Norway's Arctic Paradise - Spitsbergen, Svalbard
North of the Arctic Circle, this group of mountainous islands is an icy paradise - glittering, breezy, beautiful. Sixy percent of the land is covered in ice, and for most of the year, pack ice bobs on the coast. About 65% of the land surface is protected. Svalbard has some of the most stringent environmental protection regulations anywhere. About 70,000 visitors a year visit the islands.
Longyearbyen is the seat of government for the islands. The frontier town is reached by air from Oslo, Norway. There are museums to visit, places to dine and a breath-taking setting to photograph. Ny Alesund is a research center, where 15 different countries conduct research into the scientific mysteries of the Arctic. Two hundred year's ago King's Bay, on which the community is located, was entirely covered by a glacier.
Many attempts to reach the North Pole began on an icy shore of a Svalbard Island. Roald Amundsen flew from Svalbard in 1925, attempting to overfly the North Pole. Admiral Byrd succeeded a year later. His base of operations - Svalbard.
In 1899, coal was discovered near Longyearbyen. The full economic potential of coal mining was led by John Munroe Longyear. An American, he founded a company in 1904 that started production six years later. Bu 1960 800,000 tons of coal were mined annually. Historically this island were used by trappers and whales as a base. Whaling began in 1611!
The Kingdom of the Polar Bear
The Norwegian King may reign over the islands, but it is the polar bear who commands the respect of residents and visitors alike. There is a 90% chance of seeing polar bears in the wild during a cruise through the Svalbard islands.