A Homage to Svalbard

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A Homage to Svalbard

Besides Norway, only Russia had a permanent population and industrial operations on this archipelago up north covered by ice. The name Svalbard means “cold coast”, and the first written mention of the archipelago appears in 12th century Icelandic writing. This is a homage to Svalbard.

Dutchman Willem Barents rediscovered the islands in 1596 and the sea around the archipelago was named after him. Various European nations hunted around the islands for 250 years, and vast coal reserves were discovered there in the mid-1800s. Mining started and with the battle over sovereignty in 1925, it was agreed that Norway should administer the area.

A Homage to Svalbard
The group of islands represents Europe’s northernmost point at just over 80 degrees north. Photo: Thon hotels

Majestic mountains and dramatic glaciers
On 80 degrees north without any daylight in the dark season the high Arctic and the taste of Svalbard attracts people from all over the world. The group of islands stretches from Bjørnøya in the south to Rossøya in the north and represents Europe’s northernmost point at just over 80 degrees north. The liveliest and most populated town in the Svalbard Islands has just over 2,000 inhabitants.

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Dramatic glaciers, majestic mountain formations and beautiful colors greet you in summertime. Bussing bird mountains, endless arctic tundra and unparalleled silence await you on Svalbard. The midnight sun shines from early spring until autumn and makes the surroundings works of art.

A Homage to Svalbard
Dramatic glaciers, majestic mountain formations and beautiful colors greet you in summertime

Svalbard has a relatively mild climate compared to areas at the same latitude. In Longyearbyen, the average temperature ranges from -14°C during the winter to +6°C during the summer. However, the weather can shift very quickly, and local variations are often considerable.

Certification of Sustainable Destination
International authorities have awarded Svalbard Islands the certification of Sustainable Destination due to the intensive commitment of Longyearbyen’s citizens to reducing the negative impact on tourism on their land. Even though people have been visiting Svalbard for years, it was not until 1990 that the Norwegian authorities permitted general tourism.

A Homage to Svalbard
Polar bear with kids. Photo: Asgeri Helgestad/Arctic Light/Visit Norway

If you want peace and space for thoughts and dream, a stay on Svalbard is a perfect choice. Mountains, valleys, glaciers, the sea, flowers, and exciting wildlife attract you to adventures you will never forget. Although the permafrost can go down to 500 meters and only the upper 2-3 meters thaw out in the summer, some particularly hardy plants cling to the soil in the coastal regions.

Polar bears
A large number of polar bears can be found on the surrounding islands east of Spitsbergen, but the impressive bears can be encountered anywhere on Svalbard. Young bears walk with their mothers until they are about two years old. But be aware, a polar bear attacks quickly without warning. The population of polar bears is about 3,000 animals, and the size of a grown-up bear varies from 200 to 800 kg. The polar bear is protected.

Related: The Voyages of a Modern Viking

A Homage to Svalbard
Svalbard has a relatively mild climate compared to areas at the same latitude. Photo: Store Norske Leksikon

There are daily flights to Longyearbyen from Tromsø. In fact, Longyearbyen is the northernmost place in the world you can visit on a regular scheduled flight. Both Norwegian and SAS offer flights to Svalbard. And there are first-class hotels and restaurants as well as exciting activities for visitors. Maybe you didn’t expect there’s an impressive wine cellar at “Huset” and excellent beers at Svalbard Brewery or Karlsberger Pub.

Bring the right thermal clothing
However, the right thermal clothing and polar equipment are necessary to fully enjoy a visit to Svalbard. Geologically, the islands are one of the most interesting areas in the whole world. Geologists can run through prehistory from pre-Cambrian to Quaternary period. Around half of Svalbard’s land area was protected in 1973 and three national parks and two large nature reserves have been created.

A Homage to Svalbard
There are daily flights to Longyearbyen from Tromsø

The Svalbard Museum of Longyearbyen is an ethnographic museum which opened in 1979 and is devoted to the 400 years of history of the archipelago. The museum is divided into different sections that provide a comprehensive illustration of the diversity of arctic marine and animal life as well as geological features.

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Spanish flu
Between 1918 and 1919, Svalbard was in a unique way connected to the deadliest epidemic of Spanish flu in history which caused the death of more than forty million people and decimated Europe. Thanks to the low temperatures of the Arctic Circle, muscles and organs from buried bodies kept intact for over 70 years revealed new information about the terrible epidemic.

A Homage to Svalbard
Svalbard islands stretches from Bjørnøya in the south to Rossøya in the north

The North Pole Expedition Museum recounts the heroic efforts made to reach the North Pole by aviation pioneers and includes the story of three airships, departing from Svalbard, and their flights towards the North Pole in 1906, 1907 and 1909.

Famous expeditions
The nations that participated in these historical events include Norway, Russia, Italy, America, Sweden, Holland, France and Finland. Umberto Nobile was a great celebrity of Italian aviation, a general, an explorer and engineer who represented Italy on an important expedition. It was on 12 May 1926 when Nobile, together with Amundsen and Ellsworth, travelled on board the first airship to fly over the North Pole. This semi-rigid airship was built in Italy by the engineer Nobile himself and was named Norge.

An Italian manufacturer of men’s clothing, Svalbard Islands, owes its name to these lands.

A Homage to Svalbard
It was not until 1990 that the Norwegian authorities permitted general tourism to Svalbard

A homage to Svalbard
Enjoy the untouched arctic wilderness and unique wildlife in a setting that is both rugged and fragile at the same time.

Find more inspiration on Svalbard’s official website.

A Homage to Svalbard, written by Tor Kjolberg

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