Briefly about Svalbards history
Norsk / Norwegian
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Svalbard in a nutshell...
Svalbard archipelago is located between 74 and 81 degrees north latitude, and 10 and 35 degree east longitude. It includes Spitsbergen, which is the designation for the West Spitsbergen, North Austlandet, Edgeøya, Barentsøya, Prins Karls Forland, and a number of smaller islets, reefs and islands in the next cabinet of these. Svalbard also includes: Kvitøya, Kong Karls Forland, Hopen, and the farthest south Bjørnøya.

kart svalbard


The total area is 62,405 square kilometers, that is nearly a fifth of Norway, or put it in another way: Almost as large acreage as Nordland and Troms county together.

Geological characteristics...
The islands lie on a continental shelf, or underwater light, which spreads northward from Norway and Russia to something north of Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. It is now over rinsed of the Barents Sea, which generally do not have greater depth than 200 to 400 meters.

The shallow area to stop a short distance west of Bear Island and West Spitsbergen, where the seabed drops steeply toward the Norwegian Sea deep waters.

Svalbards youngest rock formation is derived from the older part of the Tertiary period, the geological period prior to our own. The climate must have been almost like that in the southern part of North America today, that is temperate and significantly milder than in the previous period. The formations from this time has a thickness of over one thousand meters and consist mostly of sandstone and shale. The underlying layer is coal-bearing, and it is one of coal measures which primarily covered by the coal operation.

The various rocks put their distinctive mark on the landscape;

In the northernmost regions of Spitsbergen, and particularly in North Austlandet has granite and gneiss that has given the mountains rounded shapes. Elsewhere, most typically along the west coast of Spitsbergen, has the deep fold and metamorphic stratums formed jagged mountains and peaks.

Farther south are the mountains plateau forms, because the sedimentary layers are horizontal here. Alternating hard and soft layers form stair-shaped hills, where the layers clearly can be distinguishable.

Glaciers, fjords, mountains...
On Svalbard almost 60% of land mass covered by ice, which can have a thickness of several hundred meters. Approximately three-quarters of North Austlandet is covered of East Fonna and West Fonna, and of Kvitøya it is only in the east and west that we can find some useful land.

It is the temperature, precipitation and topography that determines the glaciers shape. Growth occurs at the top, while the calves (melt) at the bottom, and they may therefore over long periods vary both in height and extent.

The western and northern coast of Spitsbergen has lots of fjords. Long fjords cuts into the largest of the islands, often with multiple arms. The longest is Wijdefjorden, which runs from the north coast of Spitsbergen and 120 kilometers south. Slightly further west intersects Wood Fjorden with its arms.

On the west coast is Kongsfjorden (kong = king) and the mighty Isfjorden (is = ice) (100 kilometer) with its fjords. Moreover, we find Bell Sound with van Mijenfjorden and van Keulenfjorden, and Hornsund in the south. On North Austlandet we have Wahlenberg fjord in the west and Rijpfjorden in the north.

The highest mountains are the Newton top and the Perrier top northeast of Spitsbergen, and they are both 1,717 meters high. Other known mountains are Hornsundtind (1,430 meters) in the south, and Tre Kroner (1,226 meters) (Three Crowns). The characteristic Temple at Sassen Bay is 783 meters, and on the Bear Island "Misery Mountain" is highest with its 536 meters.


"Tempel Mountain"

Streams, rivers, lakes, hot springs...
There are many streams and rivers, especially on Spitsbergen, but none are particularly long. Most are water-rich in summer due to melting of glaciers.

Tthere is little of lakes, but one of the largest are Linné lake, which is almost five kilometers long and a mile wide. It is located at Kap Linné on the south side of Isfjorden's muzzle.

In the northern and southern part of Spitsbergen, there are some places hot springs, with temperatures of up to 15 - 25 C, which testify to the volcanic activity that once have been there.

Flora, fauna...
Less than 10% of Svalbard's land area has vegetation, and the richest areas are in the inner fjord areas on Spitsbergen. Plant and animal kingdom is the high arctic, which means that they are characterized by short growing season, low temperature, low rainfall and poor soil nutrition.

There are a total of 176 different plant species around the Svalbard, many though only sporadically. But only in the area around Longyearbyen there are recorded over 100 different species.

Common trees are not found. Among the shrub growth is especially prevalent polar paths and some places also have some dwarf birch. Among the flowers are many kinds sildre, excluding the arctic poppy and solei. Moreover, it is different grass types, as in sheltered spots can be 40 to 50 centimeter high.

In the large ice-free valleys and on plains, and particularly underneath the bird's mountains, the vegetation can be surprisingly lush, with flowers in rare colors. Light blue mountains flock, the white fragile urten use, the yellow-green sedum and the yellow solei belongs to the high summer on Svalbard.

