Spitsbergen is the largest of all three islands in the Norway's Svalbard Archipelago - together with Nordaustlandet Island and Edgeoya Island. The archipelago is located north of the Arctic Circle, about midway between mainland Norway and the Geographic North Pole - the Earth's northernmost point.
Spitsbergen has a total area of 39044 km2 (15075 ml2), ranking it the world's 36th largest island. Its highest elevation point is Newtontoppen (1717 m / 5633 ft).
Svalbard cruises are among the Norway's most popular ship travel destinations - together with Norwegian Fjords (along the country's coastline). In Svalbard, tourism have become an important and heavily supported industry, popularized) by "University Centre in Svalbard" and "Svalbard Global Seed Vault".
Svalbard islands were first used as whaling bases (in the 17th-18th centuries), then were abandoned. At the beginning of the 20th century started coal mining operations and several permanent settlements were established. In 1925, Svalbard was officially incorporated into the Kingdom of Norway. Today, Norway's Store Norske and Russia's Arktikugol are the only mining companies there.
The list of Svalbard settlements (all located on Spitsbergen) include Longyearbyen (main and largest, population around 2,700), Barentsburg (Russian mining community), Ny-Ålesund (research station), Sveagruva (aka Svea, Norwegian mining community) and Pyramiden (Russian settlement /coal-mining community, population around 20). Moellerhaven is a port (landing point) on the island. Instead of roads, the only transportation between the settlements is via aircrafts, boats and snowmobiles. Svalbard Airport (at Longyearbyen) serves as main gateway.
Svalbard is world's northernmost settlement with a permanent civilian population. There are other settlements farther north, but they are all populated by rotating groups of researchers.
South Spitsbergen National Park (officially "Sor-Spitsbergen") was opened in 1973 encompasses the the island's southern end. The park includes the Lands Wedel Jarlsberg, Torell and Sorkapp. Over 65% of this territory is covered with ice caps, and much of the rest is tundra. The park is also an important bird area, containing bird sanctuaries on protected islands with freshwater ponds and grassy vegetation and bare rocks. Among those is Isoyane (also recognised as a Ramsar site /important wetland). The park supports breeding populations of birds - barnacle goose (around 1000 pairs), common eider (around 1000 pairs), black-legged kittiwake (over 25900 pairs), thick-billed murre (over 200,000 pairs).
Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park includes parts of northwest Spitsbergen (the Lands Albert I and Haakon VII) and some of the nearby islands (including Danes and Moffen). In the park's Bockfjorden part there are hot springs and remains of volcanoes.
14th July Glacier (Fjortende Julibreen)
The Fjortende Julibreen glacier is in the Haakon VII Land and has length of approx 16 km (10 ml) and an area of approx 127 km2 (49 ml2). The 14th July Glacier is bounded (to the south) by Reppingen, Lovlandfjellet and Mercantonfjellet, and to the north by Casimir-Périerkammen, Forelryggen and Foreltinden. The glacier extends to Krossfjorden (Fjortende Julibukta) and is named after the France's National Day (14the of July).
Bellsund (aka Bellsound) has length of 20 km (12 ml) and is located on the island's west coast, north of Wedel Jarlsberg Land and south of Nordenskiöld Land. This fjord sound is separated from Van Mijenfjorden by Akseloya Island and Mariaholmen Island. In 1615, the Dutch built here the Spitsbergen Island's first permanent whaling station (on the Bellsund's south side).
Hornsund is a fjord located on the western side of Spitsbergen Island's southernmost tip. The mouth of the fjord faces west to Greenland Sea, and is 12 km (7.5 miles) wide. The length is 30 km (19 miles), the mean depth is 90 m (300 ft), and the maximal depth is 260 m (850 ft). Hornsund fjord cuts different geological formations, from upper Mesozoic to the east to Precambrian to the west, and is perpendicular to Spitsbergen's major regional fractures.
The coastline of Hornsund fjord is diversified, with several bays at the mouths of glacial valleys. Some of the bays have appeared in the beginning of last century due to glaciers' recession. A research station from Poland has been operating in Hornsund since 1957.
Isfjorden is located on the island's west side and is the Svalbard's second longest fjord (107 km / 66ml) after Wijdefjord (108 km / 67 ml). The Alkhornet Mountain is on the Isfjord's northern side, as well as the coastal Daudmannsoyra plain. Part of Isfjorden is designated as "Nordre Isfjorden Land National Park" (wilderness reserve). Around Isfjorden are located many of the island's largest settlements - Barentsburg, Longyearbyen (Adventfjorden) and Pyramiden.
Sassenfjorden (part of Isfjorden) is located between the Lands of Bunsow and Nordenskiol. Sassenfjord's inner branch is named Tempelfjorden (located between the Lands of Bunsow and Sabine).
Tempelfjord is near Longyearbyen and is part of the Isfjord, This is a popular day-trip destination during Spring (March-April-May) offering snowmobile or dog-sledge tours. During summer, Tempelfjord is a great destination for boat tours.
Krossfjorden is a 30-km long fjord located on the west coast of Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of Svalbard archipelago in Norway. The fjord branches into Kollerfjorden, Lillehookfjorden and Mollerfjorden to the north.
In 1610 the English explorer Jonas Poole entered Krossfjorden and named it Close Cove. On a map of 1612, Englishman John Daniel labeled it Closse Sound. A small bay situated in the southwestern entrance of Krossfjorden and named Cross Road by Poole (now known as Ebeltofthamna), was the spot of the first whaling station in Spitsbergen (1611). The remains of a later station have been found there and on a long, low arm of the beach between a lagoon and the fjord. On the other side of lagoon's mouth exists a graveyard from the period. The name of the small harbor soon referred to the fjord, resulting in the modern name "Krossfjorden". This name originates from placing of a cross by Poole on the side of a hill west of Ebeltofthamna.
