Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway
This is another Axel Eliasson postcard #5016 published in Stockholm, Sweden in the early 1900s. Spitsbergen (Spidsbergen as it is spelled on the card or Spitzbergen as it was spelled in English up until the 1920s) is a large island belonging to Norway and located between the Arctic Ocean, Greenland Sea, and the Norwegian Sea and is part of the Svalbard archipelago. Like many Norwegian place names it is descriptive and means “pointed mountains.”
Spitsbergen has an Arctic climate but is still warmer than other places at the same latitude; nevertheless, the summer temperatures average between 39 and 43 degrees F or about 4 degrees C with snow and ice most if not all of the year. The long dark winters are well below freezing. It is a breeding ground for many seabirds and also has polar bears, reindeer, Arctic foxes and marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and walruses. There are six national parks that protect the environment.
During the 17th and 18th centuries Spitsbergen was used as a whaling base. I wondered if the ship pictured on the card was a whaler. It does have a smaller boat hanging off the side but the ship itself seems little to be a whaler. Not much in the way of whaling is done now. Today the main industries are coal mining, research and tourism. Perhaps one of the better-known facilities, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, is located on Spitsbergen near the main town of Longyearbyen. As of 2010 more than ½ million crop plant seeds are stored in the vault.
Spitsbergen has a population of approximately 2700 persons mostly Norwegians but also a few Russians, Germans, Swedes, Poles, Ukrainians, and Thais. It is a demilitarized zone so there can be no military installations. It has virtually no crime making it one of the safest places on Earth to live.
Several stories and films have been set in Svalbard including the fantasy book by Philip Pullman made into a movie The Golden Compass featuring armored polar bears; Orion’s Belt a Norwegian film showing the region’s icebergs and mountain ranges; the World War II story North of Danger by Dale H. Fife; Operation Fritham a thriller mystery by Monica Kristensen; Dark Matter a ghost story by Michelle Paver, and others.
For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spitsbergen