The majority of birds on Svalbard are moves or stray birds that spend the winter in the Barents Sea, along the coast of Norway or on the continent. Bird-life is very rich in the summer, and large amounts of seagull bird, northern fulmar, auk, eider, geese and several species of wading birds, has their shelter there then.

Amongst the small birds only the small sparrow are acting reasonably tall rich. The snow owl is seen in Svalbard, and the Svalbard grouse is the only bird specie that do not pull away from the archipelago in winter.

It may be a little over 100 bird species in Svalbards fauna, and together around 36 bird species nest on Svalbard.

On land and in the coastal areas there are 7 species of land mammal: White Whale, walrus, the ring seal, great seal, polar bear, polar foxes and reindeer. The Svalbard reindeer and polar fox are the only land mammals that are naturally resident in Svalbard, and these can be found over most of the archipelago.

The polar bear is regarded as a marine mammal because it spends most of his life on the ice, but it still gives birth to their young in snow caves in the country. The polar bear can be encountered on the surrounding islands west of Spitsbergen, but you can also meet strayer animals anywhere on Svalbard. The polar bear lives of the ring seal, which is the most common seal specie around Svalbard.

There are several seal species around Svalbard, in addition to large seal there is also harbour seal and walrus. By whale species who regularly visit the coastal areas, the white whale is the most numerous.

It is the Barents Sea which provides nourishment to most of the animal life in Svalbard. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the mixture of hot and cold water, the shallow shelf and the intense sun during the summer, this area has a relatively high production.

Temperature, climate...
The waters of Svalbard is navigable further north than anywhere else on the planet and the climate is milder than anywhere else in a similar latitude. Flows into the sea is of the utmost importance for the climate and the ice conditions in the north.


The flows in the Norwegian Sea

The eastern part of Svalbard has the most difficult ice conditions, all year. The cold South Cape flow coming in from the sea east of Spitsbergen, bending around South Cape and follows the west coast between the country and the Gulf Stream. It is the ice-drift-bearing and can in poor ice years more or less block parts of the West Coast.

A section of the Gulf Stream carries north on the west coast of West Spitsbergen, and it contributes to that the coast have relatively little ice-drift, but it also happens that the drive ice packs together in the fjords. North of Spitsbergen a cold, ice-filled flow is running that carries over from Siberia to Greenland (that was the one who brought "Fram" over the Arctic Ocean).

The coastal areas in the west has the mildest temperatures, but there is often fog and poor visibility. In the east it is colder and the summer may be long periods of fog.

The temperature conditions varies considerably, and from early in the fall and right up to May-June, most fjords are frozen with solid ice which is about 1 meter thick. In winter the temperature can fall to around 35 degrees of frost, while it in summer can rise to 15-16 degrees of heat. Only in June-August, one can fairly safely expect degreeso heat, the rest of the year is the temperature below 0 (zero).

Permafrost is characteristic for countries that are so far north. The land on Svalbard is frozen year-round down to a depth of approx. 150 meters in the lowlands, and approx. 300 meters in the mountains parties. Under great waters, large glaciers and fjords, mountains are not frozen. The summer is short, the annual precipitation is only about 300 mm, mostly in the form of snow.

The snow disappears first at the end of June - beginning of July. It is midnight sun from mid-April to the last half of August, and polar night s lasts from 27 October to 16 February (at 78 degree).

Settlements, communication, management...
Tthe following settlements are found on Svalbard:

  • Longyearbyen (Norwegian headquarters) with approximately 1,700 inhabitants
  • Barentsburg (Russian mining community) with approximately 900 inhabitants
  • Ny-Ålesund (Norwegian-International Research center) with about 40 inhabitants
  • Svea mine (Norwegian mining community) with approximately 210 commuters (not settled)
  • Hornsund (Polish Research) with approximately 8 settled

There are no roads connecting the settlements on Svalbard. It's fly to / from Tromsø (Tromsoe) and Oslo.

Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Svalbard, was founded by Artic Coacl Company in 1906 and named after its founder, the American John Munro Longyear (1850 - 1922).

In Longyearbyen, there is among other things, church, hospital, museum, university classes, high school, primary school, kindergartens, hotels, restaurants, shops and a local news paper.

The state administration of the archipelago is performed by the Governor of Svalbard, which fall under the Ministry of Justice and serves as the Regional, police commissioner and notary public. The Governor of Svalbard and other government officials live in Longyearbyen. Norwegian private and criminal law and Norwegian law applies to Svalbard, while other laws only has validity when it is distinctly decided.

Protected areas, nature...
The first plans for the area protection of Svalbard was launched already in 1914, and as early as in 1932, it was created two plant preserving areas. Nature protection in Svalbard had his breakthrough in the 1960s. Not only are a number of species protected, but the sea areas out to 4 nautical mil is included in the protected areas. From 1 January 2004 is the sea areas out to 12 nautical mil is included in certain protected areas.