Liefdefjorden (translated "The Love Fjord", aka Liefde Bay / "Love Bay") is located in Haakon VII Land, at the Spitsbergen Island's northern side. This fjord has length of approx 30 km (19 ml). Of its outer part is the Reinsdyrflya Peninsula.
Magdalena Fjord (officially Magdalenefjorden) has length of 8 km (5 ml) and width of 5 km (3 ml). This fjord is located on the island's west coast, between Reuschhalvoya and Hoelhalvoya (in Albert I Land). On its southern shore is located Gullybukta Bay. Magdalenefjorden is large enough even for the biggest cruise ships, which can turn around 180 degrees inside the fjord.
The first to explore Magdalenefjorden was William Barents in 1596. Here he discovered walrus tusks, which resulted in naming the fjord "Tusk Bay". Robert Fotherby (English explorer and whaler) entered Magdalenefjorden in 1614 and claimed it for King James I of England (1567-1625). He named it "Maudlen Sound" and the sheltered bay on the southern shore - "Trinity Harbor".
Subsequently, the British founded a whaling station in Trinity Harbor (currently Gravneset). Later it was taken over by the Dutch. The remains of furnaces (blubber ovens) have been found on Gravneset, along with a graveyard containing around 130 graves dating from 17th to late 18th century.
Raudfjord or Raudfjorden ("Red fjord") is a 5 km wide and 20 km long fjord on Spitsbergen's northwestern coast. It features two southern branches, Ayerfjorden and Klinckowströmfjorden, split by the Buchananhalvøya peninsula. The fjord is located on the divide between Haakon VII Land and Albert I Land.
In 1614, Robert Fotherby, an English whaler and explorer, named Raudfjorden "Red-cliff Sound". The same year the Dutch called it "Monier Bay", after Anthonie Monier, commissary-general of their whaling fleet. The Dutch first marked the latter name from 1620 onwards. Fjord's former name was later twisted to Red Bay, the name Raudfjord retains to this day. Robert Fotherby also named the cape separating its southern branches the year he explored the fjord, which is currently known by the Norwegian equivalent, Narreneset.
St Jonsfjorden is located in the Oscar II Land, and has a length of 21 km (13 ml). St Jonsfjorden opens westwards into the Forlandsundet strait. The most popular glaciers on this fjord are named (listed alphabetically) Bukkebreen, Bullbreen, Charlesbreen, Devikbreen, Gaffelbreen, Konowbreen, Osbornebreen, Paulbreen, Vegardbreen, Vintervegen.
Trygghamna is a bay located on the west coast of Spitsbergen Island near the entrance to Isfjord. Tourists will find the remains of 17th century English whaling station and 18th century Russian Pomor station. Alkhornet, a mountain forming cliffs on the north side of Isfjord's entrance, is situated nearby. The mountain's upper part is a nesting colony of guillemots. Below the cliffs is the den of Arctic Foxes, who scavenge on fallen chicks and eggs. Also on the grassy coastal plain tourists may see reindeer and some bird species: barnacle geese, eider ducks, Glaucous gulls and Brunich's guillemots.
Far north within the Arctic Circle off Norway's northern coast lies a small chain of isles known as Svalbard. These rocky islands have been scoured by sea and ice. The effect of glacial activity is seen on the northern tip of Spitsbergen island. Here, glaciers have carved out a U-shaped valley, a fjord that has been flooded with water. Called Woodfjorden, it is located at nearly 80 degrees north, and it is constantly being affected by glaciers. Woodfjord is a fjord located on the north shore of Spitsbergen island in Svalbard archipelago. It is the 4th longest fjord in Svalbard archipelago.
Hinlopen Strait (officially Hinlopenstretet) is located between Spitsbergen Island and Nordaustlandet Island. The strait has length of 150 km (93 ml) and width of 10-60 km (6-37 ml). As waterway, it is not easily passible due to pack ice in the region.
The strait is named after Thijmen Jacobsz Hinlopen (1572–1637), one of the leaders of Noordsche Compagnie (Dutch merchant and whaling company). Its northern part (between the peninsulas Mosselhalvoya and Storsteinhalvoya) is called Nordporten. Its southern part (Sorporten) widens up between Bastian Islands and the Brasvellbreen Glacier.
Hinlopen Strait was known to European whalers since the 17th century. It was extensively used for hunting purposes. Many scientific Arctic expeditions have passed through the strait in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among those was the Russian-Swedish "Arc-de-Meridian" expedition (1899-1904), that had one main station in Sorgfjord. In 1957, Sweden established its national station in Kinnvika (Murchisonfjord), but the base was abandoned in 1959.
Spitsbergen Island cruise terminal
Depending on weather, cruise ships anchor near the island's coast and offload their passengers via tender boats or Zodiac boats (inflatable boats on small-sized luxury- and expedition-type cruise vessels).
Spitsbergen Island tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- Reindyrfla is the island's largest tundra area featuring lakes and a vast plain providing grazing ground for waders and reindeer breeded here. On the lakes you can spot red-throated loon (aka diver, migratory seabird) and king eider (sea duck).
- Alkefjellet is a bird cliff in Ny-Friesland (facing towards Hinlopen Strait).
- The list of cruise tour activities and land excursions offered on the Spitsbergen Island includes: wildlife watching (walrus, birds), sea kayaking, jiking, boat excursions, dog-sledging and snowmobile tours.
Port Spitsbergen Island cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, Arctic Norway. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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The Spitsbergen Island cruise port map is interactive. It shows the port's exact location, along with the real-time cruise ship traffic (if any) in its vicinity - today, and right now. By zooming-out you can see other cruise ship ports located near Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, Arctic Norway.
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