common transportation in wintertime.. Travel between islands and settlements can be done by plane or helicopter any time of year.. Boats can be used in summer. MS Polargirl runs a mail service several times a week between Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Pyramiden and passengers are taken on these trips. Many people go with an expectation of seeing a polar bear on a boat safari..

This is possible but by no means guaranteed..

What To Buy

The currency is the Norwegian krone (NOK), and this is also accepted in the Russian settlements. Svalbard is a tax free zone so a number of shops in Longyearbyen display various items for sale at prices well below mainland Norway's.. Svalbard is by most measures horribly expensive; mainland Norway is bad enough, but on Svalbard everything costs even more.. Accommodation in cheap guesthouses costs on the order of 500 kr / night and sit down meals nudge up closer to 100 kr each - both figures you can very easily double if you want to stay in a full service hotel..

Guided activities start at about 500kr per day (e g trekking and kayaking) but can go to 1000kr and above for tours requiring specialist equipment.. One way to cut costs significantly is to camp and self cater, bringing all your supplies from the mainland. There is, however, a full service grocery store in Longyearbyen.. Frozen and dry goods are on par with or even a little cheaper than in Norway, while perishable items arrive via air freight and are more expensive.. Svalbard's duty free status means that alcohol and sports clothing, etc are actually much cheaper than on the mainland..

What To Eat

Food on Svalbard is expensive for most visitors, as it is anywhere in Norway. Local specialities include seal and reindeer, served at restaurants in Longyearbyen..

Options For Drink

Alcohol is duty free on Svalbard. If you've arrived from Norway the bars will seem refreshingly cheap but are still equivalent to London prices. If you head over to Barentsburg, Russian vodka can be outright cheap.. A popular party trick for glacier cruises is drinks served with glacier ice, purified by natural processes over thousands of years..

Where To Sleep

A range of accommodation is available only in Longyearbyen, which offers camping, guesthouses and luxury hotels. The camping site is located 300m from the airport and is the only place where camping is permitted in relatively close proximity to Longeryearbyen.. For travellers looking to bring the cost down it is much cheaper to camp than pay for guesthouses and the camping site is free to use outside season, although the service buildings are locked meaning facilities such as toilets are unavailable at this time..

Rules therefore apply to how to deal with urgent toilet purposes, as well as strict rules applied to waste disposal. In season the camp site is serviced and facilities available, and it is possible to rent tents.. Do note that warm showers cost extra. Barentsburg and Ny Alesund also have a single hotel each..

Connect

GSM / 3G phones work in the main towns of Svalbard.. The Internet connection in Svalbard is top class, courtesy of NASA renting bulk capacity on undersea fiber optic cables running at seabed to mainland Norway for its experiments. Longyearbyen has several public Internet terminals.. While mail from Svalbard to mainland Norway and the outside world uses regular Norwegian stamps at regular Norwegian prices, philatelists may be interested in the Lokalpost system used for intra Svalbard mail. Stamps, first day covers and more are available at the post offices in Longyearbyen and Barentsburg, as well as at Longyearbyen's Svalbardbutikken..

How To Stay Safe

The biggest threat on Svalbard is polar bears (isbjørn), some 500 of which inhabit the main islands at any one time.. Six people have been killed by polar bears since 1973, the most recent in August 2011, so if travelling outside settlements you are required to carry a rifle at all times to protect yourself.. They can be rented for about 150 kr and up per day, but starting 2009, a valid gun license is now required; those without a gun license can apply for temporary permission to rent a rifle; all that is required is to fill out an application form () and a certificate of good conduct (i e proof of no criminal record) which can be e-mail ed to the Svalbard Police Department..

Processing may take up to 4 weeks, but has been known to work even on the same day with some luck. However, for most people, it's better to stick to guided tours.. Do not underestimate the speed of polar bears (you cannot outrun one). Polar bears can be extremely unpredictable and are far more dangerous than European brown bears. Note that you are in no way allowed to kill polar bears without it being an immediate threat to your life.. The harsh Arctic environment also poses its own challenges, particularly in winter. Beware of the danger of frostbite in the face (nose and cheeks), fingers and toes, particularly in low temperatures with wind (such as high speed on snowmobile)..

