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Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of mainland Europe, about midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It consists of a group of islands ranging from 74° to 81° North, and 10° to 35° East. The archipelago is the northernmost part of Norway. Three islands are populated: Spitsbergen, Bear Island and Hopen. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen.

The Svalbard archipelago features in the 1st edition module Boomer

Island of SpitsbergenEdit

Spitsbergen (formerly known as West Spitsbergen, and sometimes misspelled Spitzbergen) is a Norwegian island, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The island of Spitsbergen covers approximately 39,044 km² (15,075 square miles). This name was also formerly applied to the entire archipelago of Svalbard and occasionally still is. It is around 450 km (280 miles) long and between 40 and 225 km (25 and 140 miles) wide. As Spitsbergen lies far within the arctic circle, the Sun is above the horizon for 24 hours a day from late April to late August. From 26 October to 15 February the Sun is continuously below the horizon, whilst from 12 November to the end of January there is civil polar night, where it is so continuously dark that artificial light must be used 24 hours each day.

HistoryEdit

The name Spitsbergen means "jagged peaks" and was given by the Dutch explorer Willem Barents, who discovered the island while searching for the Northern Sea Route in 1596. However, this archipelago may have been known to Russian Pomor hunters as early as the 14th or 15th century, though solid evidence from before the 17th century is lacking. Following the English whalers and others in referring to the archipelago as Greenland, they named it Grumant (Грумант). The name Svalbard is first mentioned in Icelandic sagas of the 10th and 11th centuries, but they more likely refer to Jan Mayen or even Greenland.

Spitsbergen is one of three inhabited islands in the archipelago, and according to the terms of the Spitsbergen Treaty, citizens of any of the signatory countries may settle in the archipelago. Currently, only Norway and Russia make use of this right. The largest settlement on Spitsbergen is the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen, while the second largest settlement is the Russian coal mining settlement of Barentsburg (which was sold by the Netherlands in 1932 to the Soviet company Arktikugol). Other settlements on the island include the former Russian mining communities of Grumantbyen and Pyramiden (abandoned in 1961 and 1998, respectively), a Polish research station at Hornsundet, and the remote northern settlement of Ny-Ålesund.

EcologyEdit

Polar bears are found in the Spitsbergen area, particularly on the Storfjord coast vicinity. Edgeøya lies to the southeast of Spitsbergen. This uninhabited island is the largest part of the South East Svalbard Nature Reserve, home to polar bears and reindeer.

Interesting LocationsEdit

Polish Polar Station Edit

The station was erected in July 1957 by the Polish Academy of Sciences Expedition within the framework of the International Geophysical Year. The expedition was led by Stanislaw Siedlecki, geologist, explorer and climber, a veteran of Polish Arctic expeditions in the 1930s (including the first traverse of West Spitsbergen island). A reconnaissance group searching the area for the future station site had been working in Hornsund in the previous summer, and selected the flat marine terrace in Isbjørnhamna. The research station was constructed during three summer months in 1957.

The station was modernized in 1978, in order to resume a year-round activity. Since then, the Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences has been responsible for organising year-round and seasonal research expeditions to the station.

Seed Bank Edit

Seed Bank

The Norwegian government built a "doomsday" seed bank to store seeds from as many of the world's plant species as possible. The bank was created by hollowing out a 120-meter tunnel on Spitsbergen cut into rock with a natural temperature of -6 degrees Celsius, refrigerating it to -18 degrees Celsius, and then storing seeds donated by the 1,400 crop repositories maintained by countries around the world. The vault has top security blast-proof doors and two airlocks. The number of seeds stored depends on the number of countries participating in the project, but the first seeds arrived late in 2007. The point of this project is to save plants (wild, agricultural, etc.) from becoming extinct as a side-effect of crop gene manipulation, or due to a global catastrophe such as climate change (the tunnel is 130 meters above sea-level) or nuclear war.

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