Frequently Asked Questions
related to Svalbard

Please add your questions related to the Arctic Archipelago Svalbard or the arctic in general to our new bulletin board We will update this FAQ from time to time. If You find any statement within this FAQ wrong or out-of-date, or has any additional information, please help us make this a better FAQ. Send email to webmaster@svalbard.com

 

Table of Contents

  1. Where and what is Svalbard..?
  2. How can I get a job at Svalbard..?
  3. What does the name Svalbard mean..?
  4. How can I get to Svalbard..?
  5. Where is the airport..?
  6. What types of planes can land at the airport in Svalbard..?
  7. Is it possible to get to Svalbard by boat?
  8. How can I find email adresses for Svalbard..?
  9. How many inhabitants are there in Svalbard..?
  10. What is the Svalbard Treaty..?
  11. How many polarbears are there in Svalbard.. ?
  12. On what date can I see the Midnight Sun..?
  13. What is the relation between Svalbard and Spitsbergen..?
  14. What is the weather like..?
  15. How many visitors are there at The Svalbard Pages..?
  16. Who answer the questions at The Svalbard Pages FAQ..?
  17. Are there any plans to create an ordinary norwegian municipality at Svalbard..?
  18. Can I use use my mobile telephone in Svalbard.. ?
  19. Is there a time of the year when the passage between Svalbard and Nordaustland is not frozen?
  20. Do I have to have a gun license when arriving Svalbard..?
  21. I read somewhere that Svalbard has it's own species of Reindeer?
  22. What are the educational opportunities like in Svalbard..?
  23. What kinds of cars and automobiles do people drive in Svalbard?
  24. Do many Svalbardians speak English?  And what languages are normally spoken in Svalbard?
  25. Is there any tourist information that is availible to the public other than on these wonderful pages?
  26. How would I be able to get a copy of the local news paper in Svalbard considering I live outside of it?
  27. What sports are played in Svalbard?
  28. I read somewhere that concerts are held in Svalbard.  Can you tell me where they are held and what type of concerts they are?
  29. Does Svalbard have any sort of policing units or public safety personnel?
  30. What is the main religion of the inhabitants of Svalbard if any?
  31. What kinds of wildlife are found in Svalbard?
  32. I read somewhere that there was a war of Svalbard.  Can you tell me what kind of war this was, who was in it and what it was about?
  33. Are there restrictions on visiting Pyramiden?

 

 


Where and what is Svalbard ?

Where is Svalbard

Svalbard is Europe's northernmost territory. Svalbard is the name for the archipelago situated between 74N10E and 81N35E latitudes. It consists of the major islands Spitsbergen (the largest), Nordaustlandet, Kong Karls Land, Prins Karls Forland, Barentsøya, Edgeøya, Hopen, Bjørnøya and a quantity of smaller islands and islets. The archipelago has a total area of 62.700 km2, two thirds of which are covered by glaciers. Distance from the north pole is approx. 1000 kilometers.
See also What is the Svalbard Treaty?

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What does the name Svalbard mean ?

Svalbard means the land with the cold coast, or more accurate only "cold edge". "Sval" is a Norwegian name for "cool", and "bard" is an old name for "edge".

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How can I get to Svalbard ?

There are regular flights from Tromsø and Oslo several days a week. The flying time from Tromsø to Longyearbyen Airport is app. 1 hour and 25 minutes. Tromsø is located in the northern part of Norway, nonstop flying time between Oslo and Tromsø is app. 1 hour and 30 minutes. Flights can be booked at www.sas.no or www.braathens.no  You may also contact the local tourist information office at http://www.svalbard.net?sel=0
You may also travel by boat in the summer. A boat uses two to three days from Tromsø. There is a ship leaving Tromsø once a week from mid June to end August. See e-mail address in this FAQ under "Is it possible to get to Svalbard by boat?"

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Where is the airport ?

There airport is located close to Longyearbyen, about 5 minutes with a car. You may take a taxi or go by bus to town.

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What types of planes can land at the airport in Svalbard..?

As far as we know, all kinds of planes. The Longyear runway is 2140 by 45 metres, and is normally open every day of the year.

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Is it possible to get to Svalbard by boat?

Private sailboats from all over the world comes here between 20.june till 20.august. All the way down to 20 feet. See fees and services offered by Longyearbyen harbour. If you do not have your own ship, we can recommend this website : http://www.spitsbergentravel.com

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How can I find email adresses for Svalbard?