Crossing glaciers and rivers can be hazardous and travelling with local guides is strongly recommended. If heading out on your own, informing the Governor of Svalbard about your route and expected duration is highly advisable.. For any trips outside central region of Spitsbergen, you must notify the Governor, and may be required to purchase insurance or put up a large deposit to cover possible rescue costs..

Where To Go Next

Svalbard is a popular staging point (at least in relative terms) for launching expeditions to the North Pole..

History

Scandinavians may have discovered Svalbard as early as the 12th century. There are traditional Norse accounts of a land known as Svalbarliterally " cold shores " although this may have referred to Jan Mayen, or a part of eastern Greenland.. It was then thought both Svalbard and Greenland were connected to Continental Europe. The archipelago may in that period have been used for fishing and hunting. The Dutchman Willem Barentsz made the first indisputable discovery of Svalbard in 1596, in an attempt to find the Northern Sea Route..

In 1604, an English ship landed at Bjrnya and started hunting walrus; annual expeditions followed. From 1611, Spitsbergen became a base for whaling, where they targeted the bowhead whale. 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. 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..

Smeerenburg was one of the first settlements, established by the Dutch in 1619. 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. 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..

After British raids into the Barents Sea in 1809, Russian activity on Svalbard diminished, and ceased by the 1820s. Norwegian huntingmostly for walrusstarted in the 1790s, but was abandoned about the same time as the Russians left.. Whaling continued around Spitsbergen until the 1830s, and around Bjrnya until the 1860s.. 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. The first mining was along Isfjorden by Norwegians in 1899; by 1904, British interests had established themselves in Adventfjorden and started the first all year operations..

Production in Longyearbyen, by American interests, started in 1908; and Store Norske established itself in 1916, as did other Norwegian interests during the war, in part by buying American interests.. Discussions to establish the sovereignty of the archipelago commenced in the 1910s, but were interrupted by World War I 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. 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 Basse, took office..

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. Kvitya, Kong Karls Land, Hopen and Bjrnya were not regarded as part of the Spitsbergen archipelago.. Russians have traditionally called the archipelago Grumant. The Soviet Union retained the name Spitsbergen to support undocumented claims that Russians were the first to discover the island. 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.. In 1941, Operation Gauntlet, all Norwegian and Soviet settlements on Svalbard were evacuated, and a Nazi presence was established with a meteorological outpost, although a small Norwegian garrison was kept on Spitsbergen.. The Nazi Operation Zitronella took this garrison by force in 1943, and at the same time destroying the settlements at Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. In September 1944, together with the supply ship Karl J Busch, the submarine U 307 transported the men of Operation Haudegen to Svalbard..

Operation Haudegen was the name of a Nazi operation during the Second World War to establish meteorological stations on Svalbard. The station was active from 9 September 1944 to 4 September 1945. It lost radio contact in May 1945, and the soldiers were capable of asking for support only in August 1945.. On September 4, 1945, the soldiers were picked up by a Norwegian seal hunting vessel and surrendered to its captain. This group of men were the last Nazi troops to surrender after the Second World War..

After the war, the Soviet Union proposed common Norwegian and Soviet administration and military defense 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.. After the war, Norway re established operations at Longyearbyen and Ny lesund, while the Soviet Union established mining in Barentsburg, Pyramiden and Grumant. The mine at Ny lesund 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 withdraw. From 1964, Ny lesund became a research outpost, and a facility for the European Space Research Organisation.. Petroleum test drilling was started in 1963 and continued until 1984, but no commercially viable fields were found. From 1960, regular charter flights were made from the mainland to a field at Hotellneset; in 1975, Svalbard Airport, Longyear opened, allowing year round services..

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union retained about two thirds of the population on the islands with the archipelago's population slightly under 4,000. Russian activity has diminished considerably since then, falling from 2,500 to 450 people from 1990 to 2010.. Grumant was closed after it was depleted in 1962. Pyramiden was closed in 1998. Coal exports from Barentsburg ceased in 2006 because of a fire, but resumed in 2010. The Russian community has also experienced two air accidents, Vnukovo Airlines Flight 2801, which killed 141 people, and the Heerodden helicopter accident..

