Spitsbergen Island-You Have To Know



Spitsbergen Island


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Spitsbergen Island is an unincorporated Norwegian island in the Svalbard archipelago. With a land area of 1,879 square kilometres, it’s the second largest island in Norway and the ninth largest in the world. It’s also the most populated island in Norway, with a population of 2,313 as of 1 January 2017.

Spitsbergen Island was part of Norway until 1939, when it was ceded to the United Kingdom in accordance with the Treaty of London following its participation in World War II.

Spitsbergen Island


The first recorded sighting of Spitsbergen Island was by the Dutch in 1596. The island was later visited by English navigators seeking a north route to the South Sea, and named after Pieter de Schie (1580–1642), Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies.

Russia claimed ownership of Spitsbergen from Norway in 1825, following its victory in the War of 1814-1818; however, Norwegian sovereignty over the island was not seriously challenged until 1898.

In 1939, when World War II broke out and Norway fell under German occupation, the United Kingdom claimed that Spitsbergen Island was German territory. They were given no choice but to administer the island from 1945, a situation which remained unchanged until the early 1990s.

After numerous failed attempts at separating Greenland and Svalbard during much of this twenty-year period, it became increasingly apparent in the late 1980s that more drastic action would be required for either side to retain their territorial rights over these areas (see proposals made by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher).

In 1989 Norway agreed with Britain on terms specified under Article 2(1) of what is today known as The Act of Settlement. Svalbard officially became a part of Norway on 4 September 1990, one day after the dissolution of the European Community and three days prior to independence for Iceland (which was already governed with Norwegian sovereignty), both under the provisions set out in The Act of Settlement.



The climate is polar, with a winter and summer. Summer may occur at any time between late September and early June (with a maximum in July), although summer is the most common at Svalbard. The main winter season occurs this same year from January to May, with February being longer than other months. Ice covers more of Spitsbergen during winter; it melts completely every spring and forms sea ice until autumn.

Shallow waters surrounding Spitsbergen delays oceanic climate change extending its climatic zone northward because warmer water reaches these areas from the Atlantic Ocean on top of fast southern ocean winds driven by low temperatures that do not stimulate evaporation like in polar areas.

Geography and administration

Geography and administration

The islands of Spitsbergen first came under Russian control after the Great Northern War, then were ceded to Sweden by Russia at end of 18th century.

In 1920 Canada took over Cape Flora (now Kapp Flora), but Britain assumed sovereignty in 1925 with a new Claim Act that the treaty establishing full Norwegian sovereignty had failed to mention Svalbard during negotiations between Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Peder Munk and his British counterpart Jack Lloyd on 4 May 1921 that resulted from long struggle for incorporation into Norway versus eventual annex by Sweden.

The Act didn’t take over the Norwegian administrative units, as it simply supplemented what had been in existence before 1920, specifically delineating areas subject to fisheries protection and oil exploitation agreements concluded with Britain (earlier governments at times de-militarised or extra-territorialized regulatory jurisdiction). This came into effect 30 June 1925 by Order in Council No. 1300.



Traditional culture revolves around hunting and farming. Tourism is also an important source of income for the residents. There are no permanent residents on the islands; all are seasonal, relying on services provided by staff during the summer months only.

The Norwegian government began a program in 2002 to resettle some of Spitsbergen’s population, but it has not yet been successful in significantly increasing numbers due to strong opposition from many locals who fear losing their traditional way of life.



The current governor of Svalbard is Pål Steinsland.

Spitsbergen is a Norwegian internal territory and not part of any municipality, which has instead its own councils (Fylkesstyrene) for the various municipalities on mainland Norway. There are only about 200 inhabitants living permanently on Spitsbergen, who are from research institutions or support services like the weather station, postal service and police department.

Most residents come during summer to study vegetation or take part in scientific projects. As no new settlements have been established since 2002 there is currently no need for local government; Spitsbergen operates as a quasi-autonomous archipelago, run by the governor of Svalbard.

