Vestspitsbergen


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Vestspitsbergen,

island: see SpitsbergenSpitsbergen
, formerly Vestspitsbergen,
largest island (15,075 sq mi/39,044 sq km) of Svalbard, a Norwegian possession in the Arctic Ocean. It rises to Newtontoppen Mt. (c.5,650 ft/1,720 m), the highest point.
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, Norway.

Vestspitsbergen

 

an island in the North Arctic Ocean; the largest island of the Spitsbergen Archipelago. The island belongs to Norway. Area, 39,000 sq km; population, 2,900 (1970). Longyearbyen is the administrative center.

The coast of Vestspitsbergen is broken by fjords, the largest of which— Wijdefjorden in the north and Isfjorden in the west—are over 100 km long. The island is composed of metamorphic and sedimentary rock from various periods (conglomerates, limestone, shale, and sandstone); igneous rock is encountered. Extinct volcanoes and thermal springs are found in the northwest. Mountain ranges (Newton Peak, 1,712 m), high plateaus, and broad valleys predominate. Glaciation has played a major role in forming the relief. Glaciers cover 21,200 sq km (54.4 percent of VestSpitsbergen). The largest ice sheet is found on the eastern part of Vestspitsbergen in Olav V Land. In the south, north, and northwest there are also ice sheets. Valley and corrie glaciers predominate in the central regions of the island.

The climate is arctic but is made noticeably milder in the west by the warm Spitsbergen Current. The average air temperature along the coast in July is approximately 5°C, and in January it is from -10° to -13°C. Annual precipitation totals 300–400 mm along the western coast, approximately 200 mm in the central region, and 800–1,200 mm on ice sheets. Precipitation falls mainly as snow. Vegetation is sparse (approximately 150 types of higher plants), with moss and lichens predominating. Dwarfed dendritic polar willow and birch are found. Mammals include the polar bear, reindeer, arctic fox, and musk-ox, which was brought from Greenland. Sea animals include the ringed seal and the harp seal. There are approximately 90 species of birds. Coal is mined by Soviet and Norwegian enterprises.

V. A. MARKIN