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

Economy

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 gave a revenue of NOK 2.008 billion, tourism NOK 317 million and research NOK 142 million. In 2006, the average income for economically active people was NOK 494,70023 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..

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 Longyearbyen Power Station. Since 2007, there has not been any significant mining by the Russian state owned Arktikugol in Barentsburg..

There have previously been performed test drilling for petroleum on land, but these did not give satisfactory results for permanent operation. The Norwegian authorities do not allow offshore petroleum activities for environmental reasons, and the land formerly test drilled on has been protected as natural reserves or national parks.. In 2011, a 20 year plan to develop offshore oil and gas resources around Svalbard was announced.. Svalbard has historically been a base for both whaling and fishing. Norway claimed a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around Svalbard in 1977, with 31,688 square kilometres of internal waters and 770,565 square kilometres of EEZ..

Norway retains a restrictive fisheries policy in the zone, and the claims are disputed by Russia. Tourism is focused on the environment and is centered around 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; overnights have quintupled from 1991 to 2008, when there were 93,000 guest nights..

Research on Svalbard centers around Longyearbyen and Ny lesund, 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.. 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..

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 and refrigerating the seeds to 18 C. The Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a 1,440 km fibre optic line from Svalbard to Harstad, needed for communicating with polar orbiting satellite through Svalbard Satellite Station and installations in Ny lesund..

One source of income for the area is visiting cruise ships. The Norwegian government has become concerned in recent years about large numbers of cruise ship passengers suddenly landing at small settlements such as Ny lesund, which is conveniently close to the barren yet picturesque Magdalena Fjord.. With the increasing size of the larger ships, up to 2000 people can potentially appear in a community that normally numbers less than 40. The government has recently passed legislation, effective from January 2014, severely restricting the size of cruise ships that may visit..

Transport

Within Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, and Ny lesund, 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 winterboth for commercial and recreational activities.. Transport from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg and Pyramiden is possible by snowmobile by winter, or by ship all year round. All settlements have ports and Longyearbyen has a bus system.. Svalbard Airport, Longyear, located 3 kilometres from Longyearbyen, is the only airport offering air transport off the archipelago. Scandinavian Airlines has daily scheduled services to Troms and Oslo..

Low cost carrier Norwegian also has a service between Oslo and Svalbard, operating three or four times a week; there are also irregular charter services to Russia. Lufttransport provides regular corporate charter services from Longyearbyen to Ny lesund Airport and Svea Airport for Kings Bay and Store Norske; these flights are in general not available to the public. There are heliports in Barentsburg and Pyramiden, and helicopters are frequently used by the governor and to a lesser extent the mining company Arktikugol..

Geography

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 defines Svalbard as all islands, islets and skerries from 74 to 81 north latitude, and from 10 to 35 east longitude. The land area is 61,022 km2, and dominated by the island of Spitsbergen, which constitutes more than half the archipelago, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeya.. All settlements are located on Spitsbergen, except the meteorological outposts on Bjrnya and Hopen. 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 owns 4, Arktikugol owns 0.4, while other private owners hold 0.4..

Since Svalbard is located 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 are 141 and 128 days.. In Longyearbyen, midnight sun lasts from 20 April until 23 August, and polar night lasts from 26 October to 15 February. In winter, the combination of full moon and reflective snow can give additional light.. Glacial ice covers 36,502 km2 or 60 of Svalbard; 30 is barren rock while 10 is vegetated. The largest glacier is Austfonna on Nordaustlandet, followed by Olav V Land and Vestfonna..

During summer, it is possible to ski from Srkapp in the south to the north of Spitsbergen, with only a short distance not being covered by snow or glacier.. Kvitya is 99.3 covered by glacier.. The landforms of Svalbard were created through repeated ice ages, when glaciers cut the former plateau into fjords, valleys and mountains. The tallest peak is Newtontoppen, followed by Perriertoppen, Ceresfjellet, Chadwickryggen and Galileotoppen.. The longest fjord is Wijdefjorden, followed by Isfjorden, Van Mijenfjorden, Woodfjorden and Wahlenbergfjorden. Svalbard is part of the High Arctic Large Igneous Province, and experienced Norway's strongest earthquake on 6 March 2009, which hit 6.5 on the Richter scale..

