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Longyearbyen Coat of Arms
Longyearbyen (Svalbard and Jan Mayen)
Basic data
Country Norway
Outdoor area Svalbard
Coordinates : 78 ° 13 '  N , 15 ° 38'  E Coordinates: 78 ° 13 '  N , 15 ° 38'  E
Residents : 2,144 (2015)
Area : 242.86 km²
Population density : 8.8 inhabitants per km²
View of Longyearbyen in July 2011
Longyearbyen from the northwest
View over Longyearbyen into Adventdalen

Longyearbyen [⁠ lɔŋjiːrbyːən ⁠] is the largest city and the administrative center managed by Norway archipelago Svalbard ( Norwegian Svalbard ) Arctic Arctic Ocean and one of the most northerly places on earth . It is located on the main island of the same name, Spitsbergen, on the Adventfjorden .

Longyearbyen was founded in 1906 by the American entrepreneur John Munroe Longyear as a mining town. In 1943 the place was destroyed by the German Wehrmacht and rebuilt after the Second World War .

Today there is only one mine in operation near the city, which is mainly used to supply Longyear's own coal-fired power station with hard coal . The coal mining on Svalbard is now mainly in the Norwegian Sveagruva and the Russian settlement of Barentsburg operated from. Longyearbyen lives mainly from tourism and research. Among other things, there is a branch of the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) and the UNIS , a project of Norwegian universities, as well as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault , a long-term storage facility for seeds.

Longyearbyen has a modern infrastructure with various shops, bars, restaurants, kindergartens, a school, a swimming pool, a cinema, a petrol station and a harbor. The road network is only about 40 kilometers long and does not connect to any of the other places on Svalbard. Snowmobiles and boats are therefore the main means of transportation.

For most tourists, Longyearbyen is the gateway to Svalbard and therefore has a relatively good range of hotels and restaurants. The city is used as a starting point for trips and excursions in the area, such as B. for hikes on the local mountain with a view of the city and the fjord. In winter, tours with snowmobiles and dog sleds are offered.

For Longyearbyen there are regular flights from Oslo and Tromsø with the airline SAS Scandinavian Airlines (and at times of Norwegian Air Shuttle ), the flight time from Oslo is 3:05 hours from Tromsø, about 80 minutes.



Longyearbyen is located in the Longyeardalen (Longyear Valley) and on both sides of the Longyearelva (Longyear River) at the northeastern exit of Adventdalen , a side valley of the Isfjord . The village is divided into different quarters, which are mainly determined by the topography, especially the river. The offices of Sysselmannen (administrators of Spitsbergen) and Telenor are in Skjæringa, the quarters on the shore are dominated by the headquarters of Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani and the university center on Svalbard .

The second larger settlement on Svalbard, Barentsburg , is about 55 kilometers to the west near the mouth of the Isfjord.


Longyearbyen is located in Longyeardalen, a typical U-valley with steep slopes and flat bottom. The valley was formed by a glacier during the last ice age. Longyeardalen is still closed by a glacier, the Longyearbreen. The glaciers on Svalbard are also in decline, especially in the last hundred years. The mountains around Longyearbyen are typical plateau mountains with almost flat summit plateaus made of erosion-resistant rock.

Towards the fjord, a clear delta is visible, which has formed from the debris of the river. Much of the earth is colored black from the leaching of the coal mines. The coal, to which Longyearbyen owes its existence, is embedded in slightly sloping seams (2 ° –5 °) between the rock layers of the mountains.



The "Svalbardvalmue" is officially the "state plant" of Svalbard

Longyearbyen is located on a fjord near the west coast of Svalbard. This is the climatically warmest region of Svalbard. A large number of rare or endangered species can be found here. The biodiversity is compared to other Arctic regions, very large. A biodiversity study in Longyearbyen was carried out in 2007 by the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research . Of the species registered in Longyearbyen, 178 are either on the National Red List or in Category 3 (i.e. there are only 1–4 known occurrences on Svalbard). Most of the threatened species are fungi (100 species), lichens (44 species), mosses and vascular plants .

Although the landscape and vegetation of Svalbard are primarily the result of geological processes, the climate and natural selection, humans also had an influence on the topography and vegetation in and around Longyearbyen. Human activity leads to an increased input of nutrients into nature. The increased nitrogen supply enables greener plant cover, especially the growth of the grass.

During the "Longyearbyen greener" project in the 1990s, large areas of grass were sown, which in some cases displaced native plants. Since the Svalbard Environmental Act of 2002, it has been forbidden to import alien animals and flora that are able to self-propagate into Svalbard.

Birds and mammals

Svalbard reindeer , Svalbard geese and arctic foxes can be found in Longyearbyen's vicinity . In Longyearbyen three burrows are known, in Bjørndalen, Nybyen and behind the church. In the first two, foxes with young animals are regularly sighted, while the burrows behind the church no longer seem to have been inhabited since the 1980s. Fox hunting, mainly with traps, is permitted at times, but not in Longyearbyen itself.

