The archipelago is located about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, and is the only place in the world that is habitable at this latitude. This is due to the North Atlantic stream of warm water (the Gulf Stream) that gently meets our west coast. The climate is considerable colder on the east coast, and is in practice uninhabitable. 60% of this area is covered by huge glaciers. The largest island in the archipelago, where all the settlements are found, is called Spitzbergen.
Since Svalbard was discovered in the 1600’s, nature and its natural resources have challenged men and women in a hard battle to survive. Polar bears, Arctic foxes, whales, walruses, and seals have been hunted for centuries. These animals were a great source of wealth to those who survived. Unfortunately nature has been abused over centuries, and some species are on the verge of extinction.
People also found out early that the mountains here contained both coal and other minerals. Therefore the mining industry was dominant for more than 100 years. There have been excavations of phosphate, gold, iron, zinc, lead, copper, gypsum, asbestos and marble, though coal has been mined continuously throughout the years.
Today it is no longer necessary to endure such a hard life style in order to survive. Hunting continues mostly to maintain traditions, generally for seals, foxes and reindeer. Coal mining is still an industry, and today mines are operative at Mine 7 in Longyearbyen, and at the Russian settlement in Barentsburg. In addition to coal mining, scientific research and tourism are the other two main industries. Longyearbyen, the largest settlement, is a modern society with the ”world’s most northern” cinema, cultural hall, newspaper, bakery, wine cellar and civilian airport. Here you will find a rich offering of cultural events, good restaurants, cafe`s, all-inclusive hotels, hostels and guest houses. You can find everything that other people, living in a small town, need for enjoyment. There are 2000 citizens in Longyearbyen, many of whom are children. There are several kindergartens and a school for children from the 1st grade till high school.
Welcome to an breathtaking Arctic nature!
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Post address: Pb 1039, 9171 Longyearbyen
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