Landscapes ~ Nature
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Svalbard ~ Spitsbergen
Svalbard prior to 1925 known by its Dutch name Spitsbergen, meaning "jagged mountains", is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. Svalbard” means “cold coasts”.
Spitsbergen (formerly known as West Spitsbergen) is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 37,673 km² (14,546 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-
Spitsbergen was first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which it was abandoned. Coal mining started at the end of the 19th century and several permanent communities were established.
The island has an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other places at the same latitude. The flora benefits from the long period of midnight sun, which compensates for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also supports polar bears, reindeer, the Arctic fox and marine mammals. Svalbard has permafrost and tundra, with both low, middle and high Arctic vegetation.
Near the west coast of Spitsbergen, the landscape is very alpine with high peaks of mountains. About 60% of Svalbard’s land mass is covered with a huge number of small and large glaciers. Only 6-
Image display: Saxifraga oppositifolia, the purple saxifrage or purple mountain saxifrage