The breeding and habitat of birds are in the clear water and in the wetlands.


Longyearbyen, April 15, 2008 at 3 a.m.
Longyearbyen in the polar night

Local low pressure areas and warm Atlantic currents such as the Gulf Stream ensure that the climate on Svalbard is milder than most places at the same latitude. The annual average temperature in Longyearbyen is −6.7 ° C, but the climatic conditions are sometimes very different within the archipelago. The vegetation period (temperature above 5 ° C) for the plants is relatively short at 70 days per year. In winter, the wind chill effect is clearly noticeable in cold temperatures due to strong winds . Fog is a typical phenomenon in summer. Longyearbyen has less rainfall than the driest regions in Norway. The weather station at Longyearbyen Airport has the lowest annual rainfall in Norway at 190 mm.

Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Longyearbyen Airport
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temperature ( ° C ) −15.3 −16.2 −15.7 −12.2 −4.1 2.0 5.9 4.7 0.3 −5.5 −10.3 −13.4 O −6.6
Precipitation ( mm ) 15th 19th 23 11 6th 10 18th 23 20th 14th 15th 16 Σ 190
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Source: Norwegian Meteorological Institute eKlima , values ​​for normal period 1961–1990

The fjords on the west side of Svalbard are often ice-free even during winter. Most of the rainfall on Svalbard comes from the east winds from the Barents Sea . Therefore, three times as much rain falls in the southeast of the archipelago as in Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen is located on permafrost ground that is frozen up to 100 m deep, of which at most the top meter thaws in summer. The permafrost also requires that all buildings in Longyearbyen are built on stilts so that the heat radiation from the buildings does not thaw the frozen ground and cause structural damage to the building fabric.

The living conditions in Longyearbyen are particularly characterized by the long polar night and the midnight sun . In Longyearbyen, the midnight sun lasts from April 20th to August 23rd, while the polar night lasts from October 26th to February 15th. The polar night is absolute from the end of November to mid-January, but is occasionally illuminated by the northern lights .

As usual for arctic climates, the weather can change very quickly. Temperature drops by 15 or more degrees in a few hours are not uncommon. You should also be prepared for sudden snowstorms.

On July 24, 2020, a temperature of 21.7 ° C was measured in Longyearbyen. This is the highest temperature recorded there since records began.



The first church in Longyearbyen, August 1925
Svalbard's Church in summer

Longyearbyen has the archipelago's only Protestant church. The church was consecrated on August 28, 1921, after a construction period of only 50 days. The official name of the church is Vår frelsers kirke på Spitsbergen (roughly: The Church of Our Savior on Spitsbergen ). It was donated by Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani and the Indremisjonsselskapet . The church was destroyed during the German attacks on Longyearbyen in 1943 and rebuilt in 1958.

Svalbard Church is the northernmost church in the world. In 2003, an average of 69 people attended the services, many of them tourists.

The Church of Svalbard has a special position among the churches of Norway because it is not run by the Norwegian Church and the parish. Longyearbyens Church is owned by the state and funded by the Polar Department in the Justice and Police Department. The building is financed by the Staatsbygg . The Bishop of Nord Hålogaland is responsible for supervision and personnel policy, but all other matters are handled by the Department of Justice and Police. Since the laws of Norway do not apply to Svalbard, so do the church laws.

The Church of Svalbard is responsible for all Christians on the archipelago, i.e. Catholics, Protestants as well as Russian Orthodox Christians, who are primarily at home in the Russian mining settlement of Barentsburg .


Longyearbyen has three decent kindergartens and one family kindergarten. In 2004 a total of 103 children attended these facilities. They are run by the Department of Children and Family, unlike those on the mainland, which receive contributions from the municipalities. The department has determined that the Child Welfare Act from 2005 (which is also not valid on Svalbard) should also be implemented here as well as possible.


Already during the first years of the store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani was taught in Longyearbyen. Between five and ten children were trained by 1919. In autumn 1920 a school was set up in a small room. A teacher taught eight students on 12 m². When the first church was built in 1921, it also served as a classroom and the teaching area increased to 20 m².

When the population of Svalbard was evacuated in the years 1942–1945, the school was relocated and the lessons took place in a castle in Great Britain. When people returned after the war, the school had burned down like the rest of town. The school was then set up in a makeshift setting. In 1951 the school got two rooms in the new community assembly building. In 1971 a new school building was opened in the Haugen district in the middle of the Longye Valley. In 1976, responsibility for the school was transferred from Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani to the state.

On January 1, 2007, responsibility for the school passed to Longyearbyen's local government. The school has primary and secondary classes.

