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Svalbard, a part of the Kingdom of Norway, including one municipality (Longyearbyen), lies in the Arctic Ocean north of mainland Europe. It consists of a group of islands ranging from 74° to 81° North, and 10° to 34° East; it forms the northernmost part of Norway. Three islands are populated, Spitsbergen Is., Bjørnøya Is. and Hopen Is.

Flag of Norway
(In Detail)
Motto: None
Official language Norwegian
Capital Longyearbyen
King Harald V
Governor Odd Olsen Ingerø
 - Total
Ranked 122nd
62,049 km²
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 230th
Currency Norwegian krone
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Ja, vi elsker dette landet
Internet TLD .no (.sj allocated but not used )
Calling Code 47


Main article: History of Svalbard

Vikings and/or Russians may have discovered Svalbard as early as the 12th century. Traditional Norse accounts exist of a land known as Svalbard - literally "cold edge". But the Dutchman Willem Barents made the first indisputable discovery of Svalbard in 1596. The islands served as an international whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries. They also provided the headquarters for many Arctic exploration expeditions. Comprehensive geological mapping of the archipelago was conducted by teams from Cambridge and other universities, led primarily by W. Brian Harland from the 1940s to 1980s.

The largest island in the achipelago is called Spitsbergen (Jagged peaks); the name is commonly but inaccurately used to refer to the whole archipelago.


Main article: Government of Svalbard

By the terms of the Svalbard Treaty of February 9, 1920, international diplomacy recognized Norwegian sovereignty and designated the area as demilitarized. Norway took over administration of Svalbard in 1925. However, under the terms of this unique treaty, citizens of various other countries have rights to exploit mineral deposits and other natural resources "on a footing of absolute equality". As a result, a permanent Russian settlement, more or less autonomous, grew up at Barentsburg. The Russians abandoned another settlement at Pyramiden in 2000. At one time, the Russian (or Soviet) population of Svalbard considerably exceeded the Norwegian population, although this no longer applies.

An appointed Norwegian governor, the sysselmann, based in the town of Longyearbyen, administers the territory. The callsign for each amateur radio station starts with JW.


Main article: Geography of Svalbard

Svalbard consists of a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean; ranging from 74° to 81° North, and 10° to 34° East, it forms the northernmost part of Norway. The islands cover an area of 62,050 km². Three large islands dominate: Spitsbergen (39,000 km²), North East Land (14,600 km²) and Edge Island (5,000 km²).

60% of Svalbard is covered by glaciation and snowfields. Indeed, the name 'Svalbard' means 'cold coast'. However, the North Atlantic Current moderates the Arctic climate, keeping the surrounding waters open and navigable most of the year. Svalbard lies north of the Arctic Circle. In Longyearbyen, the midnight sun lasts from April 20 to August 23, and perpetual darkness lasts from October 26 to February 15.

Svalbard also serves as the breeding ground of the barnacle goose and a variety of other birds; best seen from cruise ships. Four mammal species inhabit the archipelago: the Svalbard field mouse Microtus epiroticus, the Arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer (a distinct sub-species), and polar bears. Since polar bears occur very commonly on Svalbard, all people need to take precautions when outside the settlements: this includes carrying a rifle. Nevertheless, the law protects polar bears, forbidding anyone to harm or disturb them.



No roads link the settlements on the island; transportation mechanisms include boat, plane, helicopter, and snowmobile.


Main article: Economics of Svalbard

Economic activity centres on coal mining, supplemented by fishing and trapping. In the final decades of the 20th century, tourism, research, higher education, and some high-tech enterprises like satellite relay-stations have grown significantly. Norway claims an exclusive fishing zone of 200 nautical miles; Russia does not recognize this.

The Svalbard Undersea Cable System which started operation in January 2004 provides dual 1,440 km fiber optic lines from Svalbard to Harstad via Andøy, needed for communicating with polar orbiting satellite stations on Svalbard, some owned by NASA and NOAA.

The Norwegian state-owned coal company employs nearly 60% of the Norwegian population on the island, runs many of the local services, and provides most of the local infrastructure.


Main article: Demographics of Svalbard

Svalbard has a population of approximately 2,800 people. 60% of the people are Norwegian; 40% are Russian and Ukrainian. The official langauge of Svalbard is Norwegian, although Russian is used in the Russian settlements.


Main article: Culture of Svalbard

External links

  • Governor of Svalbard - Official site
  • General information on Svalbard
  • The Svalbard FAQ
  • The Svalbard Project
  • The Svalbard Treaty of 1920
  • CIA world factbook on Svalbard
  • includes images of Svalbard
  • Svalbard - A Polar Experience
  • Svalbard, The land with gold coasts
  • The Svalbardsyk Homepage
  • Svalbard Satellite Station website
  • Pulling out of Pyramiden
  • "About Svalbard", by the Governor's office
  • Svalbard Images - Maps and Pictures

Last updated: 02-07-2005 05:43:26
Last updated: 02-22-2005 02:17:27