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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­on → Islands: Spits­ber­gen & Co.

Islands - Spitsbergen & Co.

Spitsbergen map

Click on the map for more detail­ed views and infor­ma­ti­on

For more, detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on: the Gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard

Guidebook Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Bjørnøya (small island bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and Nor­way)

Bjørnøya (small island between Spitsbergen and Norway)

Call detail regi­ons on the map abo­ve or on the fol­lo­wing links:

Many places and regi­ons are by now also docu­men­ted with pho­tos, pan­ora­mas and text in the Spits­ber­gen pan­ora­ma sec­tion of this web­site.

Gene­ral: Spits­ber­gen is the name of the main island, whe­re­as, Sval­bard is the offi­ci­al name of the who­le archi­pe­la­go bet­ween 76°26’N (Bjørnøya = Bear Island) and 80°50’N (Sjuøya­ne) and 10°30’E and 28°10’E. Ear­lier, the main island was cal­led Vest-Spits­ber­gen; this name is aban­do­ned. The total land area is 62,450 km2, the­reof 39,500 km2 on the main island Spits­ber­gen,  Edgeøya with 5,150 km2, Barent­søya 1,300 km2, Prins Karls For­land 650 km2. Sval­bard is under Nor­we­gi­an admi­nis­tra­ti­on and sou­ve­reig­n­ty, but citi­zens of all signa­ta­ry nati­ons have full access (see Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty). To pro­tect the envi­ron­ment and the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge and to ensu­re safe­ty of tra­vel­lers, the­re is a num­ber of rules which Nor­we­gi­an legis­la­ti­on and, most­ly, also com­mon sen­se pro­vi­de (see here).

Geo­lo­gy: Very varie­ted; many chap­ters of earth histo­ry as well as a wide ran­ge of dif­fe­rent rocks are repre­sen­ted in a rela­tively small area. This includes some fos­sil-rich sedi­ments as well as mine­rals of eco­no­mic inte­rest, most­ly coal. Other valuable mine­rals have been inves­ti­ga­ted during the 20th cen­tu­ry, but were not mined with suc­cess. Explo­ra­ti­on con­ti­nues until today (see the indi­vi­du­al are­as, click on the map abo­ve). The­re is no acti­ve vol­ca­nism in Spits­ber­gen.

Sedimentary layers at Fuglefjella west of Longyearbyen

Sedi­men­ta­ry lay­ers at Fuglef­jel­la west of Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Cli­ma­te: The cli­ma­te is stron­gly influen­ced by two important ocea­nic curr­ents. This makes the cli­ma­te a polar-mari­ti­me one, with win­ters less cold and sum­mers coo­ler than in more con­ti­nen­tal parts of the arc­tic such as nor­t­hern Cana­da. The annu­al mean tem­pe­ra­tu­re in cen­tral Spits­ber­gen (Isfjord) is -7,5°C, which is warm regar­ding the posi­ti­on clo­se to the pole bet­ween 78°N and 80°N. This is becau­se of the effect of the gulf stream (see below). The mid­night sun shi­nes at 78°N for appro­xi­m­ate­ly 4 months, from 20th April to 20th August.

The West Spits­ber­gen cur­rent is the nor­t­hern­most branch of the Gulf Stream and brings rela­tively warm water up to the north along Spitsbergen’s west coast. This makes the cli­ma­te of Spitsbergen’s wes­tern and nor­t­hern coasts rela­tively mild, with litt­le sea ice. The cen­tral west coast (espe­ci­al­ly Kongsfjord) is acces­si­ble for ships during most parts of the year. Eas­tern parts of Sval­bard are influen­ced by a cold cur­rent coming from the nor­the­ast, brin­ging cold polar water mas­ses and a lot of ice from the polar oce­an even in the sum­mer. This cold cur­rent brings drift ice from the nor­the­ast to the south cape of Spits­ber­gen. The ice can drift around the south cape and up north along the west coast. This means, that the sou­thern fjords at the west coast of Spits­ber­gen are often clo­sed by drift ice, when the nor­t­hern onces are alre­a­dy ice-free. The­re can be fields of drift ice in Isfjord at any time of the year, alt­hough this is rare during the later sum­mer.

Land­scape: The land­scape is very varied becau­se of the geo­lo­gy and the cli­ma­te. Near the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, the land­scape is very alpi­ne with poin­ted moun­ta­ins, which gave Spits­ber­gen its name. Cen­tral, nor­t­hern and eas­tern parts of Sval­bard tend to be more wide and open, with pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins. The hig­hest moun­ta­ins are in nor­the­as­tern Spits­ber­gen (Ny Fries­land): New­ton­top­pen is 1,713 met­res high, but is not very con­spi­cuous­ly towe­ring abo­ve the sur­roun­ding, hea­vi­ly gla­cia­ted high pla­teau – at least, when seen from a distance. The moun­ta­ins near the west coast, towe­ring abo­ve sea level still more than 1000 met­res direct­ly next to the fjords, appear to be more spec­ta­cu­lar, such as Horn­sund­tind in Horn­sund, south Spitsbergen’s hig­hest moun­tain with 1431 met­res.

Con­tras­ting land­scapes:
Pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins in cen­tral Spits­ber­gen (Dick­son Land)

Plateau-shape mountain in Lyckholmdalen, Dickson Land, Isfjord

Gla­cia­ted moun­tain land­scape in nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen (Raud­fjord).

Alpine mountains in Raudfjord, northwestern Spitsbergen

About 60% of Svalbard’s land area are gla­cia­ted, with an decre­asing ten­den­cy becau­se of cli­ma­te chan­ge. The gla­cia­ted varies local­ly becau­se of the local cli­ma­te; pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on and thus gla­cia­ti­on increase gene­ral­ly with alti­tu­de and to the west, which is the main source area for moist air. Also nor­t­hern air mas­ses bring a lot of snow, which is the reason for the vast gla­cia­ti­on of Nord­aus­t­land and Kvi­tøya with their wide ice caps.

Glacier front, Kongsfjord

Gla­cier front in Kongs­ford

The west and nor­thwest coast of Spits­ber­gen offer a ran­ge of spec­ta­cu­lar fjords, whe­re­as nor­the­as­tern and eas­tern parts of Sval­bard impress due to their remo­ten­ess and their striking land­scapes.


Heleysund - Edgeøya - Barentsøya - Tusenøyane Kong Karls Land Kvitøya Hopen Spitsbergen (Northern part) Prins Karls Forland & Forlandsund/St. Jonsfjord Spitsbergen (Southern part) Isfjord https://www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com/spitsbergen-information/islands-svalbard-co/nordaustland.html


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last modification: 2019-01-31 · copyright: Rolf Stange