UNIS, the research and education center in Svalbard

The University Center in Svalbard (UNIS) was opened in autumn 1993 , but this is not an independent university, but is run as a foundation by the universities of Oslo , Bergen , Trondheim and Tromsø . UNIS is the northernmost higher education institution in the world. Bachelor's and master's degrees in arctic biology, arctic geology, arctic geophysics and arctic technology are offered here.

UNIS has a very international profile. For the students who do not understand Norwegian , all courses are offered in English. The university has 350 students, half of them from Norway and a further quarter from Scandinavian countries. In April 2006 the university moved to new premises in Svalbard Forskningspark , together with the Norwegian Polar Institute , EISCAT and the Svalbard Science Forum. The Svalbard Museum is also located in this building . In 2015, the tourist office moved to its own new building, near the shopping center, where the district administration is also located.


When the Norwegian authorities wanted to set new priorities for activities in Longyearbyen in the 1990s, research and tourism emerged as central new topics. The center of the research activities is the Svalbard Forskingpark, with the university, the polar institute and the EISCAT radar system as well as the satellite station outside the city.

EISCAT radar system above pit 7

EISCAT operates radar systems on the Breinosa , about 10 km east of Longyearbyen. The 32 and 42 m parabolic mirrors are used to explore the atmosphere, the northern lights and the ozone.

The Svalbard satellite station was opened in 1999 on Platåberget, northwest of Longyearbyen. It is used for communication and control of satellites with polar orbits. The seven bowls are used by NASA , EUMETSAT , the US weather service NOAA and other state and private companies. In addition, Telenor has been operating a 20 Gbit / s telecommunications connection to the mainland since 2004.

The Svalbard satellite station, together with the Norwegian Trollsat station , is the only one that can track polar orbiting satellites on each orbit.


Svalbardposten first appeared on the notice board in November 1948. This usually consisted of four pages, which, however, hardly contained any locally relevant information. Today the magazine called the northernmost in the world is printed in Tromsø and appears once a week on Friday.

Today Longyearbyen owns television and radio broadcast antennas that carry satellite signals from Eutelsat . Until 1984 the programs from the mainland were played back with a time delay of two weeks because the programs were sent to Svalbard as video tape.


The broadcast antenna is used for both radio broadcasts and telecommunications

Since 2003, a submarine fiber optic cable with a capacity of 20 GBit / s has been laid between mainland Norway and Svalbard, 2 GBit / s of which is used for telephony. This means that broadband connections for companies and private households have also become possible in Longyearbyen. Villages outside Longyearbyen are connected to the broadband network with radio links. Telenor also set up several cellular antennas so that Longyearbyen, Adventdalen, Todalen and Svea are covered accordingly. Another antenna in Reindalen (on the route between Longyearbyen and Svea) was built in 2007 on behalf of the mining company , but had to be dismantled in 2008 because it had been illegally installed in a nature reserve.


Svalbard lufthavn, Longyear

The Svalbard Airport , outside Longyearbyen, offers regular flights to the mainland. There are also scheduled flights to Svea and Ny-Ålesund . Connections to Barentsburg are made by helicopter.

16 years before the airport in Svalbard opened, on February 9, 1958, an airplane, an Air Force Catalina , landed in the frozen Adventdalen for the first time . The following year, mail was sent to Svalbard for the first time, and a year later a passenger plane landed for the first time. Since the runway was on the frozen tundra, flight operations were only possible during the winter.

In 1973 the construction of today's airport began. On September 14, 1974, a Fokker F28 of the Braathens SAFE landed as the first machine on the newly constructed runway. The new airport was officially opened on September 2, 1975. On December 10, 2007, Liv Signe Navarsete opened the new reception building.

The settlements on Svalbard are not connected by roads. In summer ships connect the places, in winter snowmobiles serve the same purpose. The swampy tundra can only be hiked in places in summer and only on foot.


The modern new administrative center of Longyearbyen in Skjæringa (northeast of the village). In the background you can see the Telenor radio antenna .

The demand for more self-government for the Norwegian population on Svalbard has been discussed several times. In 1925, the Norwegian Parliament rejected the proposal to make Svalbard a member state. Instead, a special administrative system was created with the Sysselmannen as the direct representative of the Norwegian government in Svalbard.

During the Cold War , Norwegian policy focused on monitoring the development of the archipelago and securing its own sovereignty (mainly against the Soviet Union ). A political independence was therefore not up for discussion.

In 1971 the first Svalbard Council was established, with an advisory role to the local political authorities. The council was able to negotiate business that was considered important by the local population. In 1974 there was renewed discussion about strengthening the political rights of the population, but the second government of Trygve Brattelis saw the time still not come to accept Svalbard as a part of Norway. The main reasons given were the duty-free status of Svalbard or the status of the Russian settlements. A new local administration was only set up on August 12, 1981, and elections were held for the first time in 1993.