You may look in our email list. This list is growing every day. The adresses that have location set to Longyearbyen is people permanently work and live here today.

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How many inhabitants are there in Svalbard ?

There are several small settlements in Svalbard. The Norwegian main settlements are in Longyearbyen(1.700), Sveagrua(210) and Ny-Ålesund(40). The Russian/Ukraian settlements are in Barentsburg(900). There are 8 inhabitants in Hornsund.
(Source: Svalbard Reiseliv 2005)

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What is the Svalbard Treaty ?

Svalbard is Europe's northernmost territory. The archipelago is part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Svalbard Treaty from 1920 gives Norway a special responsibility here. Svalbard shall remain demilitarized. You can find info about the treaty under general information on The Svalbard Pages. The Svalbard Treaty was signed at the Peace Conference in Paris on 9th February 1920 and Norway was awarded sovereignty over Svalbard. There were nine signatory countries. 14th August 1925 Norway formally assumed sovereignty over the archipelago and the Norwegian flag was flown. 14th August has since been considered as an unofficial "national holiday" for Svalbard. On 27th February 1935 The Soviet Union adhered to the Svalbard Treaty. The Treaty is a so-called "open" treaty. About 40 countries have joined(1998).
The Treaty ensures equal rights to the citizens of these countries on Svalbard.

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How many polarbears are there in Svalbard.. ?

Polar bears between Alaska, Svalbard and Canada 15000 - 18000. Polar bears in the Svalbard zone 3000, mostly in the northeastern areas ( Some insiders say up to 6000, but this represent an increase which is not easily published. ) Polar bears upon the islands of Svalbard in this moment may be 500 plus mothers with nice small cubs in the snow caves waiting to climb out.

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On what date can I see the Midnight Sun..?

Longyearbyen has midnight sun in the period April 20 to August 23. The sun stays under the horizon in the period October 26 to February 15.

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What is the relation between Svalbard and Spitsbergen..?

Spitsbergen is the name of the largest of the four main islands of Svalbard. They are Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Edgeøya and Bjørnøya. Se also Where and what is Svalbard ? and What does the name Svalbard mean ?

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What is the weather like..?

Considering the high latitude, the west coast of Spitsbergen has a mild climate due to the Gulf stream, and the sea is normally free of ice from June to December. The average temperature in Longyearbyen in January is -15.8 °C, and in July 6.1 °C. See also our weather page

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How to get a job at Svalbard?

You may add info about yourself in our forum pages or try to contact local companies directly and ask them, download a list of companies in Svalbard from Svalbard Samfunnsdrift. You may also consider advertising in/subscribe to the local newspaper SvalbardPosten.(Norwegian)

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How many visitors are there at The Svalbard Pages?

There are between 7000 and 8000 users pr. month on our first page.

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Who answer the questions at The Svalbard Pages FAQ..?

The questions asked here is aswered by a few volunteer Svalbardians that has lived here for decades. If you want to participate or if You find any out-of-date information here, please send email to webmaster.

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Are there any plans to create an ordinary Norwegian municipality at Svalbard?

From January 1 2002 Longyearbyen has become a municipality, with an elected community council of 15 members. For the election period 2004 – 2008, these 15 members represent 4 parties: The Labour Party(6 members), The Local City Group(5 members), The Conservatives(2 members) and The Progress Party(2 members). Read more.
 

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Can I use use my mobile telephone in Svalbard.. ?

Yes, you can use GSM phones in Longyearbyen, Svea and Barentsburg. From mars 2005 you may also use UMTS phones in Longyearbyen.

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Is there a time of the year when the passage between Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet is not frozen?

This Hinlopen passage is not frozen between july and october, but drifting ice may fill it up in a day, depending of the direction of the wind.

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Do I have to have a gun license when arriving Svalbard..?

You do not need a gun licence to be able to rent a rifle in Svalbard. You can rent a rifle for a period of maximum 4 weeks without any special permission. But we highly recommend that you practice shoooting with a rifle before you come to Svalbard, for your own safety.

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Has Svalbard it's own species of Reindeer ?

The Svalbard reindeer, which has existed on the islands for millenia, is the smallest species of reindeers in the world. The legs are shorter and the fur thicker than reindeers in e.g. mainland Norway. A buck may grow to a length of about 160 centimetres and acquire a weight of 90 kilos in the summer and 60 kilos in the winter. The gestation period is seven months. Calving takes place in June. The reindeer was totally protected in 1925, but today hunting of a limited number of animals in the autumn is permitted. Application for a hunting licence is necessary, and permition can only be given to the locals. The latest polulation counts shows the existence of some 10.000 animals.
Other unique(we think) species of animals in Svalbard are arctic fox and the Svalbard-grouse. And maybe the mouse too.

