The Svalbard group includes all the islands between 10° and 35° E and 74° and 81° N : the archipelago of Spitsbergen, White Island (Kvitøya), King Charles' Land (Kong Karls Land), Hope Island, and Bear Island (Bjørnøya), which have a combined area of about 62,700 sq km (24,200 sq mi). The largest islands are Spitsbergen, about 39,400 sq km (15,200 sq mi); North-East Land (Nordaustlandet), 14,530 sq km (5,610 sq mi); Edge Island (Edgeøya), 5,030 sq km (1,940 sq mi); and Barents Island (Barentsøya), 1,330 sq km (510 sq mi). Svalbard's population totaled 2,868 in 2002, down form 3,181 at the end of 1991. The population is 55.4% Norwegian and 44.3% Russian and Ukrainian.
Discovered by Norwegians in the 12th century and rediscovered in 1596 by the Dutch navigator Willem Barents, Svalbard served in the 17th and 18th centuries as a base for British, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, German, and other whalers, but no permanent sovereignty was established. Russian and Norwegian trappers wintered there, and coal mining started early in the 20th century. Norway's sovereignty was recognized by the League of Nations in 1920, and the territory was taken over officially by Norway in 1925. Much of the high land is icecovered; glaciers descend to the sea, where they calve to produce icebergs. The west and south coasts have many fjords, while the western coastal lowland is up to 10 km (6 mi) broad. The most important mineral, coal, occurs in vast deposits in Spitsbergen. The west coast is kept clear of ice for six months of the year by the relatively warm water of the North Atlantic Drift, but an air temperature as low as –62° C (–80° F ) has been recorded. In this region there are 112 days without the sun's appearance above the horizon.
The chief official, a governor, lives at Longyearbyen; his administration is controlled by the Ministry of Industry. Coal mining is the main industry, with Norwegian-worked mines at Longyearbyen, Sveagruva, and Ny Ålesund and Russian worked mines at Barentsburg, Grumantbyen, and elsewhere. Russia has extraterritorial rights in the areas where they mine. Cod fishing takes place around Bear Island, but whaling has virtually ceased. Norwegian sealers hunt seals, polar bears, and walrus in the summer. For centuries, trappers wintered in Spitsbergen to catch fox and bear while the pelts were in the best condition, but few trappers have wintered there in recent years.
Communications are maintained during the summer months by ships from Tromsø carrying goods and passengers, while colliers put in frequently at the mine piers. There are no roads and no local ship services.
Located in the Norwegian Sea at 70°30 ′ N and 8°30 ′ W , 893 km (555 mi) from Tromsø, the island of Jan Mayen has an area of 380 sq km (about 150 sq mi). The island is dominated by the volcano Beerenberg, about 2,277 m (7,470 ft) high, which is responsible for its existence; a major eruption occurred in September 1970. Jan Mayen was discovered by Henry Hudson in 1607 and was visited in 1614 by the Dutch navigator Jay Mayen, who used it subsequently as a whaling base. In 1929, the island was placed under Norwegian sovereignty. It is the site of a meteorological station and an airfield.
Bouvet Island (Bouvetøya), situated at 54°26 ′ S and 3°24 ′ E in the South Atlantic Ocean, was discovered in 1739, and in 1928 was placed under Norwegian sovereignty. An uninhabited volcanic island of about 59 sq km (23 sq mi), Bouvet is almost entirely covered by ice and is difficult to approach.
Peter I Island (Peter I Øy), an uninhabited Antarctic island of volcanic origin, is located at 68°48 ′ S and 90°35 ′ W . It has an area of 249 sq km (96 sq mi), rises to over 1,233 m (4,045 ft), and is almost entirely ice-covered. The island was discovered in 1821 by a Russian admiral. In 1931, it was placed under Norwegian sovereignty, and by a parliamentary act of 1933 became a dependency.
Queen Maud Land (Dronning Mauds Land) consists of the sector of Antarctica between 20° W and 45° E , adjoining the Falkland Islands on the W and the Australian Antarctic Dependency on the E . It was placed under Norwegian sovereignty in 1939, and has been a Norwegian dependency since 1957. The land is basically uninhabited, except for several stations operated by Japan, South Africa, and Russia.