SPITZBERGEN, spits-Wgen, a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean, between Barents Sea on the east and Greenland Sea on the west, about 650 miles north of the North Cape in Norway. They lie between the parallels 30' and 30' N., and are about 450 miles east of Northeast Foreland in Greenland and 200 miles west of Franz Josef Land. The archi pelago comprises three large islands and a large number of smaller ones. The largest island is West Spitzbergen, which has an irregular tri angular form with the apexpointing south. Its coast is indented by many fiords, of which the two largest are Ice Fiord on the west coast, running north and northeast, and Wijde Bay, penetrating southward from the north coast. The northern branch of Ice Fiord almost meets the head of Wijde Bay. The narrow Foreland Sound separates the smaller island of Prince Charles Foreland from part of the west coast of West Spitzbergen. To the northeast, sepa rated from the main island of West Spitzbergen by Hinlopen Strait, lies the second largest is land, North-East Land. Edge and Barents islands lie on the southeast side of the groups. Of the smaller islands, Danes Island, off the northwest coast of West Spitzbergen, is notable as the place from which Andree set out on his fatal balloon voyage to the North Pole. At the extreme north is a cluster of small islands known as the Seven Islands. The total area of the archipelago is about 27,000 square miles, of which West Spitzbergen represents about 15, 000. West Spitzbergen is in the main covered with great accumulations of ice, except along the west shore of Wijde Bay, where there is a relatively fertile area. The middle of the island, west of the main watershed, is de scribed as a region of boggy valleys, tertile slopes and mountain ridges, or the remains of a high plateau. The highest measured peak of the island is Horn Sound Tind in the south, fully 4,500 feet above sea-level. Large glaciers are found throughout the whblt group, but especially on the eastern coasts. The average limit of solid drift ice skirts the northern edge of the archipelago. The ocean bed around the islands is shallow. Geologically the backbone of the island consists of granite, with gneiss and other archaic rocks, but Carboniferous, Triassic, Jurassic, Miocene and even more re cent formations are also well represented. Dur
ing Miocene times Spitzbergen had a luxuriant flora, and there was also a postglacial period of genial climate favorable to the development of a varied phanerogamic flora. The proximity of the Gulf Stream renders the climate, espe cially on the west coasts, less severe than that of other places in the same latitude. For four months in winter the sun is below the horizon, and an equal period in summer always above It. The most characteristic plants of the archipelago are mosses and lichens. Rather more than 100 species of phanero gams, however, have been collected on the islands. The grasses form nearly a quar ter of these, and next to them in number of species are the cruciferous plants. The larger forms of animal life are foxes, bears and rein deer, in pursuit of which, as well as the wal ruses and seals abounding along the coasts, the islands are frequently visited by the Norwegians and Russians. fowl are at times so numer ous that they literally hide the rocks and darken the air. The minerals include beautiful marble and good coal. The group is said to have been discovered (1553) by Willoughby, but the islands were known to the Russians before that time. They were again discovered in 1596 by the Dutch navigator Barents. To the latter navigator the islands owe their name (in Dutch spelling Spitsberghen) , signifying °peaked mountains.° The coasts of the chief islands have been explored by many expeditions since that time, and during the 19th century the islands were used as a base for expeditions to ward the North Pole. The interior was hardly known till the explorations in 1896-97 of Sir W. Martin Conway, who was the first to cross West Spitzbergen from west to east. There are no settled inhabitants, but explorers and others have often passed one or more winters in the archipelago. In the days of the,,Spitzber gen whale fishery there was a thriving Dutch village called Smeerenberg on a small island to the northwest of West Spitzbergen. Tourist steamers sometimes sail to Spitzbergen during the summer months. A tourist hotel was built in 1896 at the entrance to Advent Bay, a branch of Ice Fiord.