Crown Prince and Crown Princess visit Svalbard
Every year, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess travel to different places in Norway to visit local communities and the people living there. Today, Their Royal Highnesses arrived in Longyearbyen for a three-day visit to Svalbard.
The visit began at Longyearbyen Public Library, where they were welcomed by Governor of Svalbard Lars Fause. The library organises lectures and cultural activities for people of all ages throughout the year, and has a collection of fiction and non-fiction works. The collection gives special focus to literature about polar exploration and science.
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess left their shoes outside, a local custom dating from the time when shoes would often track coal dust indoors. The custom is still practised in many places in Svalbard.
The Crown Princess greets some of the children who came to see her and the Crown Prince outside Longyearbyen Public Library. Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB
While they were at the library, the head of the Longyearbyen Community Council, Arild Olsen, gave a brief presentation on the Svalbard community of today. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess had the opportunity to meet many people who are actively involved in the community. Voluntarism plays an important role in Svalbard life, as it does in the rest of Norway, and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess met representatives of organisations that organise activities in the great outdoors – or show up when danger or disaster strikes the archipelago. Both Norwegian People’s Aid and the Red Cross have active local affiliates in Longyearbyen that help to ensure safety and inclusion.
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess listen as speakers discuss Svalbard and voluntary work at the library in Longyearbyen. Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB
Not many years ago, Svalbard’s professional rescue crews and volunteer groups were both put to the test.
Increasing avalanche risk
Climate change is evident in Svalbard and is having major consequences. There is a greater threat of avalanches, and the one that came in December 2015 killed two people and destroyed 10 buildings in Longyearbyen. In February 2017, a new avalanche destroyed two dormitories. Vulnerable homes still have to be evacuated during periods of high avalanche risk.
Queen Sonja visited the avalanche area in January 2016. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
The increased danger of avalanches has led to significant changes. In the vulnerable Longyear Valley, work is underway to secure existing residential areas and identify new areas where it will be safe to build. Meanwhile, homes in the most threatened area are being removed.
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess visited an embankment built to protect the town from new avalanches. There they met Elke Morgner and Malte Jochman, whose house was swept away in the 2015 avalanche. They told the Crown Prince and Crown Princess about the dramatic day when their family of four and a visiting friend were buried in snow that engulfed their kitchen. Jochman’s arms remained free, allowing him to start digging to extract himself and the others
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess heard about the day in 2015 when an avalanche destroyed homes and killed two people in Longyearbyen. Photo: Simen Sund, The Royal Court
Visit to youth club
After their visit to the avalanche embankment, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess continued on to Longyearbyen’s new youth club. The club opened in March, and the young people who will be using it have helped to design and furnish the premises themselves. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess spoke with them about the club and club activities, and heard their accounts of growing up in one of the world’s northernmost settlements.
Dinner with the Governor
Tonight, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit will be guests of the Governor at the Governor’s estate, which serves as both the home and office of the Governor. It is located at Skjæringa, the historic site where Longyearbyen was established at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Svalbard is an Arctic Ocean archipelago whose largest and most important island is Spitsbergen.
- Spitsbergen was discovered by the Dutch seafarer Willem Barentsz (usually anglicised as Barents) in 1596, but Icelandic records from the 12th and 13th centuries also likely refer to the islands.
- The name Svalbard is a combination of the words sval (cool) and bard (edge).
- Norway was granted sovereignty over the archipelago in 1920 under the Svalbard Treaty, which entered into force in 1925. All of the treaty’s 44 signatory countries have equal rights to conduct economic activity in Svalbard, but only Norway and Russia have had substantial business and settlement activities there.
- Main industries: mining (coal), research/education and tourism.
- Area: 61 022 km2 (compared to 323 808 km2 for mainland Norway).
- Population 2021: 2 940.
- Administrative centre: Longyearbyen.
- Svalbard is administered by the Governor, whose authority is on a par with that of a Norwegian county governor.
Official visits to Svalbard
Members of the Royal Family have paid numerous visits to Svalbard. What follows is an overview of official visits under His Majesty King Harald:
- 1995: The King and Queen attend 70th anniversary commemoration of Norwegian sovereignty.
- 2000: The Crown Prince attends opening of the Norwegian Polar Institute’s atmospheric monitoring station in Ny Ålesund.
- 2006: The King and Queen celebrate Longyearbyen’s 100th anniversary.
- 2007: The Crown Princess presents International Community award to Longyearbyen.
- 2008: The Crown Prince takes part in a research expedition, accompanied by the heirs to the Danish and Swedish thrones.
- 2010: The Crown Prince attends Ny-Ålesund Symposium 2010.
- 2012: The King attends memorial service for the Kings Bay accident in 1962.
- 2013: The Queen opens graphics exhibition and attends opening of the Polarjazz Festival.
- 2015: The Queen opens exhibition at Kunsthall Svalbard art museum.
- 2015: The Crown Prince and Crown Princess visit research vessel Lance.
- 2016: The Queen meets victims of the 2015 avalanche.
- 2016: The Crown Prince attends Ny-Ålesund Symposium 2016.
- 2017: The Queen meets avalanche victims and opens Artica Svalbard Foundation.
The Royal Family has also paid a number of private visits to Svalbard.
Congratulations from His Majesty King Harald to the new President of the United Arab Emirates, His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
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