In 2002 a new model of self-government was pushed through by the government, although a large part of the population opposed it, according to a 2006 survey. There is little confidence in the local parliament and many people feel that the self-government system is not working well. The opposition is particularly conspicuous among the long-established population. Elections to the local council took place on October 21 and 22, 2007. Five parties took part. 1,563 people were entitled to vote, the participation was 40.27%.


Longyearbyen's shopping street in summer

Originally Longyearbyen was a heavily male dominated and mining based society. In the last few years Longyearbyen has clearly developed in the direction of a “normal” place with an increasing proportion of women and children. There are schools and kindergartens. While almost every second person in Norway is under 20 or over 65 years old, this population group in Svalbard only makes up 25% of the population. Norwegian residents of Svalbard remain registered in their home municipality and are entitled to vote and vote there. About half of Longyearbyen's population comes from the northern four administrative districts of Norway. In 2009, 16% of the population was made up of citizens of countries other than Norway.

Spitsbergen has had its own residents' registration office since January 1st, 1995. Residents must register accordingly when entering or leaving the country and when moving. Employers have to report their personal lists to the tax authorities annually.

The Svalbard Treaty allows all citizens of the signatory states to take up residence in Svalbard without further conditions and to pursue gainful employment.

country January 1, 2003 January 1, 2004 January 1, 2005
Norway 1450 1507 1581
Thailand 49 48 52
Sweden 35 44 42
Denmark 14th 23 26th
Germany 14th 20th 16
Russia 12 19th 20th
Other European countries 40 53 51
Other countries outside Europe 23 18th 27
Total 1637 1724 1815


Norway's only coal-fired power station is in Longyearbyen. Photo: Erlend Björtvedt

Today mining in Longyearbyen is limited to Pit 7 , which is about ten kilometers southeast of the village. The mined coal is transported to the city by truck, around a third of the coal is used there for the Longyear coal-fired power station, the rest is shipped. The coal is mined completely mechanically. The last mine that was still mined by hand was mine 3; it was closed in 1996.

Coal production in Longyearbyen's mines from 1917 to 2001. Figures in thousands of tons.
Longyearbyen cemetery. The victims of the two mine accidents are also buried here.
The second entrance to Mine 2

Pit 1, also known as the American Mine , was Longyearbyen's first coal mine. It opened in 1906 and finally closed in 1958. The pit is on the north side of Longyeardalen. On the night of January 3, 1920, 26 miners died in a coal dust explosion. The mine was initially closed, even though the mining company believed it would continue to be financially viable to mine.

Preparatory work on Mine 2 began in 1913. It was accelerated after Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani took over the mines in 1918 and after the mine accident in Mine 1. The actual coal mining began in 1921. However, the geological conditions in the mine quickly became difficult, so that mining was stopped again in 1938. It was therefore decided to reopen Mine 1 and built a new access tunnel further down the valley, now known as Mine 1B. Mining began in October 1939. Here, too, the geological conditions were difficult. In the period between 1950 and 1958 , only access tunnels were built in search of the seam . After that the mine was closed and served as a drinking water reservoir for Longyearbyen for some time.

In the first few years the yield in Mine 2 was very good, but in the 1930s, long transport routes and low coal prices made mining less and less profitable. In 1937 a new access tunnel was built further back in the valley. During the Second World War , the mine was set on fire by British soldiers when the German battleship Scharnhorst attacked during Operation Sicily in 1943 so that the coal would not fall into the hands of the Germans. The mine burned until 1962.

After the end of the war, work in Mine 2 was resumed. A gas eruption in the mine in January 1952 cost six lives. In the years 1960-64, work in Mine 2 was stopped because at the same time mining began in Mine 5 and coal prices fell sharply. After that, work was resumed. The mine was abandoned in the winter of 1967/68 because it is empty.

Construction work on Mine 3, which is located south of the airport, began in 1969, and dismantling in 1971. At times, half of the coal for the mining company came from Mine 3. In November 1996, the mine was empty and was closed.

Longyearbyen's smallest mine was Mine 4. It closed in 1970 after only two years of operation due to poor efficiency. The coal was carried out through the gallery system of Mine 2.

Mine 5 was the first mine that was built outside the Longyeardalen, namely in the Endalen about 5 km east of Longyearbyen. The preparatory work began with the construction of a road, power lines and telephone connections. In 1957 and 1958 the mine railways were built. Coal mining began in the fall of 1959 and continued until May 1972 when the mine was cleared.

Development of Mine 6 began in 1967 and mining began in 1969. Mining ceased in 1981, although an estimated 380,000 tons were left in the mountain. However, the coal is in a thin layer deep inside the mountain.

