Svalbard

Svalbard (/ˈsvɑːlbɑːr/ SVAHL-bar,[3] Urban East Norwegian: [ˈsvɑ̂ːɫbɑr] (listen)), also known as Spitsbergen, or Spitzbergen, is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. North of mainland Europe, it lies about midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed in size by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen.[4]

Svalbard
Satellite photo of Svalbard made by Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, October 2022
Location of Svalbard (dark green)
Sovereign state Norway
Svalbard Treaty9 February 1920
Svalbard Act17 July 1925
Administrative centre
and largest town
Longyearbyen
78°13′N 15°39′E
Official languagesNorwegian
Ethnic groups
(2021)
61.1% Norwegian
38.9% other[lower-alpha 1][1]
GovernmentDevolved locally-administered unincorporated area within a constitutional monarchy
 Monarch
Harald V
 Governor
Lars Fause
Area
 Total
61,022 km2 (23,561 sq mi) (not ranked)
Highest elevation
1,717 m (5,633 ft)
Population
 2022 estimate
2,504[2]
 Density
0.044/km2 (0.1/sq mi) (248th)
GDP (nominal)estimate
 Total
US$277 million
 Per capita
US$94,368
CurrencyNorwegian krone (NOK)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST)
UTC+02:00 (CEST)
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+47
Postal code
917x
ISO 3166 code
Internet TLD

Whalers who sailed far north in the 17th and 18th centuries used the islands as a base; subsequently the archipelago was abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the Norwegian Svalbard Act of 1925 made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Svalbard Treaty established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol remain the only mining companies in place. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, with the University Centre in Svalbard and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault playing critical roles in the local economy. Apart from Longyearbyen, other settlements include the Russian mining-community of Barentsburg, the Norwegian research-station of Ny-Ålesund, and the Swedish-Norwegian mining outpost of Sveagruva (which closed in 2020). Other settlements lie farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats provide inter-settlement transport. Svalbard Airport serves as the main gateway.

Approximately 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords. The archipelago has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude. The flora has adapted to take advantage of the long period of midnight sun to compensate for the polar night. Many seabirds use Svalbard as a breeding ground, and it is home to polar bears, reindeer, the Arctic fox, and certain marine mammals. Seven national parks and 23 nature-reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched fragile environment.

While part of the Kingdom of Norway since 1925, Svalbard is not part of geographical Norway; administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area. This means that it is administered directly by the Norwegian government through an appointed governor, and is a special jurisdiction subject to the Svalbard Treaty that is outside of the Schengen Area, the Nordic Passport Union, and the European Economic Area. Svalbard and Jan Mayen are collectively assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country-code "SJ". Both areas are administered by Norway, though they are separated by a distance of over 950 kilometres (510 nautical miles) and have very different administrative structures.


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