In 1973, three national parks was created (South Spitsbergen, Prince Karls Foreland National Park and Northwest Spitsbergen National Park), two large nature reserves (Southeast and Northeast-Svalbard nature reserve) and fifteen bird reserves, with a total area of approximately 35,000 km2. A total of approximately 64% of the land on Svalbard is under protection.

Little about South-Spitsbergen National Park...
By a Royal Decree of 1 June 1973, three national parks was created, two large nature reserves and 15 bird reserves in Svalbard, with a total area of nearly 35,000 km2. Taken together, the protected areas amount to 49% of the islands' land area.

South Spitsbergen National Park, which is the largest of the three, with close to 5,300 km2, consists of three parts: Wedel Jarlsberg Land in the west, Torell Land to the east, and South Cape Land in the south.

kart svalbard med jan mayen

Svalbard with Jan Mayen

Svalbard - The magical land in the high north

Svalbard has a fantastic, very interesting and very fascinating history, which spans several hundred years and that deals with irrefutably enough hundreds of thousands of people. I have therefore made a sketch of the historical background that hopefully will give a better perspective and that will explaine how a small number of place names are woven into Svalbards history.

The discovery of Svalbard
When the first humans came to Svalbard is not known with security, but in Icelandic documents from the 1194 it's in short written: "Svalbardi funnin" ("Sval" means cool, "Bard" means border, brim, side).

The very scarce message is, even after the style of the age, a testimony that there has been some movement among the norse seafarers to the site, or the country with "the cold coast", as the name means.

Maturity time
The knowledge about the island kingdom in the North Sea was forgot as the norse capture businesses stagnated in the beginning of the 14 century. The Icelanders shipping came into maturity in sturlungene-time around 13 century, and they were among other things dependent on supplies from Norway.

Norwegian hunting activities in the arctic ocean went back because it was discovered new fishing grounds closer to the Norwegian coast, and because the black death led to strong depopulation in the north. Later paralyzed Hanseatic monopoly on trading in Northern Norway, most of the independent Norwegian business.

The decline in the norwegian maritime coincided with that the portuguese, spanish, french, british and dutch experienced a strong expansion, and it was these that were the most powerful on the sea.

The british and the dutch were in a race to find a northern route to the east, after the portuguese, with Vasco da Gama in the lead, had found the southern sea route to India in 1497.

Several expeditions reached up to the White Sea from the dutch, scottish and english ports.

Dutch rediscovery - 1596
In 1596 two dutch ships went out to make a new attempt to find the northern route to China, North East passage. One was led by Jan Corneliszoon Rijp, the other by Jacob van Heemskerk Hendrickzoon. Both were experienced skippers and they brought with them a man who knew northern waters well, namely Willem Barendzoon (Barents). Barents is generally considered to be the leader, since he was chief pilot for the entire expedition.

They set the course north of Nivaja Zemlya, and the 9 June they found an island where they went ashore. The shot a polar bear there a few days later, and therefore called for the island BeerenEylant (Bear Island).

On their journey further north they got on the 17 June 1596 a snowy mountain landscape in view. They thought it was a part of Greenland and called it Spitsbergen (the steep mountain). On the 21 June Barents went ashore and set up a mark with the dutch weapon on. It was the north west coast of Spitsbergen they had come to, on the long voyage towards the promised land in the east.

The ice prevented them from sailing further north, but they managed to get past the northwest tip and slightly eastward. So they had to turn around and go back along the coast. They were ashore in several places, and since there were no traces of people there, the dutch took area in possession on behalf of the General States.

At Bear Island the two ships separated, Rijp returned to Spitsbergen, while Heemskerk and Barents came to Novaya Zemlya. There they had to spend the winter, and while Heemskerk later was rescued by Rijp, Barents died of scurvy.

kart 1598

Barents map from 1598. On this map Svalbard were called "Het Nieuwe Land"
On the later maps gradually common with the designation Spitsbergen

Whaling period from the early 1600s to the 1710
The message about the "new land" (Het nieuwe land) that the dutch first called it, stirred interest among seafarers nations, and gave the kick off for a hectic whaling where the dutch and british were the main actors. But also danes, norwegians, french, and basques and hanseatics participated in the activities.

The british even declared in 1614 that Spitsbergen was annexed by them, because they claimed that they had been the first on-site.

In the liveliest season their own societies were established on land, where whale blubber was boiled in large copper kettles. The dutch kept largely to the Amsterdamøya (Amsterdam Island) (Smeerenburg - Blubber City), which was the largest of these urban communities with up to 1,200 inhabitants in the season, and which was used as the main base until about 1660. The british were mostly in Bell Sound, and in Magdalena Bay.

