What is Svalbard?
Go north of Norway, across the Barents Sea, and about halfway up to the North Pole you’ll find a frozen island group called Svalbard. On the largest island, Spitsbergen, there are around 2600 people residing, most living in Longyearbyen, but also in the russian mining settlement, Barentsburg, and the research base Nyålesund.
The islands were used as a whaling base during the 17th and 18th century later developed a rather large mining industry in the beginning of the 20th century. However, during the last decade the number of active mines has decreased remarkably. Besides mining, tourism and research are the two other main industries on the island.
Since the Svalbard Treaty of 1920, Norway has sovereignty over the island group, and the governor is assigned by the Norwegian government.
Svalbard has five seasons; light winter, spring, summer, autumn, and dark winter. After four long months of complete darkness, the light starts to return in March. In similarity to hibernating bears, the people of Svalbard leaves their homes and soak in the first rays of the sun. From May until far in August, the midnight sun shines upon Longyearbyen all hours of the day.
With 60% of the islands covered in glaciers, it makes an ideal home for polar bears that has also become the icons of Svalbard. The population is believed to be around 3000 bears, which makes life for humans in the arctic a little more on edge. Therefore, when leaving Longyearbyen’s safety zones, one is required to carry a flare gun and rifle, alternatively be with someone who does.
There are no roads connecting the settlements, which leaves snowmobiles on the winter, boat, planes, and helicopters all year around as the only means of transportation. All in all, it is cold, dark, light and wonderful, come visit us, let us take you north!