Things To Learn

The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS),. A private foundation run by four Norwegian universities, offers university level courses in arctic biology, geology, geophysics and technology. Several hundred students, half of them exchange students from outside Norway, attend yearly..

External Links

Coordinates 78N 16E 78N 16E 78; 16.

Population

In 2012, Svalbard had an estimated population of 2,642, of whom 439 were Russian and Ukrainian, 10 were Polish and 322 were other non Norwegians living in Norwegian settlements. The largest non Norwegian groups in Longyearbyen in 2005 were from Thailand, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and Germany.. Svalbard is among the safest places on Earth, with virtually no crime.. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the archipelago, the seat of the governor and the only town to be incorporated.. The town features a hospital, primary and secondary school, university, sports center with a swimming pool, library, culture center, cinema, bus transport, hotels, a bank, and several museums..

The newspaper Svalbardposten is published weekly. Only a small fraction of the mining activity remains at Longyearbyen; instead, workers commute to Sveagruva where Store Norske operates a mine. Sveagruva is a dormitory town, with workers commuting from Longyearbyen on a weekly basis.. Ny lesund is a permanent settlement based entirely around research. 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..

Ny lesund has a winter population of 35 and a summer population of 180. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute has outposts at Bjrnya and Hopen, with respectively ten and four people stationed. Both outposts can also house temporary research staff.. Poland operates the Polish Polar Station at Hornsund, with ten permanent residents.. 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 for tourists taking day trips or hikes from Longyearbyen..

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.. As 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 for tourists..

How To Talk

The official language is Norwegian. However, nearly everyone speaks English. In Barentsburg Russian and Ukrainian are spoken..

Cities

All settlements in Svalbard are located on the main island of Spitsbergen (or Vest Spitsbergen).. Barentsburg – sole remaining Russian settlement, population 400. Hornsund – Polish research station, population 10 in winter, around 20–30 in summer.. Longyearbyen – the " capital " and main Norwegian settlement with a population of 2100. Ny Alesund – the most northerly civilian settlement in the world, population under 100. The other islands of Svalbard are uninhabited and, as they are all nature reserves, generally inaccessible without special permission..

The islands can be divided into two groups; the Spitsbergen group of Barentsøya, Edgeøya, Nordaustlandet and Prins Karls Forland, and the more remote islands of Bjørnøya, Hopen, Kong Karls Land and Kvitøya..

What To Respect

In most of Svalbard's buildings, including some hotels and shops, you are expected to take off your shoes before entering. In public buildings this will be obvious as a shoe rack covered in dirty walking boots will be prominent at the entrance.. Alternatively you may be invited to put on overshoes (effectively plastic bags) over ordinary footwear..

Climate

The climate of Svalbard is dominated by its high latitude, with the average summer temperature at 4 to 6 C and January averages at 16 to 12 C The North Atlantic Current moderates Svalbard's temperatures, particularly during winter, giving it up to 20 C 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 larger temperature differences than the coast, giving about 2 C warmer summer temperatures and 3 C 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, and about 3 C in summer.. Bear Island has average temperatures even higher than the rest of the archipelago.. 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, fog is common, with visibility under 1 kilometre registered 20 of the time in July and 1 of the time in January, at Hopen and Bjrnya.. Precipitation is frequent, but falls in small quantities, typically less than 400 millimetres per year in western Spitsbergen. More rain falls on the uninhabited east side, where there can be more than 1,000 millimetres..

Politics

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 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.. The Svalbard Act established the institution of the Governor of Svalbard, 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 examinationsalbeit never in the same cases as acting as police..

Since 2009, Odd Olsen Inger has been governor; he 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.. 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. No care or nursing services are available, nor is welfare payment available..

