Svalbard is first mentioned in annals from Iceland from 1194. In 1596 the adventurer Willem Barents discovered the archipelago, but the sovereignty of Denmark and Norway were respected and defended. In 1671 the German doctor Friedrich Martens made accurate flora and fauna observations.
The Svalbard Treaty was signed February 9th 1920 in Paris in connection with a peace conference after World War I. In 1925 the treaty regulations on Norwegian sovereignty became part of Norwegian law through Svalbardloven.
The treaty is to ensure Svalbard’s development and peaceful utilization of natural resources. Norway’s sovereignty is limitied so that citizens of any nation who has signed the treaty have equal right to business operations, hunting and fishing.
The original signature countries were Norway, USA, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Holland and Sweden. Since then more than 30 countries and states have signed.
The archipelago is located between between 74° og 81° N and 10° og 35° E. Total land area is er 61,022 km² and dominated by the island Spitsbergen, which is more than 50% of the archipelago, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya.
Svalbard has tundra and permafrost. A small part of the Gulf Stream keeps the west coast of Spitsbergen open to sailing during summer season and at some point all year. That’s why this is the northernmost ice free area on the planet.
In summer the average temperature is +6°C (+43°F). The winter is mild all considered. February is normally the coldest month, with an average of –15°C (+5°F).
The past years the average temperature has been up to 5 degrees higher than previous averages. This makes Svalbard the part of Norway with the highest increase in temperature, just like the official climate models have been predicting.
PS: Check it out: How far is Spitsbergen from where you live..?