Friday, February 3, 2012



Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic. In a relatively small area, Svalbard offers an amazing range of different landscapes and wildlife, giving it a character all its own. The beauty of the place and relative ease with which it may be approached by ship, makes West Spitsbergen a top attraction. West Spitsbergen is the large island shown on the map, below. This very mountainous island, split with fjords, is the only island in the archipelago that is inhabited. Due to the Gulf Stream influence, which means less trouble with ice, tourism is concentrated on the west and northwest coasts. The nutrient rich seas and steep coastal rocks make this a place of enormous seabird colonies. Spitsbergen is more than 10 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. All three of Shearwater Journeys, Inc. charter voyages on board M/S Stockholm, will be centered in this region.
Svalbard lies midway between Norway and the North Pole, ranging from 74 to 81 degrees north latitude and 10 to 35 degrees east longitude. The islands were used extensively as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries. Coal mining started in the 20th century. The Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway.
The climate of Spitsbergen is determined by three main factors: its northerly position (causing the extremely cyclic annual supply of light and warmth from the sun), the strong influence of the surrounding ocean currents and the winds. The furthest reaches of the Gulf Stream culminate in the Spitsbergen Current, bringing a milder climate than in other places of the same latitude. Apart from the damper west coast, Spitsbergen has a dry steppe-like climate. During summer, precipitation is low — great for outdoor activities. Rainfall lasting more than a day is the exception, rather than the rule. More typical are some showers, drizzle and wet fog. The lower parts of the country are free from snow in summer. Don't count on dog sledding!
Longyearbyen, pictured above, is Svalbard's capital. It is located on the southern side on Adventfjorden. This down-to-earth town of approximately 2000, boasts Svalbard Museum, shopping, hotels, restaurants and tour companies catering to visitors who arrive on flights from Oslo. It is the largest settlement in Svalbard, and also has a hospital and schools. The Governor of Svalbard and his administration reside in Longyearbyen.
Most tourists to Longyearbyen arrive during the spring and summer, during the "polar day" when nearly 24 hours of sunlight prevails. It is the world's most northern readily accessible settlement, with Svalbard Airport just outside town offering regular public flights to and from Tromso and Osll. Such tourists usually connect with expedition ships at the town port, in search of the icon of the High Arctic— the POLAR BEAR!
If you would like to join our unique voyage to this wild region, please contact Debi Shearwater at; 831.637.8527. Shearwater Journeys' voyage runs from 8 to 18 July 2013 and it limited to only 12 adventurers. You can be wait listed for either of the first two voyages, 8-18 July 2012 or 28 June - 8 July 2013, as these are sold out. Reserve your cabin now. Image above by Adam Rheborg, copyright.

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