Orbit 36464, Frame 2007, April 11, 2002 11:17 GMT
Svalbard, stretching between 76 and 80 degrees north, means 'the land with
the cold coasts'. The name was mentioned in the
Icelandic sagas already in 1194.
It was discovered in 1596 by the Dutch captain Willem Barents, trying to find a
northern seaway to the Orient. He named the area Spitsbergen because he saw a
lot of mountains with sharp peaks separated by glaciers. In the beginning of
the seventeenth century the Englishman Henry Hudson discovered that the waters
around Svalbard were very rich in whales. When his discovery became known in
Europe a very active whaling period commenced along the west coast of
Spitsbergen and lasted to the middle of the seventeenth century, at which time
the whales were nearly extinct.
During the beginning of the eighteenth century
Svalbard was colonized by trappers and hunters of walruses, seals, reindeer,
polar bears and foxes. To be a successful trapper they had to spend the winters
on Svalbard and many perished due to a very harsh life or to scurvy. In fact
the mean air temperature at sea level is minus 6.5 degrees centigrade. During
the second half of the nineteenth century Svalbard became a very popular and
important area for scientific research, especially geology and natural
sciences. During this period Nordenskiõld and others started mining
phosphates, gypsum and marble.
None of these industrial attempts became
commercially successful. But the American John M. Longyear was one of the first
to open a profitable coal mine at
Advent Bay (Advent City, today Longyearbyen), and others followed.
The Dutch opened Barentsburg but sold the mine to the
Russians in 1936. Today practically all of these mines are closed and human
activities concentrate on scientific research of which Kings Bay A/S, at
Ny-Ålesund is world famous among scientists. There is also a growing
demand for tourism.
Our image shows the central part of the Spitsbergen Island, with all the
many fjords, steep flanks of mountains (very dark), some pointed but some
forming high plains. Large parts of the country are glaciated and glacier
tongues calve their ice into the sea. Due to the early period in the year of
satellite data acquisition the fjords are covered with ice.
But depending on the
orientation of the fjord the wind-packed ice is of different type and origin,
as revealed by the graytone in the image. The higher glacier surfaces appear
bright due to the penetration of the radar microwave into the dry snow pack,
strongly backscattering at large ice crystals. In the top left corner
(enlargement) a succession of geological layers is visible.
They were deposited
during the Mesozoic area in a warm climate inhabited by dinosaurs. Footprints
of Iguanodon have been found near Barentsburg (lower left enlargement). An
other Mine is Sveagruva (central-right enlargement). Longyearbyen (enlargement
left central part) is the only settlement well visible, nearby is also the
airport that allows a daily connection with the motherland Norway. On the
plateau just above the airport the Svalbard satellite station is located
(brighter point). Due to its northern position, it is the only satellite
station that can track all orbits of polar-orbiting satellites, such as ERS
Click on the thumbnail image to see a higher resolution version of this image;
a very high resolution image, 1963 x 2002 pixels, 1060914 bytes, is also available.
Keywords: ESA European
Space Agency - Agence spatiale europeenne,
observation de la terre, earth observation,
satellite remote sensing,
teledetection, geophysique, altimetrie, radar,
chimique atmospherique, geophysics, altimetry, radar,