Svalbard

/svahl"bahrdd/, n.
Norwegian name of Spitsbergen.

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Svalbard

Introduction Svalbard -
Background: First discovered by the Norwegians in the 12th century, the islands served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries. Norway's sovereignty was recognized in 1920; five years later it officially took over the territory. Geography Svalbard
Location: Northern Europe, islands between the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Greenland Sea, and Norwegian Sea, north of Norway
Geographic coordinates: 78 00 N, 20 00 E
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 62,049 sq km note: includes Spitsbergen and Bjornoya (Bear Island) water: 0 sq km land: 62,049 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than West Virginia
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 3,587 km
Maritime claims: exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM unilaterally claimed by Norway but not recognized by Russia territorial sea: 4 NM
Climate: arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current; cool summers, cold winters; North Atlantic Current flows along west and north coasts of Spitsbergen, keeping water open and navigable most of the year
Terrain: wild, rugged mountains; much of high land ice covered; west coast clear of ice about one-half of the year; fjords along west and north coasts
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Arctic Ocean 0 m highest point: Newtontoppen 1,717 m
Natural resources: coal, copper, iron ore, phosphate, zinc, wildlife, fish
Land use: arable land: 0% permanent crops: 0% other: 100% (no trees, and the only bushes are crowberry and cloudberry) (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: ice floes often block the entrance to Bellsund (a transit point for coal export) on the west coast and occasionally make parts of the northeastern coast inaccessible to maritime traffic Environment - current issues: NA
Geography - note: northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway; consists of nine main islands; glaciers and snowfields cover 60% of the total area People Svalbard -
Population: 2,868 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: NA% 15-64 years: NA% 65 years and over: NA%
Population growth rate: -1.99% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: NA births/1,000 population
Death rate: NA deaths/1,000 population
Net migration rate: NA migrant(s)/1,000 population
Sex ratio: NA
Infant mortality rate: NA deaths/1,000 live births Life expectancy at birth: total population: NA years male: NA years female: NA years
Total fertility rate: NA children born/woman HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0% (2001) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 0 (2001)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 0 (2001)
Ethnic groups: Norwegian 55.4%, Russian and Ukrainian 44.3%, other 0.3% (1998)
Languages: Russian, Norwegian
Literacy: NA Government Svalbard -
Country name: conventional long form: none conventional short form: Svalbard (sometimes referred to as Spitzbergen)
Dependency status: territory of Norway; administered by the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice, through a governor (sysselmann) residing in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen; by treaty (9 February 1920) sovereignty was awarded to Norway
Government type: NA
Capital: Longyearbyen
Independence: none (territory of Norway)
National holiday: NA
Legal system: NA
Executive branch: chief of state: King HARALD V of Norway (since 17 January 1991) head of government: Governor Morten RUUD (since NA November 1998) and Assistant Governor Odd Redar HUMLEGAARD (since NA) elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor and assistant governor responsible to the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice International organization none
participation:
Flag description: the flag of Norway is used Economy Svalbard
Economy - overview: Coal mining is the major economic activity on Svalbard. The treaty of 9 February 1920 gives the 41 signatories equal rights to exploit mineral deposits, subject to Norwegian regulation. Although US, UK, Dutch, and Swedish coal companies have mined in the past, the only companies still mining are Norwegian and Russian. The settlements on Svalbard are essentially company towns. 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. There is also some trapping of seal, polar bear, fox, and walrus.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $NA
GDP - real growth rate: NA%
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $NA Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): NA%
Labor force: NA
Budget: revenues: $11.5 million expenditures: $11.5 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1998 est.) Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production: NA kWh Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: NA% other: NA% hydro: NA% nuclear: NA% Electricity - consumption: NA kWh
Exports: $NA
Imports: $NA Economic aid - recipient: $8.2 million from Norway (1998)
Currency: Norwegian krone (NOK)
Currency code: NOK
Exchange rates: Norwegian kroner per US dollar - 8.9684 (January 2002), 8.9917 (2001), 8.8018 (2000), 7.7992 (1999), 7.5451 (1998), 7.0734 (1997) Communications Svalbard - Telephones - main lines in use: NA Telephones - mobile cellular: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: probably adequate domestic: local telephone service international: satellite earth station - 1 of unknown type (for communication with Norwegian mainland only) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1 (plus 2 repeaters), shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: NA Television broadcast stations: NA
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .sj Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 13 (Svalbard and Jan Mayen) (2000)
Internet users: NA Transportation Svalbard -
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: NA km paved: NA km unpaved: NA km
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Barentsburg, Longyearbyen, Ny- Alesund, Pyramiden
Merchant marine: none (2002 est.)
Airports: 4 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3 under 914 m: 3 (2001) Military Svalbard -
Military - note: demilitarized by treaty (9 February 1920) Transnational Issues Svalbard - Disputes - international: despite recent discussions, Russia and Norway dispute their maritime limits in the Barents Sea and Russia's fishing rights beyond Svalbard's territorial limits within the Svalbard Treaty zone

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Archipelago, Norway.

