The capital city of Svalbard is Longyearbyen which also has the distinction of being the region’s only city. Longyearbyen means “Long Year Town” and its main industry has traditionally been mining. The city was founded in 1906 and incorporated on January 1, 2002. Geographically Longyearbyen sits on the shore of Adventfjorden in the Longyear Valley. Previously known as Longyear City, Svalbard’s one and only town took its name from John Munro Longyear the owner of a local coal mining company. Because Jan Meyer has no permanent residents it has no cities or capital. In 2010 most of the region officially became a nature reserve.

According to figures from 2015 Longyearbyen has a population of about 2,144. Many residents of the city are Nordland or Troms who originate from the northern part of Norway. The entire region of Jan Meyer is made up of about eighteen people who are required to operate the Long Range Navigation base as well as the weather and coastal services radio station. In the summer season that number can rise to as many as thirty five staff members. Most of these workers are employed by either the Norwegian Armed Forces or the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. Most of the personnel stay in Jan Meyer for periods of six months to a year at a time.

Longyearbyen is a small town which is made up of facilities such as Svalbard Turn, the local sports club, Svalbardhallen, an indoor pool, and Svalbard Church. The town is also home to both the Svalbard Museum and the Spitsbergen Airship Museum. Renamed the North Pole Expedition Museum, Spitsbergen Airship Museum was established in 2008 and founded by Stefano Poli and Ingunn Løyning. The museum features an array of artifacts relating to various Arctic expeditions. Jan Meyer was named after Jan Jacobs May van Schellinkhout, a Dutch seaman who visited the island in 1610. One of the islands most notable features is Beerenberg, a 7,470 foot stratovolcano. With a name that translates to “Bear Mountain” Beerenberg is the world’s northernmost active volcano with the most recent eruptions occurring in 1970 and 1985.

The waters off Svalbard’s capital, Longyearbyen, are typically clogged with icebergs. The city has an Arctic climate with persistent cold temperatures. Average winter weather is frigid with temperatures ranging around -17 degrees Celsius. In the summer, residents of the region may experience temperatures ranging around 5 degrees Celsius. From April 19th until August 23rd, the city enters a period known as the midnight sun when the sun is still visible at midnight. Jan Meyer’s climate is classified as Arctic maritime with an abundance of storms and typically foggy skies.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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