Mine 7, which is on a ridge between Bolterdalen and Foxdalen, is the last of the mines around Longyearbyen still in operation. The dismantling was prepared for several years, which finally began in 1976. Between 1978 and 1981, mining was halted to renew and repair the mining equipment.


Signposts at Longyearbyen Airport with information on distances to major world cities
The road signs in Longyearbyen are popular photo opportunities for tourists. The traffic sign warning of polar bears only occurs in Longyearbyen worldwide.

Even before the first coal mining attempts began around 1900, the Adventfjord was visited by tourists. The first trips to Svalbard date from 1807. The first tourists were mostly wealthy foreigners who went to Svalbard in their yachts to marvel at the midnight sun. Then came the first luxury yachts. In 1893 the steamship Columbia docked in the Adventfjord. It had a hundred tourists and an orchestra of seventeen on board. Norwegian shipping companies also offered trips to Svalbard, but were less successful than the foreign shipping companies.

In 1896 the Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab opened the first hotel on Neset, near today's airport. It was prefabricated in Trondheim and then transported by ship to Spitsbergen.

With the beginning of the First World War , tourism collapsed on Svalbard, as everywhere in Europe. After the war, tourist activities were resumed. After the Second World War, tourism increased again. One of the main interests of tourists was polar bear hunting . Since 1973 the polar bears have been protected by the Washington Convention on the Conservation of Species , until then around 700 polar bears have been killed by "hunting tourism".

In the summer months, boat trips around the archipelago dominate the tourist offer. In 2002, 27,000 people (including the crew) were counted on the tour ships.

With the opening of the airport in 1975, tourism on Svalbard was steered in a new direction, mainly because the archipelago was now much easier to reach and short stays were also possible. However, mass tourism was met with great skepticism, in addition to problems with missing hotel beds and insufficient food supply for the additional tourists. It would take decades for the Svalbard economy to adapt to supplying tourists.

Every year around 30,000 tourists visit Svalbard, but this is less than one percent of the tourism volume in northern Scandinavia. From 1993 to 2006 the number of hotel nights in Longyearbyen rose from 24,000 to 83,000. 80 percent of the tourists come from Norway. This is followed by Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Great Britain.

The Svalbard Airport is the northernmost airport in the world with regular scheduled flights.


The first coal finds

In 1899, skipper Søren Zachariassen brought 600 hectoliters of coal to Tromsø, which he had found in the Bohemanneset and in the Isfjorden . Even at the time of the whaling (which had been practiced here since the archipelago was discovered in 1596), Svalbard was known to be rich in coal. Zachariassen's enterprise is considered to be the first commercial coal mining. One of the first customers was a yacht owned by Albert I of Monaco .

The first Norwegians began mining coal in 1903. Later came foreign companies that understood more about mining and were therefore able to work more economically. Henrik Næss, Zachariassen's partner, sold his company Trondhjem Spitsbergen Kulkompani to the Arctic Coal Company . Zachariassen's discoveries brought him little profit.

American era

Memorial to John Munroe Longyear in Longyearbyen

In 1901 the American businessman John Munroe Longyear traveled to Svalbard for the first time with his family. His interests in the Svalbard coal deposits were well known. He traveled to Svalbard several times until in 1906 he founded the settlement in the Adventfjorden that today bears his name. He was the majority shareholder in the Arctic Coal Company , which had acquired the mining rights in Longyearbyen. However, he had only agreed to this deal after the Norwegian government had assured him that Svalbard was no man's land .

The first expedition to determine the mining conditions reached the Adventfjord on June 2, 1905. William D. Munroe, a nephew of John, led the expedition, which bought several properties for the Arctic Coal Company.

In 1906 the ship “Primo” left Trondheim for the Adventfjord. On board were William, his horse, 50 men, wood and half a ton of dynamite. The crew stayed at the old hotel in Neset and started mining. Ten houses were built, water supplies were created and a cable car for the coal was built. In the first year the men ran into coal. The last ship left Svalbard on October 2nd with a load of coal and the men who would not winter on Svalbard. 22 men stayed behind.

Longyear and his partner Ayer were hoping for more investors for their company who would also take responsibility. But when William D. Munroe died in a shipwreck in 1907, Longyear concentrated more and more on the mining industry and controlled the company from Boston. All important decisions required his approval.

In 1907/1908 the then leading cable car manufacturer Adolf Bleichert & Co. built a material cable car to the ship loading station, which was later supplemented by a cable car to pit 2. The remains of these cable cars and later successors to other pits are still visible today. The mine grew rapidly and in the winter of 1910/11 73 men and 3 women were already spending the winter in "Longyear City", as the place was still unofficially called.

In the summer of 1912, Longyearbyen was largely paralyzed by a strike. Management vehemently opposed the establishment of a workers' organization and sent 238 workers home. The mines were often on strike during this time, less because of the wages, but because of poor living conditions, inadequate hygiene, bad food and because of cultural differences between the Norwegian workers and the American leadership.

