Key Facts about Svalbard

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Scientists are investigating the first field of hydrothermal vents on the 500-kilometer-long Knipovich Ridge off the coast of Svalbard.

About Svalbard:

  • It is an archipelago that is situated in the Arctic Ocean, to the north of the European mainland. 
  • It is the northernmost place in the world with a permanent population.
  • Discovery: It was discovered by the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz in 1596.
  • It is part of Norway. The 1920 Svalbard Treaty established Norwegian sovereignty over the Svalbard Islands.
  • It is located about halfway between the North Pole and the northern part of Norway.
  • It covers a total area of about 61,022, of which 36,502 (about 60%) is covered by glacial ice and permanent snowfields.
  • It is composed of several islands such as Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Edgeøya, Barentsøya, Kvitøya, Kong Karls Land, Prins Karls Forland, Bjørnøya, and Hopen.
  • Spitsbergen is the largest and most populous island.
    • The island is bounded by the Arctic Ocean, the Greenland Sea, and the Norwegian Sea.
    • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is also located on Spitsbergen.
  • Climate: The archipelago features an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude
  • Due to its location in the northern part of the Arctic Circle, the Svalbard Islands experience the midnight sunduringthesummer months and polar night during the winter months.

Q1: What are hydrothermal vents?

Hydrothermal vents are like geysers, or hot springs, on the ocean floor. Along mid-ocean ridges where tectonic plates spread apart, magma rises and cools to form new crust and volcanic mountain chains. Seawater circulates deep in the ocean’s crust and becomes superheated by hot magma. As pressure builds and the seawater warms, it begins to dissolve minerals and rise toward the surface of the crust. The hot, mineral-rich waters then exit the oceanic crust and mix with the cool seawater above. As the vent minerals cool and solidify into mineral deposits, they form different types of hydrothermal vent structures.

Source: Investigating newly discovered hydrothermal vents at depths of 3,000 meters off Svalbard