Svalbard is an incredibly beautiful and remote grouping of islands in the Arctic Ocean, nestled between the Greenland and Barents Seas hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle (between 74º and 81º north latitude). It has one main town, Longyearbyen (population 2,300), a small Russian mining town, Barentsburg (pop 450), and a small scientific research village, Ny-Ålesund (pop 30 year round), which contains 16 research stations operated by 10 different countries studying atmospheric, climate, and earth sciences.
The archipelago was discovered by Willem Barents in 1596 and was originally named Spitsbergen (meaning “Jagged Peaks”). Today Spitsbergen refers solely to the main island. Longyearbyen has far more snowmobiles than cars, and more sled dogs than people. It has one small university, a museum, and a very small airport. The islands have a long history of whaling, mining, exploration and hunting, all of which have largely disappeared, having been replaced by scientific research and tourism.
Svalbard means “cold” “turf” in old Norse, which aptly describes the treeless tundra. There are many glaciers, winter sea ice, rugged terrain, and surprisingly abundant wildlife, including over 80 species of birds (roughly 20 million strong in late summer), whales, dolphins, seals, walruses, polar bears, reindeer, and arctic foxes. The landscape and wildlife are stunning, and I hope I've captured some of its essence in these photos.
Category:Travel and Places
© Ted Stump