Spitzbergen (island)

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Spitzbergen (Spitsbergen)
De Geerdalen on the south coast of the Isfjord
De Geerdalen on the south coast of the Isfjord
Waters Arctic Ocean
Archipelago Svalbard
Geographical location 78 ° 11 '  N , 16 ° 34'  E Coordinates: 78 ° 11 '  N , 16 ° 34'  E
Location of Spitzbergen (Spitsbergen)
surface 37,673 km²
Highest elevation Newton tops
1713  moh.
Residents 2654 (January 1, 2016)
<1 inhabitant / km²
main place Longyearbyen
Map of the island of Svalbard
Map of the island of Svalbard

Spitsbergen ( Norwegian Spitsbergen ) is the largest island of the archipelago of the same name in the Arctic Ocean belonging to Norway . Today it is the only permanently inhabited island in the archipelago. Their administrative center is Longyearbyen .


Until the Spitzbergen Treaty came into force in 1925, the name Spitzbergen ( Spitsbergen in the originally Dutch variant) referred to both the main island and the entire archipelago. In Norwegian usage, the archipelago has since been called Svalbard (German for “cool coast”). This name is not common in German-speaking countries.

From 1925 to 1969, the largest island was named West Svalbard to better distinguish the main island from the archipelago. The main island has been called Spitzbergen since 1969 .

For the third largest island in the archipelago, Edgeøya , the name East Svalbard was previously suggested.


Location and landscape

Of the main islands in the archipelago, Svalbard is the westernmost. It is separated from Nordostland (Nordaustlandet) by the Hinlopen Strait and from Barentsøya and Edgeøya by the Storfjord . The island has an area of ​​37,673 km². It is larger than all the other islands in the archipelago combined. Its extension is around 380 km in a north-south direction and around 220 km in a west-east direction.

The coasts of Svalbard are strongly indented and form numerous fjords. The largest and at the same time most famous fjord, the Isfjord , cuts far into the center of the island and offers the most favorable conditions for human settlement with protected locations. The Wijdefjord , which opens to the north, is comparable in length .

The highest peaks on the island are the Newtontoppen (1713 m), the Perriertoppen (1712 m), the Ceresfjellet (1675 m), the Chadwickryggen (1640 m) and the Galileotoppen (1637 m). They can be found in the south of Ny-Friesland .


The climate on the island of Svalbard is arctic. The mean annual temperature in Longyearbyen is −7 ° C, in the mountains it is down to −15 ° C. The warmest month is July with a temperature of around 6 ° C, the coldest is February with around −16 ° C. In the coastal areas, the air temperature is largely determined by the surface temperature of the sea water. The Gulf Stream exerts its influence on the west coast of Svalbard , which means that the fjords often do not freeze over, even in winter. The climate of the island of Svalbard is even drier than on the eastern islands of Svalbard.

Svalbard lies north of the permafrost border . The ground is constantly frozen 10 to 40 m deep on the coasts and several hundred meters deep in the highlands of the interior of the island.

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


Over half of the land area of ​​Svalbard is covered by glaciers . The ice cap of Olav V Land is after Austfonna on the neighboring island northeast country's largest glacier in Norway. With Åsgardfonna and Valhallfonna there are two more ice caps in the north of the island. Due to low temperatures and low rainfall, the glaciers in the interior of Svalbard move very slowly. In the more humid coastal areas, however, they reach speeds of 10 to 30 meters per year.

The glaciation of the Dickson Land peninsula in the center of the island consists of plateau glaciers with outlet tongues . Dickson Land was on the edge of two local glaciers during the Late Ice Age glacier advance. A higher level inland freezing of the island can be excluded for this period.

For the current and late Ice Age glaciation of the peninsula, see main article Dickson Land .

Flora and fauna


Marine mammals

The marine mammals are nowhere near as many as before the times of intensive hunting, but the populations are slowly recovering. There are found several species of whales, including sperm whales , beluga whales , killer whales , narwhals in the north in the pack ice, and white-beaked dolphins as toothed whales , further fin whales , blue whales , sei whales , minke whales and minke whales as baleen whales . There are also several seals Family, namely the Walross with a larger colony at Smeerenburg , the saddle seal , the ringed seal , the gray seal , the seal , the bearded seal and the hinged cap .

Land mammals

There are only three species of land mammals, the arctic fox , the Svalbard reindeer and the introduced Eastern European field mouse . In addition, the polar bear occurs in higher numbers here than anywhere else, which is why you have to carry a rifle with you when leaving the places.


There are many species of birds, almost all of which breed, namely:


Vascular plants

The number of vascular plants is relatively rich for these latitudes, there are arctic willows and dwarf birches as the only trees, as well as flowering plants such as the Svalbard poppy and the stemless saxifrage , saxifrages such as the red or nodding saxifrage , and various sweet grasses, too a heather species. There are red or green algae on the snowy areas, and various types of algae and seaweed in the waters around Svalbard.


There are around 38 species of moss on Svalbard and grow everywhere. These thrive best near bird cliffs due to the fertilizing guano.


Lichen is found in great numbers everywhere, mainly where bare rock is exposed.



William Martin Conway: No Man's Land: A History of Spitsbergen from Its Discovery in 1596 to the Beginning of the scientific exploration of the country. The Cambridge University press warehouse, 1906 (English).

Web links

Commons : Svalbard  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Even Høydahl, Øivind Rustad: Population of Svalbard, January 1, 2016. Statistics Norway's Information Center, April 7, 2016, accessed April 21, 2016 .
  2. Spitsbergen . In: The Place Names of Svalbard (first edition 1942). Norsk Polarinstitutt , Oslo 2001, ISBN 82-90307-82-9 (English, Norwegian).
  3. ^ East Spitsbergen . In: The Place Names of Svalbard (first edition 1942). Norsk Polarinstitutt , Oslo 2001, ISBN 82-90307-82-9 (English, Norwegian).
  4. a b Statistisk sentralbyrå (Ed.): Svalbardstatistikk 2005 . PDC Tangen, Oslo / Kongsvinger 2005, ISBN 82-537-6809-5 , p. 136 (English, Norwegian, ssb.no [PDF; 6.8 MB ; accessed on September 24, 2015]).
  5. Ole Humlum: A Geographical-Historical Outline of Svalbard ( Memento of April 8, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), University Center in Svalbard, Department of Geology (English).
  6. ^ Svalbard - Flora and Fauna Field Guide. Published by 49southfoto ediciones (English)