There were plenty of whales, both in the narrow straits and in the fjord arms, and particularly in the years from 1625 to 1644 the dividends was large. Most of the catch took place near land, because you did not know how the whale should be caught in the open sea.

When the whale was killed, with knives and lances, they dragged it up on the beach and where it was flanged. The oil that was cooked of the blubber was sought after as a fuel for lamps, lubricating oil and as feedstock for the rapidly growing soap production.

Moreover, it was a good price on whalebone, who had a versatile application. Ribs from these was a unique material for corsets, the renaissance-era "dress racks" and later rococo's "fish bone run".

Both whales and walrus were subjected to a harsh assessment, and the struggle for the raw materials for these luxury purpose led to several armed clashes between the british and the dutch. It was the strongest law that applied. On the continent the Thirty Years War was fought and it had its offshoots to Svalbard.

The large trading companies equipped each year out new expeditions. Some skippers also ran pure piracy and plundered vessels that were on their way home with the blubber and whalebones. In some years both the british and the dutch let ships go in convoy back to their home country, under the protection of naval vessels.

The ruthless exploitation of the whale stocks, particularly in the north west coast, along with several years of poor ice conditions and increased costs for ships and crews, made the catch went back. New methods were adopted to capture the whale far out to sea, and here the french was teachers, thanks to the experience they had from Biskaya.

In the last half of the 17 century french whalers increased their share of the proceeds, and in a short time the catch near the land was ended. The whalers began to boil the blubber aboard ships or taken it home. Around 1640, there had been a very large whale oil industry in Rotterdam. In the course of time whalers withdrew back from the coasts of Svalbard to Greenland.

The names that derives from the whaling period are of many different kinds and types;

  1. Names that gives position to a place (Het Noord Ooster, Zyud Kapp)
  2. Names that describe the landscape (Taffel Berg, Roode Bay, Steyle Hook)
  3. Name that related navigation to these areas (Behouden Haven, Fair Haven, Foule Bay)
  4. Name of plants (Salaad Berg)
  5. Name of animals (Beeren Eyland, Gansen Eyland, Whales Back, Walrussen Eyland)
  6. Name of the nations, countries and places (English Bay, Hollantsche Bay, Norway Eyland, Hamburger Bay)
  7. Name of persons (Willem van Muyens Haven, Jan Donkers Eyland, Gillis Land, Prince Charles Foreland)
  8. Name that expresses emotions / feelings (Misery Mount, Treurenburg Bay, Point Welcome, Verlegen Hoek, Liefde Bay)
  9. Name of the saints and religious concepts / conception (St. Jans Haven, Duyvels Haven, Devils Thumb)

nederlandsk kart 1670

Dutch map from 1670, showing that Spitsbergen was discovered,
and have essentially already been mapped

Russian hunters 1720 - 1852

Surrounding year 1720 people from northern Russia began to hunt for what was left of valuable animals, and picking down and egg. Both private trading houses, convents and the Czar himself stood behind the Russian expeditions.

In 1765 and 1766 Katarina II sent an expedition under the auspices of Vasililj Jakovievitsj Tsitsjagov to find the Northeast Passage. The expedition came, among other places, to Spitsbergen, and people went ashore in Bell Sound and by Gråhuken.

This hunt ceased in the first half of the 1800s. The Russian hunters spend the winter and trapped foxes, polar bears, reindeer and birds and seals and walrusses. A couple of place names originates from those years that are no longer in use, for example, Maloy Broun (Edge Island).

At the beginning of the 18th century new Russian hunters came to Svalbard. They fished, but was also looking for reindeer, foxes and polar bears. The Russians stayed particularly on the East Spitsbergen, but came in time, further to the west. They spend the winters in cabins, often 8-10 men on each location.

The materials for the cabins was timber that they brought with them from Arkhangelsk and the White sea areas. On several locations traces of their scattered operations have been found. One of the hunters, Ermil Starostin, have spend the winters 39 times on Spitsbergen. He stayed in a cottage at Green Bay, where he was buried in 1826.

The russia's business ebbed away in the beginning of the 19th century. It was more profitable for them to use the capture fields that lay closer to land, and the ships they used were slow-sailing-ships and the proceeds were too uncertain that it had no intention to send them all the way to Svalbard.

Termination of the name setting from the beginning of the 1700s to 1858
The period from the end of whale activity in the beginning of the 1700s up to 1858 marks a standstill in the investigation and the naming of Svalbard. There is a marked contrast between the major activity that existed in whaling period, when thousands of men working on the cooking oil bottlers on land, and the very limited operations that were performed in the following years.

The greenland whalen had almost been eradicated, and other fauna of the archipelago had been heavily reduced. New areas were also explored in the years around the 1700's, but the sailors who had discovered new land, hesitated to tell about their discoveries, not to provide stronger competitors any help. More dutch expeditions explored areas in the east at this time, but it had certainly been sailors from other nations in the waters also.