Located in the Arctic Ocean, north of the Arctic Circle, Svalbard consists of nine main islands, including the Spitsbergen group. The islands are mountainous, with glaciers and snowfields covering nearly 60% of the area. The islands were first visited in modern times by the Dutch in 1596. In the early 20th century many countries, including the U.S., debated ownership of mineral rights there. Officially a Norwegian possession since 1925, the islands have been the site of many scientific polar expeditions (beginning in 1773). The population changes seasonally but numbers about 3,000; there are no indigenous inhabitants. Longyearbyen is the administrative centre.

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▪ dependent state, Norway
 archipelago, part of Norway, located in the Arctic Ocean well north of the Arctic Circle. The islands lie between longitude 10° and 35° E and latitude 74° and 81° N, about 580 miles (930 km) north of Tromsø, Norway.

      The archipelago is composed of nine main islands: Spitsbergen (formerly West Spitsbergen), North East Land, Edge Island, Barents Island, Prins Karls Foreland, Kvit Island (Gilles Land), Kong Karls Land (Wiche Islands), Bjørn (Bear) Island, and Hopen. The total area of Svalbard is 24,209 square miles (62,700 square km). Spitsbergen, the largest island, is 15,075 square miles (39,044 square km).

      The existence of Svalbard, which means “cold coast,” was discovered, according to the Islandske Annaler (“Icelandic Annals”), in 1194 but remained unknown to the modern world until rediscovered by the Dutch explorers Willem Barents (Barents, Willem) and Jacob van Heemskerck (Heemskerck, Jacob van) in June 1596. Dutch and English whalers arrived as early as 1611, followed by French, Hanseatic, Danish, and Norwegian whalers whose quarrels over whaling rights resulted in the division of the coast. The Russians arrived about 1715.

      With the decline of whaling by 1800, the islands' importance centred on the presence of coal. Not until the beginning of the 20th century were the deposits surveyed and mineral rights claimed by American, British, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, and Russian companies and individuals. The claims were settled after the question of the islands' sovereignty was resolved Feb. 9, 1920, by a treaty granting possession to Norway and mineral rights on an equal basis to various European and other countries. Only Russia and Norway continue to extract and export coal from mines on the islands. Apart from mining, the only other economic activity is trapping.

      Folding and faulting have given the islands a mountainous topography, with glaciers and snowfields covering nearly 60 percent of the area. The western and northern coastlines of Spitsbergen and Nordaust Land are heavily indented by fjords; the east coast of Nordaust Land is formed by a front of inland ice. Many of the glaciers reach the sea, but in Spitsbergen there are large ice-free valleys. Elsewhere, there are extensive coastal plains, formed by the sea when its level was higher. The highest measured point, Newton Peak on Spitsbergen, reaches 5,633 feet (1,717 m).

      The sea around Spitsbergen is shallow, and the pack ice, which readily accumulates, prevents access to most shores except for a few months (May or June to October or November). A branch of the warm North Atlantic Drift, however, moderates the climate and leaves an open passage that permits vessels to approach the western coasts during most months. The climate is Arctic, with temperatures ranging from 59° F (15° C) in the summer to -40° F (-40° C) in the winter. Vegetation consists mostly of lichens and mosses; the only trees are the tiny polar willow and the dwarf birch. Animal life includes polar bear, reindeer, and Arctic fox (both blue and white). In addition, the musk-ox was imported from Greenland in 1929. Seals, walruses, whales, and land game are now protected by law.

      Many polar expeditions have made Svalbard their base for scientific purposes. The first polar exploration was conducted by British Captain C.J. Phipps in 1773, followed by Norwegian, Swedish, and German groups in the 19th century. Mapping, polar flights, and geologic surveys continued through the first half of the 20th century. The Norwegian Polar Institute, headquartered in Oslo, furthers the work begun by earlier expeditions. The population (there are no indigenous inhabitants) changes seasonally but generally numbers about 3,000. Longyearbyen is the administrative centre. During the summer months tourists arrive by boat at Hotellneset, on Advent Fjord. An airport was opened in 1975.

      Proclamation by Norway of a 200-nautical-mile economic zone in 1977 led to a dispute with the Soviet Union (later Russia) over maritime boundaries around Svalbard. Despite subsequent talks, the issue remained unresolved into the early 21st century. The Svalbard Science Centre (opened 2006) houses the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Svalbard Museum (1979), and the world's northernmost institute of higher education, the University Centre in Svalbard (1993).

 In 2006 Norway, with funding from other countries, began building a seed-preservation bank inside a mountain on the island of Spitsbergen. The Global Seed Vault was designed as a comprehensive storage facility that could protect economically important strains of plants from the threat of a global catastrophe, such as nuclear war or widespread natural disasters brought about by global warming. Completed in early 2008, the vault stores seeds in a controlled environment and has the potential to house some 4.5 million seed samples.
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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