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Archipelago, Norway. Located in the Arctic Ocean, north of the Arctic Circle, Svalbard consists of nine main islands, the largest being Spitsbergen (formerly West Spitsbergen). The islands are mountainous, with glaciers and snowfields covering nearly 60% of the area. The islands were first visited in modern times by the Dutch in 1596. In the early 20th century many countries, including the U.S., debated ownership of mineral rights there. Officially a Norwegian possession since 1920, the islands have been the site of many scientific polar expeditions (beginning in 1773). The population changes seasonally but numbers about 3,000; there are no indigenous inhabitants. Longyearbyen is the administrative centre.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Svalbard, visit Britannica.com.