Svalbard Island: where is located, who owns, interesting facts
Svalbard is an island in the Arctic Ocean. It is one of the most northern inhabited regions of the world. Despite the harsh conditions, there are seven national parks here, and tourism is actively developing. Who owns the island of Svalbard? What makes him interesting? Let's find out about it.
Archipelago of the icy ocean
Western Svalbard (often used without the word "western") is an island in the archipelago of the same name, consisting of several large and dozens of tiny islands, skerries and individual rocky protrusions. It has several localities, an airport, coal mines and a world seed bank.
Where is the island of Svalbard? It is located 450 kilometers from the east coast of Greenland and about 650 kilometers from the north of Norway. Its waters are washed by the Greenland and Barents seas, and in the north - the open waters of the Arctic Ocean.
The eponymous archipelago to which it belongs is also known as Svalbard, Grumant or Spitsbergen. It includes: Northeast Land, Barents Island, Edge, Kongsøya, Bear Island, Svenskøya and other territories.
The archipelago covers 61,022 square kilometers. The total number of its inhabitants is less than three thousand people.
The history of Svalbard
The history of Svalbard is a very complicated affair. For a long time, its territory was considered a kind of international zone, “no man's land”, where more than ten countries of the world carried out various activities. Later, this gave rise to disputes over his ownership, and the main role in this “play” was played by Russia and Norway.
The pioneer of the island of Svalbard (Norway) is officially considered the Dutch explorer and navigator Willem Barents. He opened it in 1596, calling Spitsbergen (or "sharp mountains").
Large colonies of whales and walruses lived in the coastal waters; therefore, whalers from all the nearest regions soon came here. England and Denmark managed to declare ownership of the island, but the matter did not go further than statements.By the 18th century, whales in this area were almost completely destroyed, and interest in new territories dropped significantly.
At the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century, research expeditions began to be sent here. So, the island was visited by Fridtjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen, Solomon Andre, Vladimir Rusanov. The discovery of coal deposits led to the emergence of mining settlements of Norwegians, Swedes, Russians, Englishmen, etc.
Today, the country that owns the island of Svalbard, like the whole archipelago, is Norway. She was the first to officially claim its territory and received the consent of the rest of the states in 1920.
During World War II, island residents were evacuated. It housed several German meteorological stations, for the elimination of which the Norwegian troops were sent. After the war, coal mining was resumed by Norway and Russia.
Svalbard has repeatedly been the subject of disputes between Russia and Norway. And although all the troubles, it would seem, were settled back in the beginning of the 20th century, the question of who the island should belong to, periodically pops up again.
Both countries claim that their people knew about the existence of the island long before the discovery of the Barents Sea. Norwegians report that under the name Svalbard, he appeared in the Scandinavian sagas of the X-XI centuries.According to Russia, it was first inhabited by Russian coast-dwellers. But not a single fact has yet been sufficiently reasoned.
In 1920, the Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris, securing the sovereignty of Norway. Now the participants are 50 countries, including Russia, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, etc. They all have the right to carry out research and economic activities on it. According to the treatise, the island is a demilitarized zone - it is forbidden to build military bases on it.
In 1947, the special economic interests of Russia in Svalbard were recognized. Currently, the main activity here is only she and Norway. The rest of the country only partly. There is a Russian mobile connection on the island, and the Russians themselves do not need a visa to visit it.
The population of the archipelago is mostly concentrated on Western Spitsbergen. It has an airport connecting the island with the cities of Oslo and Tremse. Charter flights deliver passengers to Moscow.
The main languages on the island are Norwegian and Russian. Many locals also speak English.Until 1995, a much larger number of Russian citizens lived here. Now they, together with the Ukrainians, constitute about 16% of the population, 70% are Norwegians. About 10% of Poles on the island of Svalbard, they all live in the Polish research station Horsund.
