Svalbard (Spitsbergen) is located at 78°45′N 16°00′E, and is the biggest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. It borders to the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. The island covers an area of 39,044 km2, making it the largest island in Norway by far, and actually the 36th-largest in the world. Svalbard has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other places at the same latitude. The flora benefits from the long period of midnight sun, which compensates for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also supports polar bears, reindeer and marine mammals. Six national parks protect the largely untouched, yet fragile environment. The island has many glaciers, mountains and fjords.
The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund as well as the mining outpost of Sveagruva. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Svalbard was first used as a whaling base. It wasn't until the 19th century the coal mining industry started, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognized Norwegian sovereignty and established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a non-military zone. Today, the Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol are the only remaining mining companies. Research and a rapidly growing tourism industry have become important supplementary industries, featuring among others the University Centre in Svalbard and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft, and boats serve as local transport.
I've been so fortunate to be able to work and visit Svalbard regularily for the last decade, and with this blog article I wish to share some of my most cherished moments from all the expeditions.
The storm rages around us. Above us, the sky is blue, but on the ground everything is white. We are minutes away from going out, and Svalbard Villmarkssenter´s dogs howls impatient to be harnessed in front of their sledges. The wind makes it terribly cold. It is when you freeze you know that you`re alive. The men who`s about to go out regards the weather with worried minds. We go out with some old men. On the excursion they realize that they masters the conditions, and we returns with a bunch of happy boys!!
A hectic, short summer on Spitsbergen is over, with flowers and proliferation. As suddenly as it began, it is over. The colors disappear overnight. The first snow comes. Everything turns black and white. And Quiet ..
60 percent of Svalbard is covered by glaciers. Sveabreen on the West Coast is not a large glacier, but beautiful in the evening light, where it`s glacier edge breaks of into the fjord. The name was given it a long tome ago, and gives us a reminder of how great sweden was up here, and how close it was that Svalbard turned Swedish before the Svalbard Treaty was signed in Paris in 1920. The European power states were devastated and tired after WW1, and none of them wanted that Sweden, which still was a relative strong state in Europe then, should get sovereignty
over the archipelago. Norway, however, was a poor little rag State. 14.th of August 1925 Norway officially took over Svalbard. Today we can thank this decision, that we were given such large land- and ocean areas towards the North Pole, with all the natural resources it might hide. But most important: what a fantastic arctic wilderness to take care of.
Illuminated by a laser beam, the turquoise full-rigged sailship heads out fjord with all sails up. The ship is old, maybe several thousands years old. It has broken off from the mother ship the Sveaglacier at the inner part of the fjord. It is on its last journey, as it slowly disintegrates into smaller pieces and disappears.
We stop fishing that bright night, and let the Arctic Trout go in peace for a while. We sits by the campfire made upon driftwood, and enjoy the moment, where eider ducks quacks by on the fjord with the chickens.
Summer night is bright and pious. As so often at Svalbard, the sky is clear and cloudy in a wonderful combination, which gives us a dramatic light. We've settled on the shoreline and made bonfire of driftwood. Enjoying the moment. Jørn however, can not be lured to the fire, but throws strenuously out his fishing line over and over again in his pursuit of the Arctic Trout. His eagerness finally pays off. Half an hour later we serves freshly smoked Arctic Trout on a slice of bread topped with mayonnaise, life is great!
On Svalbard, it is often not just clear or overcast weather. It is often all at once with openings in the clouds where the sun gets through. At autumn, the sun is low and draws rays of light in the mountains. It is indeed photo-graphy: drawing with light..
I will share more precious moments in the Svalbard: Norway's crown jewel in the North Vol. 2 and Svalbard: Norway's crown jewel in the North Vol. 3 articles . For more information about Svalbard and photography tours please visit www.svalbardphototours.com (under construction)