The political history of Spitsbergen is closely intertwined with that of Norway itself. The islands have been part of Norway since early in its history and were for many years only accessible during winter when ice allowed navigation past the continental shelf.

From 1814 to 1925 they were under British administration, until they were handed over to Norwegian rule as a result of the Treaty of Kiel.

Government services

Government Services

There are no permanent civilian residents on Svalbard, as all services are provided by staff based in Longyearbyen during the summer months only. These include police, fire department and postal service. Medical care is available from a base located in Tromsø during the rest of the year.

The archipelago operates under the governor of Svalbard, who is appointed by , Ministry of Environment and Jan Tore Sanner (the current minister). The Norwegian Polar Institute national centre for research on polar areas at Ny-Ålesund plays an important role in promoting activity and resource management on Svalbard.

A local branch of the Directorate for Nature Management, part of ‘s national administration in Oslo is also staffed during the summer months and carries out assessment, research and co-operation with university members based at Ny-Ålesund Research Station (ONS Arctic Centre).



Tourism is the main economic driver on Svalbard, with visitors arriving mainly in summer to explore the rolling tundra and glaciers. Accommodation is available in hotels and guesthouses run by a variety of private operators, as well as in some government-run campsites.

There are also a number of Adventurous Travel Ltd.’s lodges scattered throughout the archipelago which offer self-catering accommodation options.



There is no regular public transport on Svalbard, with visitors requiring private transportation to and from Longyearbyen. A network of sealed roads connect the settlements, but conditions can be rough in winter and vehicles are generally only allowed on tracks that have been cleared by snowmobiles. There is also a helicopter service linking Longyearbyen with Ny-Ålesund Airport.


Spitsbergen Island is located in the Svalbard archipelago, a chain of islands in the Arctic Ocean. The island is about 2,800 km² in size and has a population of just over 2,000 people. The island has a surprisingly mild climate, with average temperatures ranging from -11 to 12 degrees Celsius throughout the year.

The highest point on the island is Mount Hallvord at 1,930 metres, while the lowest point is on the island’s east coast at sea level. The island is rich in natural resources, including coal, oil, and natural gas.


  1. What Are The Most Important Transportation Services Available On Spitsbergen Island?

There is no wide-ranging public transportation system on the island, with only a few limited options forreaching various areas of the island. The two principal modes oftransportation – taxi and helicopter – tend to be very expensive, and may not bea practical option for travellers who don’t have a lot of money saved up. Visitors can also use boats to get aroundthe island, but these can cost quite a bit more than using taxis or helicopters.

  1. What Is The Terrain Like On Spitsbergen Island?

The island’s landscape consists mainly of mountains and glaciers, with a small areaof flat land in the centre. The highest point on the island is Mount Hallvord at 1,930 metres, whilethe lowest point is on the island’s east coast at sea level. There are severalother high points scattered throughout the island, including Galdhøpiggen (2,615 metres), Kjerag (2,438 metres), and Langtindhøpiggen(2,315 meters).

3 . What Are The Climate Conditions Like On Spitsbergen Island?

The island has a surprisingly mild climate, with average temperatures ranging from -11 to 12 degrees Celsiusthroughout the year. The temperature can change quite a bit from week to week, and there isusually plenty of snowfall during winter.

  1. What Are Some Of The Natural Resources Available On Spitsbergen Island?

The island is rich in natural resources, including coal, oil, and natural gas. Coalmines are located near Hallvordtop in central Spitsbergen, while oil reserves have been identified in the waters off thatpart of Spitsbergen. Several research facilities have been established on the island,and it’s also home to some bird sanctuaries and a nature reserve.

  1. Are There Any Activities Available Near The Entrance Station?

There isnumerous selection of recreational opportunities within close proximity to Hansa, including hiking trails andamusement parks (for children).

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