2023-06 Spitsbergen


1st.-8th.June 2023, Spitsbergen with M.V.Plancius


Spitzbergen is the largest and the only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway, bordering the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea and covering an area of 37,673 km2. In 2009, Spitsbergen had a population of 2,753. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Spitsbergen was covered in 21,977 km2 of ice in 1999, which was approximately 58% of the island’s total area.

The island was first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which it was abandoned. Coal mining started at the end of the 19th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognized Norwegian sovereignty and established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve as local transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyearbyen provides the main point of entry and exit.

Spitsbergen has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other places at the same latitude. The flora benefits from the long period of midnight sun, which compensates for the polar night. Svalbard has permafrost and tundra, with both low, middle and high Arctic vegetation. One hundred and sixty-five species of plants have been found on the archipelago. Only those areas which defrost in the summer have any vegetation. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also supports polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer and marine mammals. Six national parks protect the largely untouched, yet fragile environment. The island has many glaciers, mountains and fjords.

The Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz gave Spitsbergen its name, meaning “pointed mountains”, when he discovered it in 1596. The Norwegian administrating authorities named the archipelago Svalbard in 1925, the main island becoming Spitsbergen. All human traces dating from before 1946 are automatically protected. Svalbard is on Norway’s tentative list for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The following text is from the ship’s daily log with some factual additions from Wikipedia (in italics) and a few remarks of mine.

The ship’s route

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