Svalbard is an archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean halfway between the northern tip of Norway and the North Pole. The archipelago is located between the 74th and the 81th parallels north. A country of mountains and glaciers, Svalbard was the starting point for several polar explorers and adventurers. Russian and Europeans hunters and fishermen came here for centuries but the real colonization of the archipelago began in the XXth century with the coal mining industry. Svalbard made the front page of newspapers in 2008 following the inauguration of the Svalvard Global Seed Vault, an underground safe deposit intended to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds from locations worldwide in order to preserve genetic diversity.

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  • Longyearbyen is located at 78° 13°N on the island of Spitsbergen, the archipelago's largest island. It is the administrative center of Svalbard with more than 1 500 residents. John Monroe Longyear, an American businessman, who came here to develop the coal mining industry, founded it in 1906.

  • A bay located on the west coast of Spitsbergen. It is home to the 14th of July glacier, which received its name in honor of France's national holiday because of the Arctic expeditions of Albert I, Prince of Monaco.

  • Located at 78° 55°N on the shores of Kings Bay, Ny-Ålesund is the world's northernmost settlement. Originally a coal mining town, it has become a scientific & environmental research station hosting scientists from 9 different countries.

  • Kongsfjord (King's Bay), 22 km long and 4-10 km wide, is considered to be one of the nicest bays in the archipelago. Two glaciers head the fjord, Kronebreen (Crowned Heads' glacier) and Kongsvegen (King's glacier).

  • These basalt towers, with a height of approximately 350m, are home to over 120 000 Brünnich's guillemots, providing a deafening symphony.

  • Because of the lack of ice during the summer 2006, our ship, the Grigoryi Mikheev, was able to take us beyond the 82nd parallel. For the first time in its history, the Grigoryi Mikheev crossed the 82° 03°N latitude in July 2006. It is aboard zodiacs that we then crossed 82° 04°N.

  • The easternmost island of Svalbard, Kvitoya, is a mythical island. It is here that in 1930, the remains of Salomon Auguste Andrée's expedition were discovered by mere chance. In 1897, Andrée and his two companions were to become the first in history to fly over the North Pole in an air balloon. However, destiny decided otherwise.

  • Storoya, Kvitoya's neighbour, gave us some of the most memorable moments of our trip. It is here that we were welcomed by a group of most curious walruses that seemed to feel abandoned as soon as our attention shifted towards the five polar bears that were resting on the beach.

  • On the northwestern coast of Edgeoya, Kapp Lee used to be a walrus hunting site for the Pomores, Russian trappers originating from the area now known as Arkangelsk. Pomores were the first trappers to over-winter in Svalbard during the XVIIIth century.

  • What a spectacular view: over 200 walruses on a narrow beach near a trapper's hut on the south west tip of Edgeoya.

  • With its length of 23 km by 8-10 km in width, Hornsund is the southernmost of the large fjords of Spitsbergen's west coast.

  • Located on the north side of the Isfjord, Alkhornet's rock face shelters colonies of birds while at its base, the tundra offers pastures to herds of reindeers.

  • Once the site of a gypsum mine, one can walk among the relics of this era.

  • A ghost town located along the Isfjord between Barentsburg and Longyearbyen. This community was established in the early 1910s for exploitation of coal. The mines were closed and the village was abandoned in 1961.

  • Mining town located 55 km from Longyearbyen, Barentsburg is the second largest settlement on the archipelago with some 300 residents (the vast majority being coal miners from Russia and Ukraine).