Settlements and stations
Longyearbyen (= »Longyear City«, this was also the original name), located in Adventfjord more or less in the middle of the main island, was founded in 1906 by the American John Munro Longyear. Today, the Norwegian Sysselmannen (admistrator) and other administration are located in Longyearbyen. There is a small university (UNIS, a branch of mainland-Norwegian universities), hospital, supermarket, hotels, a range of shops, bars, restaurants and other services. The population is growing, numbering around 2000 as of 2009, and more and more houses and flats are being built. Fluctuation is high, as many inhabitants complete a contract lasting over 2 or 3 years and then return home to Norway or elsewhere. Second to the Norwegians is the Thai population, numbering somewhere near 200 and taking advantage of the regulations of the Spitsbergen Treaty. Spitsbergen’s only airport that can be reached from outside is located near Longyearbyen.
The Russian settlement of Barentsburg, located in Grønfjord west of Longyearbyen, is still the centre of all Russian activities in Spitsbergen, mostly mining. Today, there are only a few hundred inhabitants left, many of those working in the mines actually being Ukrainians, as mining activities have declined in recent years as a result of low reserves and mining accidents. There were more Russian settlements in the past, but Pyramiden in Billefjorden was closed in 1998 and Grumantbyen / Colesbukta in 1962.
In Ny Ålesund located in Kongsfjord, coal was mined by a Norwegian company until 1962, when the mine was closed after a number of serious accidents. Later, the settlement was developed to become an international research village, where a number of nations run their stations under Norwegian administration and coordination. The main claim for historical fame of the place are the airship expeditions of Amundsen and Nobile in 1926 and 1928.
Next to these settlements, there is a number of smaller stations, out of which the more important ones shall be mentioned here. The Norwegian weather stations on Bjørnøya (Bear Island) and Hopen are staffed year-round. Polish scientists run a research station in Hornsund, also year-round and nowadays the only permanent research station outside the settlements. The Norwegian coastal radio and communication station Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linné was established in 1933, but was technically disused in 1999; the buildings are now used as hotel, certainly in a beautiful and rather exclusive location.
last modification: 2013-10-11 ·
copyright: Rolf Stange