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Svalbard Archipelago

Svalbard Archipelago
(A group of islands between North Pole and the Arctic Circle)

Lonely Planet says:

“The world's most readily accessible piece of the polar north, and one of the most spectacular places imaginable, Svalbard is the destination for an unforgettable holiday. This wondrous archipelago is an assault on the senses: vast icebergs and floes choke the seas, and ice fields and glaciers frost the lonely heights.

Svalbard also hosts a surprising variety of flora and fauna, including seals, walrus, Arctic 1 foxes and polar bears.

History:

Although known to the Icelanders as early as 1194, the official discovery of Svalbard (then uninhabited) is credited to Dutch voyager Willem Barents in 1596. During the 17th century Dutch, English, French, Norwegian and Danish whalers slaughtered the whale population. They were followed in the 18th century by Russians hunting walrus and seals. The 19th century saw the arrival of Norwegians, who hunted polar bears and Arctic foxes. In 1906, commercial coal mining began and is continued today by the Russians (at Barentsburg) and the Norwegians (at Longyearbyen and Sveagruva). The 1920 Svalbard Treaty granted Norway sovereignty over the islands.”

Our local guide told us anybody can come and live in Svalbard, as long as he has the means to support himself.

Longyearbyen, the largest settlement (population 1,500) on Svalbard, has an airport with flights to/from Tromso and Oslo. There is a post office, bank (with ATM), library, museum, church. It also has a pier for tour ships. Barentsburg, the Russian settlement, is about 40km west, while Ny Alesund, a Norwegian research station with an airstrip, is about 100km northwest. Except in settlements, there are no roads.  If one wants to see the islands he has to go by tour ships.

I took the trip with Expedition Trips “www.expeditiontrips.com” on the Sea Spirit with a capacity of 112 passengers but there were only 79 for my trip.  It was a 13 day expedition circumnavigating the Svalbard Archipelago.  We visited different sited for historical as well as wild life viewing. My goal was to be able to see polar bears, walruses, and perhaps some whales.