It houses three Russian mining towns. Two of them, Grumant and the Pyramid, are conserved. Only Barentsburg is resident. There are two Norwegian settlements: Logjir and Sveagruva. In addition, the international base of Ny-Alesund is located on the territory of Svalbard. At various times from 30 to 120 people live in it.
Seeing the island on the map, almost all marked in white, you can imagine a huge snow-covered area, where eternal frosts reign. Perhaps it would, but the warm North-Atlantic Current washes the shores of Svalbard. It makes the average winter temperatures on the island as much as 20 degrees higher than the temperatures of the same latitudes in Canada and Russia.
Due to the current, the coast around the archipelago is not covered by permanent ice, and navigation is possible for almost the entire year. The temperature in the winter months usually does not fall below –20, and in summer the average is +5 degrees.
In winter, on the island, as in the whole archipelago, strong winds dominate, carrying cold air. In the summer there are often fogs. Precipitation falls on him regularly, but their amount is small.
The polar night on the island lasts 120 days a year, the polar day is 127. This is one of the places on the planet where you can watch the northern lights. To study it, there is even a special observatory in Svalbard.
The flora of the island in its own way is diverse. Its territory covers the tundra, which means the almost complete absence of trees. But there are more than three hundred different mosses, about 180 vascular plants and thousands of species of algae. Red algae are common on glaciers, they give them a special pinkish hue.
Foxes, deer, beluga whales, walruses, etc. live in seven local national parks. More polar bears live on the island than people, and it is quite possible to meet them. In this regard, each person is allowed to carry weapons. At a local university, before you begin practical work on the street, you must complete a course on shooting.
Another interesting fact about the island of Svalbard: in the local air and soil there are very few bacteria and parasites.Because of this, no people are buried on its territory at all, for corpses simply do not decompose, but only attract the attention of those bears. When someone dies, his body is delivered to the continent.
World Seed Storage
Like no other, Norway has prepared for the end of the world. In the event of a global catastrophe, the country built a huge bunker in which seed samples from around the world are stored. Due to the presence of cold temperatures and weak seismic and volcanic activity, Spitsbergen Island proved to be an ideal candidate for such a premise.
The repository is located in the permafrost layer, at a depth of 120 meters. It is equipped with an elaborate security system and blast doors. Its cold rooms can operate on coal, so that the bank will withstand a power outage for sure.
Every country in the world has its own safe. In total there are about 4 million samples enclosed in several packages. To prevent the seeds from aging rapidly, their storage conditions are carefully monitored.
The largest settlement on the island of Svalbard and its administrative center is Longyearbyen. He belongs to the district of Svalbard.The settlement was founded in 1906 as the base of the company Arctic Coal Co. from Boston. After 1916, the base was bought by the Norwegian company Store Norske.
It is located in the inner part of the island, on the south coast of the Adventfjord. The town is crossed by the Longyear River, which periodically dries up.
A large seaport is located in Longyearbyen, as well as the University of Svalbard, a branch of the Norwegian Polar Institute. This is the main cultural and tourist center of the island. The main attractions here are: the church in 1921, the gallery and museum of Svalbard, where you can learn about the full history of the island, as well as its natural features. Kayaking among the ice floes is a common pastime here.
Where else in Norway can you see Lenin? Of course, in the Russian villages of Svalbard. In Barentsburg, the monument is located next to the consulate building. Behind him on the slope one can see the inscription “Peace to the World”, and right behind it - “Our goal is communism!”, They have been untouched since the times of the Union.
The city is located on the same coast as Longyearbyen, just to the west. The permanent population in it does not exceed 500 people, many came here from the Donbass. There is a hospital, a school, a sports center, a kindergarten and shops, as well as a coal-fired thermal power station and a mine.The mine of the Trust "Arktiugol" is considered to be a loss-making enterprise, as the mined resource is only enough to service Barentsburg.
“Live” money in the city practically does not go, they pay only in the souvenir shops. All residents have special cards for which all expenses are credited, and then deducted from their salaries. Although the usual credit cards are also valid here.