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What are the educational opportunities like in Svalbard..?

10 years of primary school and 3 years of high school, with a total of approx. 210 students(2003). The University Courses in Svalbard (UNIS) opened in 1993 and has room to about 100 students.

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What kinds of cars and automobiles do people drive in Svalbard?

Just like the cars you use all over the world. AMC, Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, Suzuki, Hyundai, Mercedes, GMC, Volvo, Saab, etc.

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Do many Svalbardians speak English?  And what languages are normally spoken in Svalbard?

Like in Norway most Svalbardians speak English. Norwegian is the normally spoken language in the norwegian settlements, and russian in the russian settlements.

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Is there any tourist information that is availible to the public other than on these wonderful pages?

You can contact Svalbard Reiseliv through their webpage at www.svalbard.net which is the official tourist information office of Svalbard.

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How would I be able to get a copy of the local news paper in Svalbard considering I live outside of it?

By subscribing to Svalbardposten. The newspaper is written in Norwegian.

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What sports are played in Svalbard?

Almost all kinds of sports. Skiing, snowboarding, handball, volleyball, badminton, football (soccer), swimming (25 metres indoor pool), miniature shooting, wind surfing, diving, snowmobiling, etc.
Sports like basketball, hockey, gymnastics, wrestling and track events are not very popular in Svalbard. Some basketball and track events are done from time to time, but not on a regular basis.
In the last weekend of January 1998 the Norwegian Championship in badminton washeld in the Svalbard Sportshall.

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I read somewhere that concerts are held in Svalbard.  Can you tell me where they are held and what type of concerts they are?

There is annual events in Longyearbyen, a bluesfestival (october) and a jazzfestival(January).
Most big concerts are held at "Huset". And all kinds of concerts have been held there. The internationally renowned pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy played there in June 1990. Many of the big norwegian bands and theatres have played there over the years. These concerts are not on a regular basis, but are normally connected to a big local event. E.g. the return of the sun at March 8th.

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Does Svalbard have any sort of policing units or public safety personnel?

Svalbard is ruled by the Sysselmannen (the Governor of Svalbard), which also have some norwegian police officers employed. They have traffic controls etc.

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What is the main religion of the inhabitants of Svalbard if any?

The norwegians follow the norwegian church. Protestants.

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What kinds of wildlife are found in Svalbard?

Wildlife in Svalbard are arctic fox, different kinds of seals, beluga, minke whale, mouse, polar bears, walrus, reindeer, ptarmigan, arctic owl, and a great number of different birds in summertime.

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I read somewhere that there was a war of Svalbard.  Can you tell me what kind of war this was, who was in it and what it was about?

There was a "war" in the 1600`s between Holland and England. The fight was about the right to hunt whales along the Svalbard coastline. This "war" did not happen in Europe, but was a fight that solely took place in the Svalbard waters. It is said that in one battle between these countries at least 17 whaling vessel were sunk. The countries also destroyed each others small settlements on land. They destroyed so much for each other that finally they had to sit down and agree on dividing the coastline in hunting areas, where each country had exclusive right on whalehunting.

The next war that took place in Svalbard was the World War II. In 1941 900 Norwegians and 2000 Russians were evacuated from Svalbard. On May 14th 1942 Svalbard was recaptured from the Germans by the "Fritham" expedition. On September 8th 1943 the German battleships "Tirpitz" and "Scharnhorst" accompanied by nine destroyers razed the communities on Svalbard to the ground. People were killed, several wounded, and 70 prisoners were taken. In 1944 the little community Svea was razed to the ground by a German submarine. The first post-war shipping connection with Svalbard was established on June 27th 1945.

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Are there restrictions on visiting Pyramiden?

There are no restrictions on visiting Pyramiden. You can go to and from as you please. But we recommend you to book eventual hotelrooms in advance with the russian mining company, Trust Arcticugol. Their fax number is 47 - 79 02 18 14. If you do not have your own means of transport to get there, there might be some restrictions on renting Zodiacs and snowmobiles. Please contact the rental companies or the Sysselmannen (Governor) on these matters.

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Revised: april 15, 2006.
hits since jan 27, 1999