The Svalbard Archipelago consists of three large and seven smaller islands, as well as dozens of very small islands and skerries, stretching from north to south for about 700 kilometers.
From the northern tip of Svalbard, there’s total of about 1,000 kilometers to the North Pole, and 1,000 kilometers to the south to the North Cape.
The area of the archipelago comprises 62,500 square kilometers, which is equal to the territory of Belgium and the Netherlands combined. About 60% of Svalbard is covered by glaciers, 30% are bare rocks, and only 10% are covered with soil and vegetation, mainly in the valleys of central Svalbard.
Svalbard forms the north-western corner of the European continental plate. The shallow shelf of the Barents Sea with typical depths of 200-300 meters is adjacent to the archipelago from the south and south-east, and the northern part of Svalbard is washed by the waters of the Arctic Ocean, almost immediately breaking off at a depth of 2000 meters. On the west, Svalbard is washed by the deep Greenland sea. The boundary between the North European and the Arctic basin of the Arctic Ocean passes between Svalbard and Greenland in a wide Fram Strait, which plays an important bridging role between the ice that is almost always blocked by the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic, and the rest of the world oceans.
Svalbard is one of the most northerly lands in the world. To the east, there are only the Russian archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlia. The northern part of the island of Greenland and northern Canada are roughly on the same latitude. In contrast to these areas, which are almost always surrounded by powerful drifting ice floes, Svalbard is bordering to one of the northern flows of the Gulf Stream and therefore the ocean on the west coast of the archipelago is ice-free virtually all year round. The climate here is mild enough for such latitude in spite of the northern arctic location. Due to this Svalbard is one of the most popular and easily accessible areas of the Arctic, where people come particularly by regular cruise ships.
The northernmost settlement in the world with a full year-round life is
, the capital of the Svalbard with a population of 2080 people, located at latitude of 78°15'. NY Alesund (78°55') is located further north but unlike Longyearbyen, this is a very small village, which can be attributed more to the stations, as in the winter only 35 people there live. In Svalbard, there is the world’s northernmost hotel, post office, swimming pool, a civilian airport, and the world's northernmost newspaper is publishing here.
The climate of Svalbard is caused by three main factors - the extreme northern location of the archipelago, the strong influence of winds and ocean currents.
In the first two days “Costa Pacifica” was passing by Jan Mayen Island, located in the Greenland Sea.
Currently, there is a station of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the military long-range navigation station LORAN-C on the island.
Jan Mayen Island has an elongated shape and consists of two parts. Jan Mayen Island is a volcanic island with the Beerenberg volcano in its northern part. The volcano's height is 2277 meters. It was considered asleep for a long time, but in 1970 this snowy arctic giant resumed its activities, and its last eruption was recorded in 1985. The Beerenberg volcano is the northernmost active volcano in the world.
Jan Mayen Island met our ship in a surly manner – with strong winds and the most part of the island was covered with fog.
This is a tiny island in the middle of the Greenland Sea. There are 500 km to Iceland, 600 km to
, 700 km to Norway and 400 km to Greenland. I even can’t imagine how the Norwegian polar explorers and signalmen live there for six months.
The climate is harsh there. The ship follows by Jan Mayen Island about 3 hours. Wherever you look – there are only brown rocks, hiding behind dense milky fog...
The buildings of the Norwegian station are clearly visible from the deck of the ship.
Suddenly, a thick veil of the fog parted and a huge mountain opened in front of us. The volcano-phantom decided to appear for a short while!
The ship passed the northern tip of the island and went further to Svalbard.
Here’s a lone iceberg...
Late at night on the 73rd latitude...
This is the night sun in the clouds...
This is the morning on the 75th latitude.
This is the night of the 77th latitude. The sunlight was filtering through the dense clouds.
We were ready to meet Svalbard.