Approximately 690 miles from the North Pole lies the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. A cold desolate land home to polar bears, walruses, Arctic foxes, reindeer, whales and other creatures of the high Arctic. Svalbard is an archipelago that lies between 74’ and 81’ north latitude with a land mass of 63,000 sq km. of which 60% is covered by glaciers. Svalbard is part of Norway.
Svalbard was discovered in 1596 and was a large whaling destination throughout the 1600 and 1700s. From 1800 till 1900 the only population was scientific exploration stations. The first settlement was established in 1906 by an American named John Longyear as a coal mining settlement. Today the economy is driven by mining, tourism and scientific activities. Our visit to the Svalbard archipelago was aboard the National Geographic Explorer a top rated ice class expedition ship.