Norwegian residents retain pension and medical rights through their mainland municipalities. The hospital is part of University Hospital of North Norway, while the airport is operated by state owned Avinor. Ny lesund and Barentsburg remain company towns with all infrastructure owned by Kings Bay and Arktikugol, respectively.. 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. Svalbard is subordinate to Nord Troms District Court and Hlogaland Court of Appeal, both located in Troms..

Although Norway is part of the European Economic Area and the Schengen Agreement, Svalbard is not part of the Schengen Area nor EEA. Non Norwegian Svalbard residents do not need Schengen visas, but are prohibited from reaching Svalbard from mainland Norway without such.. People without a source of income can be rejected by the governor. Nationals of any treaty signatory country may visit the archipelago without a visa. Russia retains a consulate in Barentsburg.. 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 increased interest in 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..

Nature

In addition to humans, four primarily terrestrial mammalian species inhabit the archipelago the arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer, polar bears, and accidentally introduced southern voles, which are found only in Grumant.. Attempts to introduce the arctic hare and the muskox have both failed. There are fifteen to twenty types of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals and walruses.. Polar bears are the iconic symbol of Svalbard, and one of the main tourist attractions. While protected, anyone outside of settlements is required to carry a rifle to kill polar bears in self defence, as a last resort, should they attack; a British schoolboy was killed by a polar bear in 2011..

Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land share a common population of 3,000 polar bears, with Kong Karls Land being the most important breeding ground.. The Svalbard reindeer is a distinct sub species; although it was previously almost extinct, it can be legally hunted. There are limited numbers of domesticated animals in the Russian settlements.. About thirty species of bird are found on Svalbard, most of which are migratory. 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 Bjrnya, Storfjorden, Nordvest Spitsbergen and Hopen are important breeding ground for seabirds.. The Arctic Tern has the furthest migration, all the way to Antarctica. Only two songbirds migrate to Svalbard to breed the Snow Bunting and the Wheatear. Rock Ptarmigan is the only bird to overwinter.. Remains of Predator X from the Jurassic period have been found; it is the largest dinosaur era marine reptile ever founda pliosaur estimated to have been almost 15 m long..

Svalbard has permafrost and tundra, with both low, middle and high Arctic vegetation. 165 species of plants have been found on the archipelago. Only those areas which defrost in the summer have vegetations, which accounts for about 10 of the archipelago.. Vegetation is most abundant in Nordenskild Land, around Isfjorden and where affected by guano. While there is little precipitation, giving the archipelago a steppe climate, plants still have good access to water because the cold climate reduces evaporation..

The growing season is very short, and may last only a few weeks.. There are seven national parks in Svalbard Forlandet, Indre Wijdefjorden, Nordenskild Land, Nordre Isfjorden Land, Nordvest Spitsbergen, Sassen Bnsow Land and Sr Spitsbergen. The archipelago has fifteen bird sanctuaries, one geotopic protected area and six nature reserveswith Nordaust Svalbard and Sraust Svalbard both being larger than any of the national parks.. Most of the nature reserves and three of the national parks were protected in 1973, with nearly all the remaining protected occurring in the 2000s. All human traces dating from before 1946 are automatically protected..

The protected areas make up 65 of the archipelago. Svalbard is on Norway's tentative list for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.. The total solar eclipse of 20 March 2015 included only Svalbard and the U.K. ' s Faroe Islands in the band of totality. Many scientists and tourists attended..

Work

Citizens of Svalbard Treaty signatory countries need no permits to work on Svalbard; you can even set up your own mine if so inclined.. In practice, work opportunities are rather more limited, although there is some seasonal tourist industry work available during the summer if you have the requisite skills and language abilities (Norwegian will come in handy).. The Governor of Svalbard does, however, have the right to boot you off the island if you cannot support yourself..

How To Stay Healthy

Tap water on Svalbard is drinkable, but surface water may contain tapeworm eggs from fox feces and should be boiled before consumption.. There is a pharmacy in Longyearbyen and you can buy some non prescription drugs in the supermarket (Svalbardbutikken). Longyearbyen also has a hospital for treating emergencies..