Decline in degradation

In the summer of 1913, annual coal production had risen to 30,000 tons and Mine 2 was about to open. During this time, however, mining proved to be a big losing business and there was no prospect of improvement. The mine manager Scott Turner therefore toyed with the idea of ​​selling all of the property. All investments were stopped and only the dismantling continued.

In August 1914, World War I broke out and the banks stopped lending to the Arctic Coal Company, which was already in dire financial straits. It was also difficult and expensive to get spare parts for the machines. The company reduced its workforce to 120 over the winter and all properties on mainland Norway were sold. In September 1915, dismantling was completely abandoned and only three men remained to guard. All other workers were made redundant, with the exception of those in the Tromsø office.

During the nine years of its existence, the Arctic Coal Company had mined 200,000 tons of coal and invested almost 3.5 million Norwegian kroner. This is a considerable sum, the total turnover of the Norwegian state at that time was 12.5 million. Up to 300 men spent the winter in Longyearbyen, and in summer the team was almost twice as strong.

The establishment of Store Norske Spitzbergen Kulkompani

After the work stopped, the company started looking for buyers for their property. The interested parties included the Norwegian Central Bank with Adolf Hoel as geological expert, Johan Anker and his company, Green Harbor , as well as a group of Russian investors. Ankersen's group waived. The director of the central bank, Kielland Torildsen, had ties to the then Prime Minister Gunnar Knudsen and so Det norske Spitsbergensyndikat was founded in January 1916 , in which the central bank, various other banks, Elkem, Hydro (?) And Gunnar Knudsen were shareholders.

On April 1, 1916, John Munroe Longyear accepted the offer of 3.5 million kroner. The formal takeover took place on September 1st. The syndicate bought other lands and soon owned 1200 km² on Svalbard. These properties were of great national interest to Norway and were decisive for Norwegian research activities on the archipelago.

The syndicate was formed to buy Longyear's properties, but there was no interest in mining. This changed when on 30 November 1916 in Oslo , the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani A / S was established and all effects took over the syndicate.

First World War

The village center of Longyearbyen in 1925. At that time it was still on the northern side of the valley, by the older pits.

During the First World War , there was great optimism about the coal business. However, prices fell significantly, so that many companies could only continue to exist through government bonds and subsidies.

Norway had not yet been able to enforce its territorial claims on Svalbard, so its presence was important to back up the ownership claims. After the completion of Spitsbergen Treaty in 1925, several other mining enterprises gave their activities in Svalbard. Norway expanded its influence through the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani. Although this was officially a public limited company under private law, it was actually financially dependent on the state.

Second World War

The German battleship Scharnhorst set Longyearbyen on fire on September 8, 1943. On December 26 of the same year, the Scharnhorst was sunk about 60 nautical miles north of the North Cape.

At the beginning of the Second World War, 900 Norwegians and 2000 Russians lived on Svalbard. Until 1941 life and work in the Russian and American mines continued as usual.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Allies posted guards at the mines. All Soviet citizens were evacuated to Russia from British warships during Operation Gauntlet at the end of August , and the Norwegians to Great Britain on September 3 on the Empress of Canada . Everything that would have had any military or economic use - coal supplies, oil, radios, generators - was destroyed. Norwegian forces were stationed in Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Svea, contrary to the demilitarized status under the Svalbard Treaty .

During the Second World War, German armed forces landed in the course of Operation Sicily on September 8, 1943 in West Spitsbergen and Longyearbyen with the battleship Scharnhorst and accompanying destroyers. The city and Mine 2 were set on fire. Sverdrupbyen, in the center of Longyeardalen, was not hit and was still unscathed at the end of the war. The severe damage caused a financial crisis for the mining company. Hilmar Reksten , CEO of the company, was of the opinion that the state had to pay for the war damage. The state therefore granted the company several loans and guarantees for debts with private banks in the years that followed.

Since 1941 there were several Wehrmacht weather stations in the Arctic to obtain weather data for the weather forecast. The last was the Haudegen company under Wilhelm Dege .

After the war

After the Second World War, Longyearbyen was completely rebuilt, for which Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani spent large sums of money. First operations were resumed in Mine 1, but this was soon replaced by Mine 2. Most of the coal was exported from here to West Germany. The fluctuating coal prices made long-term planning of mining difficult, which is why the focus was on rationalizing operations.

In 1963 the annual production of Norwegian mines was 430,000 tons, 170,000 tons of which were exported. Longyearbyen itself produced around 400,000 tons per year, and it was foreseeable that the supplies would last for another 20 years or so. Therefore, in the 1970s, preliminary investigations into the construction of the Svea mine began .