In 1707 captain Cornelius Giles discovered an island on the north coast of Svalbard. It was named Giles Land and existed long as a kind of mysterious island that no one could find again. Until many years later, when captain Elling Karlsen from Tromsoe in 1863, the first man who sailed around Spitsbergen, the Giles Land was re-discovered. The island was named Kvitøya (White Island), and the first known landing took place in 1872 when three Norwegian hunters was ashore.

Arctic sea skipper Erik Eriksen discovered in 1853 the archipelago Kong Karls Land, east of Spitsbergen, and he was, as far as we know, the first that went ashore there in 1859.

Various expeditions 1773 - 1839
Towards the end of the 1700s the Norwegians turned up on Svalbard, first as whalers and later as fur hunters that spend the winters. The presence of the Norwegians in the first half of the 1800s brought no important contribution to the knowledge of geography or the terminology of Spitsbergen.

The one valuable contribution in the exploration of the island group in this period came from the Scottish whale catcher William Scoresby.

In 1795, a new hunting expedition was outfitted and sailed from Hammerfest with four russians and eleven norwegians on board. This expedition ran capture in the Svalbard area, and the result led to increased norwegian interest in this business.

From around 1815, it was every year equipped ships from Norway, and several crews spend the winters at the beginning of the 1820s. Some stayed at Isfjorden, others were on Bear Island. They caught walrus, seals and fur.

In the years 1830 - 1834 7,322 walrus were taken of 88 ships from Hammerfest, in addition to 952 seals, particularly bearded seal. Sealing had a greater extent towards the end of the century, after hunting had been better firearms.

The first known norwegian winter passes in the east area took place in 1834 - 1835, when five men stayed at the Thousand Islands, south of Edgeøya. Because of the fog they lost contact with the ship while they were on the ice, and they had to be there over the winter. One of them died of scurvy. The same winter 21 Norwegian hunters incidentally died on Bear Island and Spitsbergen.

In 1838 and 1839 a french expedition visited Spitsbergen in "La Recherche". The expedition to the norwegian geologist, professor B.M. Keilhau in 1827, and the expedition to the swedish zoologist Sven Lovén of 1837 must also be mentioned. Almost all these expeditions introduced some new place names.

The first norwegian expedition which was equipped was probably one that went from Tromsoe in the early 1790's. There were some russians, but the majority on board the norwegian vessel was norwegians. The expedition had to turn at Bear Island because of poor ice conditions.

The norwegian activity increased over the years, and from about 1850 the norwegians was alone to explore the economic possibilities on the archipelago. Norwegian fishermen made good catches of cod and greenland shark along the west coast of Spitsbergen from the 1860s.

Also people from other countries, like germany, denmark and sweden, hunted seals in Svalbard in the beginning of the 19th century, and because the proceeds could be very uneven, the collection of down and egg came to play an important role. Ships also brought salted reindeer meat home.

The decline in the walrus population eventually also led to that fewer selected to spend the winters. Ice conditions were sometimes difficult and it was a lot of losses that forced the crew to spend the winters. Many died of scurvy during such winter passings.

Scientific expeditions from 1858
It was early in the 19th century that the scientific exploration of Svalbard and the waters began. The interest for such surveys was large in many countries, and it was sent out expeditions to Asia, Africa and South America to obtain more knowledge of our sphere.

Many of them also went north, and through these expeditions there were within a few years gathered much new material about Svalbards topography. Old british maps was revised and new names given.

A new era in research on Svalbard started in the year 1858, when expeditions with solely scientific purposes, set out to map the island group and examine its climate, geology, flora and fauna.

There was also some small attempts in the preceding periods, but not until 1858 expeditions was outfitted in a large scale with researchers representing different industries. Nevertheless, only a few of these expeditions fed knowledge of the geography and about the naming of places on Svalbard.

The systematic mapping of the Svalbard started in 1906 and 1907 with the expedition that Prince Albert of Monaco organized and Major Gunnar Isachsen led, and they continued almost every year until 1941. These can be divided into three periods:

  1. The expeditions that Prince Albert of Monaco organized and Gunnar Isachsen led in 1906 and 1907
  2. The expeditions led by the Gunnar Isachsen in 1909 - 1910
  3. Subsequent mapping expeditions in 1911 to 1914 led by Adolf Hoel and Arve Staxrud, in 1917 - 1918 led by Adolf Hoel og Sverre Røvig and since 1919 led by Adolf Hoel alone.

Economic exploitation of Svalbard in 1800- and 1900s
In this period, with intense scientific research, the economic resources on Svalbard was also exploited. Norwegians continued to hunt and fish in the areas of Svalbard, and these men, mainly sealers, has contributed largely to the knowledge of Svalbard. Especially in the areas in the eastern and northern part of the archipelago that are difficult to access.

