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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onHisto­ry → Spits­ber­gen today

Svalbard today

History of Spitsbergen

On this page you will find a litt­le over­view of Spitsbergen’s sett­le­ments and sta­ti­ons.


During the 1970s and 80s, the focus of eco­no­mic­al acti­vi­ty has slow­ly moved away from mining. Lon­gye­ar­by­en is the cent­re of Nor­we­gi­an admi­nis­tra­ti­on. It is the resi­dence of the Sys­sel­man­nen (‘Gou­ver­nour’ with poli­ce- and to some degree juri­di­cal respon­si­bi­li­ty). Today, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is a cent­re for modern ser­vice indus­tries. Tou­rism takes an important and still-gro­wing role.

Residential buildings, Longyearbyen

Modern resi­den­ti­al buil­dings for fami­lies in cen­tral loca­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The­re are three muse­ums (Sval­bard­mu­se­um, North Pole Expe­di­ti­on Muse­um, Mine Muse­um in Gruve 3), uni­ver­si­ty, public libra­ry, school with swim­ming- and sports hall, kin­der­gar­ten as well as super­mar­ket, seve­ral shops, gal­le­ries and a ran­ge of hotels, restau­rants and a lar­ge and still gro­wing num­ber of tour ope­ra­tors. Tou­rism, sci­ence and admi­nis­tra­ti­on are now the most important eco­no­mic­al acti­vi­ties. Coal mining is slow­ly dis­ap­pearing from the sce­ne. The­re is still coal mining going on in mine 7 clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but the lar­ge mines in Sveagru­va, Svea Nord and Lun­ckef­jel­let, are clo­sed.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has a popu­la­ti­on of more than 2,000 today, which is inter­na­tio­nal­ly mixed. Nor­we­gi­ans are the big­gest group, fol­lo­wed by other Scan­di­na­vi­an natio­na­li­ties, but the­re are also a lot of Thai peo­p­le, various Euro­pean natio­na­li­ties, Rus­si­an, US-Ame­ri­cans and others. Lon­gye­ar­by­en has beco­me a modern and popu­lar place to live. The down­si­de of this deve­lo­p­ment is that the housing mar­ket has beco­me very dif­fi­cult and pri­ces for accom­mo­da­ti­on are among­st the hig­hest in all of Nor­way, which in its­elf is not exact­ly a cheap coun­try eit­her.

SvalSat. Platåberget near Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Becau­se of its posi­ti­on near the pole, Spits­ber­gen is a good place for anten­nas to pick up data from cer­tain satel­li­tes.

Due to its posi­ti­on near the pole, Spits­ber­gen is a good place for anten­nas to recei­ve data from cer­tain satel­li­tes. For the amount of data, a fib­re glass cable has been laid from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the main­land of Nor­way, which can pro­vi­de super-fast inter­net con­nec­tion – may­be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for ‘new eco­no­my’ in the low-tax area Sval­bard? SvalSat is a main pro­vi­der of satel­li­te com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on ser­vices with huge volu­mes of data uploads and down­loads from an anten­na park on top of Pla­tå­berg abo­ve the air­port, and an important fac­tor in Longyearbyen’s eco­no­my today.

The­re are seve­ral more sett­le­ments and sta­ti­ons in Spits­ber­gen. Here is a short over­view. Plea­se refer to the pages in the pan­ora­ma sec­tion (click the name of the place in each sec­tion) for some more infor­ma­ti­on and impres­si­ons from the various places.


The mines in Ny-Åle­sund were clo­sed in 1962 after seve­ral acci­dents. Later, the place was re-desi­gned to house an inter­na­tio­nal rese­arch vil­la­ge. The­re is not real­ly a per­ma­nent popu­la­ti­on, but 30-40 semi-per­ma­nent staff and 100-150 visi­ting sci­en­tists during the sea­son.

The Rus­si­an sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen: Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den

Bes­i­des the Nor­we­gi­ans, only the Rus­si­ans still do coal mining. The sta­te-owned Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol has clo­sed Pyra­mi­den in the Bil­lefjord in 1998, but they are still mining in Barents­burg.

Sta­ti­ons: Horn­sund, Isfjord Radio/Kapp Lin­né, Bjørnøya, Hopen

Out­side Ny-Åle­sund, Pol­and is the only coun­try next to Nor­way to run a per­ma­nent­ly staf­fed rese­arch sta­ti­on, which is loca­ted in Horn­sund.

Polish research station in Isbjørnhamna, Hornsund

The Polish rese­arch sta­ti­on in Isbjørn­ham­na, Horn­sund.

The­re are seve­ral sta­ti­ons. The for­mer radio sta­ti­on Isfjord Radio at Kapp Lin­né in Isfjord, just on the west coast, is run auto­ma­ti­cal­ly sin­ce 1999 and not in use any­mo­re sin­ce a glass fib­re cable made it tech­ni­cal­ly obso­le­te. It is run as a wil­der­ness hotel today.

Former station Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linné

The for­mer sta­ti­on Isfjord Radio at Kapp Lin­né.

The­re are still per­ma­nent­ly staf­fed wea­ther sta­ti­ons on Hopen, Bjørnøya as well as Jan May­en (does not belong to Sval­bard).


Today, Trap­pers are a rare side issue. The­re are very few how have cho­sen this as their main pro­fes­si­on and long-term life­style. The­re is one Nor­we­gi­an who has lived on his own on the nor­t­hern side of Isfjord for more than 40 years now. Ano­ther one lives in the Bell­sund area. The trap­ping sta­ti­on Farm­ham­na on the west coast north of Isfjord is also still in use, but not per­ma­nent­ly. The trap­ping sta­ti­on at Aus­t­fj­ord­ne­set in Wij­defjord is owned by the Sys­sel­man­nen who usual­ly gives it to indi­vi­du­als who seek a year of soli­tu­de, being acti­ve and pro­fes­sio­nal hun­ters for at least years, but it is clo­sed at the time of wri­ting (ear­ly 2019).

The­re is ano­ther acti­ve trap­per sta­ti­on in Farm­ham­na on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, just north of Isfjord, but it is not per­ma­nent­ly occu­p­ied.

All of Spitsbergen’s trap­pers have cho­sen their life­style and their respec­ti­ve places to live among­st others becau­se of the calm neigh­bour­hood. Respect their pri­va­cy.



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last modification: 2019-03-05 · copyright: Rolf Stange