Close to the Pole

Svalbard is a #Norwegian archipelago in the #Arctic #Ocean. Located on top of the world, it contains endless areas of unspoilt, raw Arctic wilderness. #Svalbard consists of all the islands, islets and skerries between 74° and 81° north latitude and 10° and 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, while the highest mountain is Newtontoppen (1,713 m above sea level).

A visit to the High Arctic #archipelago – roughly midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole – is full of contrasts and amazing nature-based experiences. The Arctic silence creates a unique atmosphere, and you will experience tranquillity that is virtually unrivalled anywhere else on earth. Up here at 78° N, you will soon become part of the most beautiful Arctic adventure imaginable. Majestic mountains, blue sea ice, almost never-ending glaciers and a rich animal life dominate the landscape, which changes appearance during the three main seasons; from the colourful tundra of the #Polar Summer, via the spectacular light show of the Northern Lights winter to the frozen fjords and endless snowy landscape of the Sunny Winter.

Just 1300 km from the #North #Pole, you can visit the world’s northernmost urban community, Longyearbyen. Most of the residents in this tiny Arctic metropolis are Norwegians, but there are residents from around 50 other countries. In all, around 2,100 people call this place “home”, and they enjoy a strong sense of unity and fellowship. Around 450 people live in the modern mining community of Barentsburg, while fewer than 10 live in the Soviet ghost town of Pyramiden. Besides #Longyearbyen, #Barentsburg and #Pyramiden, there are two other settlements in Svalbard. Ny-Ålesund, which is situated on the southern side of the Kongsfjord, serves as a base for international Arctic research and environmental monitoring, while Hornsund in southwestern Spitsbergen houses a small Polish research station.

There are more #polar bears in #Svalbard than people. The residents always take precautions when venturing outside the settlements by carrying a firearm as protection against polar bears. This is one of the few places in the world where it’s not uncommon to see mothers pushing a pram while carrying a rifle on their back. Everyone who lives here must show respect for the majestic nature we have chosen to be a part of, and we are all fully aware that we are guests in the realm of the polar bear.

Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Svalbard, is a tiny Norwegian metropolis with 2,100 residents from almost 50 different countries. The small Arctic town is inhabited by nature enthusiasts who live in close unity under tough climatic conditions with the High Arctic wilderness right on their doorstep. Longyearbyen is the gateway to the nature-based experiences and the starting point for most adventures in Svalbard. This Arctic wilderness starts virtually in the town centre and never ends! Longyearbyen is situated in a valley on the shores of the idyllic Adventfjord, surrounded by steep mountains and several glaciers. There are only around 40 km of roads in Longyearbyen, which is divided into several “suburbs”, including the town centre and Nybyen (new town).

Longyearbyen exists because of the coal in the mountains, and has been built by the mining industry over the past century. Longyearbyen was a typical mining town up to 1990, but has now evolved into a town with a varied business community. Mining remains one of the main industries, but owing to falling coal prices in recent years the mining operations have been scaled down. After the 1990s, tourism has slowly but surely become a major industry in Longyearbyen, and is now one of the main pillars of society. Research and education is another important industry. Students from all over the world come to study at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), which focuses on Arctic research in the fields of biology, geology, geophysics and technology. Longyearbyen also has support functions every community is reliant on, such as a hospital, school, kindergartens, sports hall, church and cultural centre.

The Svalbard reindeer and Arctic fox are Svalbard’s only native land mammals. These species are found on most of the islands in the archipelago. Moreover, the rodent species southern vole has found its way to the Isfjord area, most likely as stowaways on boats. Various seal species are found around Svalbard, including the ringed seal, bearded seal, common harbour seal and walrus. Of the whale species frequently visiting the coasts of Svalbard, the beluga (or white whale) is the most common. Nineteen species of marine mammals may be found in the waters surrounding Svalbard, one of which is the polar bear. Disturbing, capturing, injuring or killing animals or birds is not permitted. All birds are protected during the breeding season. Eggs, nests and It is not allowed to interfere, catch, harm or kill animals and birds. All birds, including their eggs, nests and habitats, are protected during the breeding season. You should never touch dead animals as there has been cases of rabies in Svalbard.

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© 2018-2020 by Emilien Gigandet - Switzerland -