There were three scientists who were particularly interested in traveling to these people in the Arctic: professor Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld from Stockholm, professor H. Mohn from Oslo, and Dr. August Petermann from "Gotha".

Mohn and Peter Mann studied the log books from the norwegian travels and made maps from the discovery that they had done, where they also had given names to a large number of locations.

In general, these names were not related to the names that had been used by the norwegian hunters, but they had simply used the foreign names in a more or less norwegianised and corrupted form, eks.vis "Sauehamna" (Sheep Harbour) instead of "Safe Harbour", "Vallespynten" (Valle point) instead of "Whale Point".

Coal Operations
But the real new chapter in Svalbards history began when arctic sea skipper Søren Zachariassen the summer of 1899 returned home to Norway with a cargo of coal that he had found on Bohemanns point.

Already a year after it was formed a Norwegian coal company that would initiate the operation, and shortly had a dream of making good money on Svalbard created a coal fever.

Several mining companies were created and expeditions was set ashore. Each expedition adapted as best they could, without regard to competitors. They were in unclaimed territory where the stringent law was common law. The disappointment was great as it soon turned out that profitable mining operations were not possible, even for those who had the academic prerequisites for it.

The american John M. Longyear, who had come to Svalbard with a German tourist ship in 1901, was actually one of the very few who managed to get started with a more planned coal production in 1905.

The coal industry has given new growth in the place names of many places and locations close to mines, in some examples to the mining areas themselves, in example: "Longyearbyen," (City Of Longyear), "Ny-Ålesund" (New Aalesund) , "Hiort Hamnaveien" (Hiort Harbour Road), "Barentsburg" etc, and other names such that "Vannledningsdalen" (Water Pipe Valley) and "Gruvefonna" (Mine Glacier).

Until the outbreak of World War I americans, britons, dutch, germans, russians and norwegians participated in the mining operations. There was however disputes about rights, and these could only be solved by an identification of sovereignty conditions. From 1920-30-years it is only the Norwegian and Soviet companies that have maintained the activity.

At this time Svalbard had become an "exciting" destination for tourists from many countries. Steam boats took them to the ice edge and to the mining community in Adventdalen (Advent Valley) in the light summer months. Some of it is that made the trips attractive were that Svalbard had been based for several of the major expeditions around the turn of the century who attempted to reach the North Pole;

In July 1897 the swedish Salomon August Andrée started with his balloon "Eagle" on his courageous journey, and for long no one did not know what had happened to him and his companions. The american Walter Wellman attempted in 1909 to start with the air ship from Svalbard to the North Pole. A large german expedition held on from 1910 to 1914 with the preparation for Pole Expedition. The tourists were allowed to visit the expeditionary bases, to paying entrance.

Norwegian interest and Norwegian exploration
The increased interest in the archipelago's natural resources contributed to that the Norwegian authorities felt the need to highlight their control there. One missed agencies that could regulate businesses activity and that could be responsible for the development of communications, port, lighthouse service etc..

In 1910 the Norwegian Parliament appropriated for the first time money so that the government should safeguard Norwegian workers interests on Svalbard. One had then began to discuss with other countries how the administration management system should be. The Norwegian government still struggled with the many development plans that had been relevant after the union dissolution in 1905, and therefore no one took view on Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard.

Therefore, it was not unnatural that the government in 1910-12 worked with plans to bring about a common government for the archipelago, where russia, sweden and norway should participate. When the plan was presented at an international conference in 1914 it got low attendance. This because the other major powers did not want the Russians should have increased influence on Svalbard.

During the first world war only the norwegians and swedes, ran mining and some hunting on Svalbard. When the war ended, the question of Svalbards position was discussed as part of the reorganization that the conquerors thought should happen in Europe. The archipelago was unclaimed territory, and not least because the conquerors wanted to draw clear boundaries, to eliminate all future conflicts, an interest to have decided who would get ownership Svalbard was shown.

Norway's colorful emissary in Paris, Fritz Wedel Jarlsberg, made a major effort so that Norway would get sovereignty over the archipelago. At the peace conference in 1920 Norway got the right to Svalbard, and the treaty that stated this was signed on 9 February 1920.

Ratification of the agreement had to take time, partly because the norwegian government initially had committed to prepare a mining plan that would apply to Svalbard. The relationship to the Soviet Union created problems, in the first instance because they were not involved in the peace conference and, therefore, looked upon what was decided there with skepticism.

In the next stage because the revolutionary government wasn't diplomatically recognized by other states, which made communication with Soviet leaders difficult. It was only in 1924 that the Russians declared themselves willing to accept the Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard, under the assumption that their government was diplomatically recognized by Norway. In 1934 the Russians were asked to take the Svalbard Treaty of 1920, which they formally made in May 1935.