The airport was opened in Longyearbyen in 1975, making year-round connections to Svalbard possible for the first time. The signatory states of the Svalbard Treaty were informed that the airport would be freely accessible to all nationals of these states and that it would only be used for civil purposes. It was officially opened on the 50th anniversary of the seal of Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard, on August 14, 1975.

From the workers' settlement to the locality

Because of the polar bears, you can only leave the city with a gun. However, signs here indicate that it is not permitted to carry weapons in the bank.

As mentioned under demographics , Longyearbyen was originally a male-dominated mining settlement. Of the 141 workers in the winter of 1916/1917, only 12 were women, most of whom had left their families on mainland Norway. Until the 1930s, the proportion of women increased somewhat, but they were all employees of the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani and continued to be significantly outnumbered. The company then also controlled house construction, supplies and means of communication, since Longyearbyen was a "construction site" and not a normal town.

It was not until the 1960s that the mining society slowly waned and Longyearbyen society began to develop into a village. Store Norske was now completely owned by the state, with the result that the city now came under the influence of politics and no longer only had to serve business interests. The government took the reins in hand and saw it as its duty to pursue a family and social policy in Longyearbyen as in the rest of Norway. The investment budget then also multiplied in the following years. Longyearbyen became a tidy village, comparable to similar sized villages on mainland Norway.

The state-owned mining company also changed, although it still owns large parts of the land and particularly Longyearbyen. It no longer only employed the workers seasonally, but its employees were no longer civil servants . Other companies were now also established, especially for tourism.

Longyearbyen's cityscape

Masts of the pit cable cars in front of Mine 1 on the mountainside of Longyeardalen

In the meantime, there is not much left of the formerly dominant mine work, mainly because Mine 7 is well outside the village. The remains of the old mine railways and the partly black-colored underground remained visible. Around half of the population still lives directly or indirectly from mining . What remains is a custom from the mining era: as the miners often got very dusty and dirty, they took off their shoes at the entrance to the houses. Visitors are expected to take off their shoes in the entrance area of ​​a house and enter the houses with slippers or in socks. This also applies to museums, hotels and school buildings (with the exception of shopping centers).

The other two important economic factors for the town are tourism and research.

All buildings, remains and mines that were built before 1945 (i.e. everything that survived the attack during the Second World War) are listed as historical monuments.

The townscape of Longyearbyen is characterized by the protected old mine cable cars. The wooden masts of these cable cars run on the slopes of the hills around the village and partly through it. However, they have not been in operation for a long time and have partially disintegrated. Because of the permafrost, all houses are built on wooden or concrete piles. The water pipes also run above ground.

Every year in June, the Spitsbergen Marathon, the world's northernmost marathon, takes place here.

For more than a decade was in the 1990s at the former airfield in Adventdalen from the northernmost parachuting club with a small plane skydiving operated.

PolarJazz , the northernmost jazz festival in the world, stands out from the relatively numerous cultural offerings around the beginning of February each year . A festival is held on February 15, the first day of the year when the sun is visible in the village.


  • 1901 - John M. Longyear visits Svalbard for the first time
  • 1904 - John M. Longyear and his business partner Frederic Ayer acquire the Trondhjem Spitsbergen Coal Company
  • 1905 - First test drilling in Adventdalen
  • 1906 - Longyear City, also known as "The Camp", is established - the first year of wintering
  • 1906 - Mine 1 is opened
  • 1918 - Seven miners die of the Spanish flu (?)
  • 1920 - 26 people die in a coal dust explosion in Mine 1
  • 1920 - A priest is assigned to teach school children
  • 1921 - The first church is consecrated
  • 1925 - Johannes Gerckens Bassøe is elected Svalbard's first Sysselmann
  • 1941 - All people evacuated from Svalbard
  • 1942 - Svalbard reoccupied ( Operation Fritham )
  • 1943 - The battleship Scharnhorst and two German destroyers attack Longyearbyen and largely destroy it
  • 1946 - The Nybyen part of the village is created
  • 1948 - The first edition of the Svalbardposten appears as a wall notice
  • 1949 - Telephone connections to the mainland
  • 1952 - Six dead in a mine accident in Mine 2
  • 1958 - Mine 1 is closed
  • 1959 - The first civil aircraft lands in Adventdalen
  • 1965 - First kindergarten opened
  • 1971 - The first Svalbardrat takes up work
  • 1971 - Coal mining in Mine 3 begins
  • 1975 - Official opening of the first year-round airport on Svalbard
  • 1976 - The Norwegian state takes over Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani
  • 1978 - Satellite links to the mainland
  • 1981 - First direct dial telephone connections to the mainland
  • 1981 - The Svalbard Parliament starts work
  • 1982 - The state takes over the hospital and health care
  • 1984 - First television broadcasts
  • 1995 - Own population register for Svalbard
  • 1996 - EISCAT station opened
  • 1996 - Work in pit 3 is stopped because it is exhausted
  • 2002 - Longyearbyen Town Hall is established
  • 2003 - Fiber optic cable laid to the mainland
  • 2006 - Svalbard Research Center opens
  • 2007 - New airport terminal inaugurated
  • 2008 - A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Longyearbyen on February 21. The epicenter is about 100 km south.
  • 2015 - A snow avalanche starting from Sukkertoppen buries several houses on December 19 and claims two lives.


