Cold Shores …

Half way between Norway and the north pole and well inside the arctic circle there is an archipelago  discovered and named Spitsbergen by the Dutchman Willem Barentsz in 1596. He failed to recognise that it was a group of islands. Since the 1920s Spitsbergen has been  the name of the largest island, the archipelago as a whole is known as Svaalbard and is politically part of Norway.

It was a true terra nullius when Barentsz found it but it is now the world’s most northerly full time settlement. There is some mining, tourism and it is the home of the world famous seed bank. Wikipedia tells us that soccer is the most popular sport and that there are three football pitches. It’s not surprising then to find that the population is only small. In July 2017 it was estimated to be 2,583. The population growth rate is -0.03%, they won’t be needing an extra soccer pitch any time soon. The largest town and administrative centre is Longyearbyen. It is a free trade and demilitarised zone.

The climate is described as

arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current; cool summers, cold winters; North Atlantic Current flows along west and north coasts of Spitsbergen, keeping water open and navigable most of the year.

About 60% of the land surface is glaciated.

Tourists obviously don’t come to buy ice cream and football boots. Mostly they come to see polar bears, whales, walruses and sea birds, reindeer and the northern lights. The latter will not be in evidence until the sun sets next …

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