During the second world war, there were only a limited scope of the war on Svalbard. The mining population was evacuated in 1941 by the british. Then Spitsbergen was occupied by german troops, who in turn were driven out by norwegian and british troops. In 1943 the mining towns were shelled and destroyed by german warships.

The first norwegian, and one of the first who visited Spitsbergen for conducting scientific research, was a professor Baltazar Keilhau Mathias (1797 - 1858), professor of geology at the University of Christiania.

He left Hammerfest in a small sloop on 16 August 1827, and was back on the 26 September. His trip gave significant results, and amounted to a fundamental and had the greatest importance, for further pioneering scientific work on Spitsbergen.

But it was still after the turn of the century that the norwegian scientific exploration of Svalbard entered a new era, and the year 1906 marks a turning point.

The Polar Researcher Adolf Hoel
There were many different people associated with countless variations of expeditions from this year, but only the polar scientist Adolf Hoel (1879 - 1964) is highlighted. Adolf Hoel was educated geologist, was a university research fellow and lecturer in the subject. In 1907 he was with Prince Albert I of Monaco's second Spitsbergen Expedition. From 1911 to 1925 he was head of the Norwegian state-supported expeditions, as well as the head of the Norwegian and Ishavsundersøkelser until 1945.

Adolf Hoel was in 1950 commissioned by the then leader of the Norwegian Polar Institute H.U. Sverdrup HU, to write Svalbard recent, economic and scientific history. Adolf Hoel, who was then 70 years, took joy in the mission. He was the last survivor of those who had personally been involved in exploring Spitsbergen's history in this century, and he therefore had a firsthand knowledge of the events.

The work of Adolf Hoel had conducted was also of major importance for the Norwegian demand for sovereignty over Svalbard, which Norway was granted after the First World War.

When it is stated that the records - just in Sweden, for the Swedish Spitsbergen companies accounted for a total of 52 shelf meters, one can to some extent understand the scope and that it took a total of 12 years to complete the work. Adolf Hoel did not even see the completion and release himself. When most of the material was obtained and completed, he was hit and severely injured in a pedestrian transition in Oslo December 1963, and without having come to consciousness, he died in February 1964. "Svalbard - Svalbards History 1596 - 1965" is a monumental 3-volume work, the entire 1,527 pages.

The five most important name donors
It would be too extensive to go into all the different variations of place names as the 5 most important name donors on Svalbard has introduced on its maps, the rules they've created go to the principles they have designed and followed. Therefore, following only a brief, but general information about each of them. Each one of them has in their own different ways had a significant impact on the naming of Spitsbergen.

The five most important map makers and name donors on Svalbard are:

- Baron Adolf Erik Nordiensköld (1832 - 1901)
Swedish professor of geology and arctic explorer. Born in Helsinki - Finland. Was on Spitsbergen in 1858, 1861, 1864, 1868, from 1872 to 1873, in Greenland in 1870 and 1883, the Yenisei and Siberia in 1875 and 1876, and Northeast Passage in 1878 to 1879.

He introduced a number of natural name, but also names after Swedish people in some extent, who had been associated with the expeditions of his, either as members of expeditions or as contributors to these, the natural scientists who had worked on material from the expeditions, and some names that had been used by Norwegian trappers.

- Dr. August Petermann (1822 - 1878)
German cartographer and geographer. Driving force for the German participation in the polar exploration. Organized two expeditions to Spitsbergen in 1868 and to East Greenland in 1869 - 1870.

He named the location for both self-interest for elsewhere on the globe, according to other German explorers in Africa and by British polar explorers. He did also name places after people who supported him in his struggle with to put plans into action, and he was the first who established and wrote the rules for naming.

- Sir William Martin Conway, Baron of Allington (1856 - 1937)
Artist, mountaineer and explorer. Was a member of expeditions to Spitsbergen in 1896 and 1897. He published accounts of these tours ("No Man's Land" (1906)), which was an important part of Spitsbergen's history, where he also gave his views on the naming. He proposed, among other things, that the old names that were not used more, should be introduced again.

- Baron Gerard Jakob De Geer (1858 - 1943)
Swedish geologist and polar explorer, a professor at the Stockholm Högskola. Was a member of expeditions to Spitsbergen in 1882, 1896, 1899, 1901, 1908 and 1910. The maps that were the result of his work was published between 1910 to 1923.

The large number of names such as De Geer has placed on the maps and the general principles set forth in many of the papers that came with his work, are important contributions in the development of the terminology of Spitsbergen, in fact have no other explorers contributed so much, in this regard.