  • Thor B. Arlov: Svalbard's history. 2nd Edition. Trondheim 2003, ISBN 82-519-1851-0 . (Norwegian)
  • Kari Holm: Longyearbyen - Svalbard, historisk veiviser. Kari Holm forlag, 2006, ISBN 82-992142-5-4 . (Norwegian)
  • Torbjørn Torkildsen: Svalbard, vårt northernmost Norge. Aschehoug, 1998, ISBN 82-03-22224-2 . (Norwegian)
  • Andreas Umbreit: Spitzbergen with Franz-Joseph-Land and Jan Mayen. 7th edition. Conrad Stein Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-89392-282-2 .
  • Marie Tièche: My year at the North Pole. Piper, Munich / Zurich 2013, ISBN 978-3-492-30418-4 .

Web links

Commons : Longyearbyen  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Coal Mines and Cable Cars at Longyearbyen  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Longyearbyen  - travel guide

References and comments

  1. ^ A b Dagmar Hagen, Tommy Prestø: Biologisk mangfold - template report som green lag for areal plan for Longyearbyen planområde . Norsk institutt for naturforskning, 2007.
  2. Temperature record - 21.7 degrees Celsius in the Arctic. In: tagesschau.de. July 26, 2020, accessed July 26, 2020 .
  3. She's not the only one with this status, though.
  4. Norwegian civil and criminal law applies in Svalbard, all other Norwegian laws have no effect here.
  5. Church Law, Article 39: The law does not apply to Svalbard. The King of Norway has the right to make provisions on the practice of religion and other spiritual services.
  6. Kristin Straumsheim Grønli: Øyet i Himmelen laster ned på Svalbard. (No longer available online.) In: Forskning.no. December 13, 2006, archived from the original on March 14, 2012 ; Retrieved December 9, 2007 (Norwegian). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.forskning.no
  7. Historikk. ( Memento of August 29, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) In: Svalbardposten. December 17, 2008.
  8. Odelstingsproposisjon (Ot.prp.) No. 58 (2000-2001)
  9. Motstand mot lokaldemokratiet på Svalbard. In: Regjeringen Stoltenberg II. Justis- og politidepartementet, March 8, 2006, accessed on January 10, 2008 (Norwegian).
  10. ^ Longyearbyen lokaldemokrati i motvind. (PDF) Norsk institutt for by- og regionforskning, February 2006, accessed on January 10, 2008 (Norwegian).
  11. [1]
  12. Levetid og Produksjon. Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, archived from the original on November 12, 2008 ; accessed on December 24, 2015 .
  13. a b Gruve 1. Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, archived from the original on November 12, 2008 ; accessed on December 24, 2015 .
  14. a b Gruve 2nd store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, archived from the original on November 12, 2008 ; accessed on December 24, 2015 .
  15. a b Per Kyrre Reymert: Gruvebyen gjennom hundre år . Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, Longyearbyen / Tromsø 2006, p. 6 (Norwegian).
  16. ^ Torbjørn Torkildsen: Svalbard, vårt nordligste Norge . 3. Edition. Aschehoug, Oslo 1998, ISBN 82-03-22224-2 , pp. 196 (Norwegian).
  17. Thor B. Arlov: Svalbards Histori . 2nd Edition. Tapir Akademisk Forlag, Trondheim 2003, ISBN 82-519-1851-0 , p. 257 (Norwegian).
  18. Per Kyrre Reymert: Gruvebyen gjennom hundre år . Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, Longyearbyen / Tromsø 2006, p. 7 (Norwegian).
  19. Thor B. Arlov: Svalbards Histori . 2nd Edition. Tapir Akademisk Forlag, Trondheim 2003, ISBN 82-519-1851-0 , p. 259 (Norwegian).
  20. Thor B. Arlov: Svalbard's History . 2nd Edition. Tapir Akademisk Forlag, Trondheim 2003, ISBN 82-519-1851-0 , p. 262 (Norwegian).
  21. Thor B. Arlov: Svalbard's History . 2nd Edition. Tapir Akademisk Forlag, Trondheim 2003, ISBN 82-519-1851-0 , p. 265 (Norwegian).
  22. ^ Torbjørn Torkildsen: Svalbard, vårt nordligste Norge . 3. Edition. Aschehoug, Oslo 1998, ISBN 82-03-22224-2 , pp. 198 (Norwegian).