- Gunnerius (Gunnar) Invald Isachsen (1868 - 1939)
Officer and polar explorer, topographic inspector on the second "Fram" expedition in the years 1898 to 1902. Leader of the expeditions that were financed and organized by Prince Albert I of Monaco, who went to Spitsbergen in 1906 and 1907. He was the leader of the Norwegian Spitsbergen expeditions in 1909 - 1910, Norwegian government delegate in Paris in 1919 when Norway was granted sovereignty over Svalbard. He was later director of the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo from 1923, and the leader of the "Norvegia" expedition to Antarctica in 1930 - 1931.

The Svalbard Treaty...
The Svalbard Treaty, which was signed in Paris on the 9th February 1920, Norway provides for full and unrestricted sovereignty over Svalbard. According to the Act of 17 July 1925, Svalbard is a part of the Kingdom of Norway and the Svalbard Treaty entered into force on 14 August 1925.

The treaty states that the Norwegian private law, criminal law and legislation applies. It provides simultaneous states that have signed the Agreement extensive rights. Citizens of these countries have the same rights as Norwegian citizens to engage in industry, mining, fishing, hunting, maritime and commercial trading. The treaty also determines that the taxes be collected on Svalbard will be used in the archipelago, and military operations are not allowed.

The States that signed the agreement in addition to Norway were: Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland, USA and Japan. Moreover signed five states that were members of the British Commonwealth: Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa Union.

In 1925 Germany joined to, and in 1935 did the Soviet Union the same, and other countries have over the years been allowed to join the agreement, so there are now approximately 40 treaty partners.

flaggheising svalbard

The 14 August 1925 was the Norwegian flag to the top of the intersection of Longyearbyen, Svalbard,
and thus become part of the Kingdom of Norway.

The creation of Norway's Svalbard and Artic Sea Explorations
When Norway took over the sovereignty of Svalbard, it was necessary to bring the scientific exploration of the archipelago over to firmer forms, and in that regard also to take up a systematic research in the Arctic Ocean, where Norway has had major economic interests to safeguard.

Already 13 October 1925 Adolf Hoel therefore sent a proposal to the Trade Ministry, which aimed to create a government institution, Norwegian Svalbard and Artic Sea Explorations (NSIU), which would be a continuation of the Norwegian government supported Spitsbergen expeditions.

Hoel suggested that the task of the institution should be taking care of the survey and conduct practical and scientific exploration of Svalbard and Arctic Ocean. The work will also consist of planning and participating in expeditions, guide the foreign expeditions who were going to the Arctic and exercise control with pass the winter missions, and cooperate with similar institutions in Norway to work on the obtained results.

Moreover, the institution would publish a publication series "Writings on Svalbard and the Arctic Ocean". The institution should also have the task to propose geographic names and comment on the place names of Svalbard, which was proposed by others. Approval of the names should be made by the Trade Ministry.

Out in the knowledge that the central administration would not always have the the necessary know-how that would come under Svalbard explorations work program, Hoel suggested that it should appoint a competent advice where issues that affected Svalbard or the Arctic Ocean, could be presented to, and that this council should be called Svalbard and Artic Sea Council. The final recommendation of Adolf Hoel proposal was passed in Parliament on 7 March 1928.

To get to a certain organization of this research - and to ensure a form of cooperation between the various expeditions to Svalbard,the Norwegian government sent - at the suggestion of Adolf Hoel, a note to the interested foreign powers. In this note it was first made clear that it was created a central agency for the exploration of Svalbard, which had been named NSIU.

It called on, that to bring order in the chaos that reigned in Svalbard with respect to geographic names, the government had initiated a large job for the final determination of the place names of Svalbard. To avoid increasing the confusion was the nations' expeditions, who wanted to name places, asked to submit their proposals to NSIU, through the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

It says something about the scope of the preparation for this naming investigation work which was initiated that:

- It was sent out a total of 550 letters, of which 360 were returned

- That about 360 maps and about 500 books were reviewed

- That more than 10,000 names were discussed, of which:

- Approximately 3,300 names was proposed as permanent names

- Approximately 6,500 names was previous name that "disappeared" and

- Approximately 450 names could not be identified

NSIU's work resulted in a work of 539 pages which was published in 1942, as No. 80 in the series "Writings on Svalbard and the Arctic":: "The Place Names of Svalbard". Last updated and revised report in the series is No. 122, which was published in 2003.

In 1948 the organization was reorganized and renamed the Norwegian Polar Institute. The Institute's database contains per date more than 16,500 names, of which 8,000 names are recognized names.


Norsk / Norwegian
Engelsk / English


Hoel, Adolf, 1966: "Svalbards Historie", Volume I - III
Norges Svalbard- og Ishavsundersøkelser, 1942: "The Place-Names of Svalbard - Nr. 80"
Norges Svalbard- og Ishavsundersøkelser, 2003: "The Place-Names of Svalbard - Nr. 122"