Svalbard is home to about 2650 people, and most of these live in Longyearbyen, the administration centre for the archipelago. There is also a Russian community in Barentsburg, a research station in Ny-Ålesund, and a few people living in Pyramiden. Svea, in Hornsund, and on Bjørnøya and Hopen. All the settlements are on Spitsbergen, except for the meteorological stations on Bjørnøya and Hopen. Approximately 2100 people live in Longyearbyen, representing over 50 nationalities. Most of the inhabitants are from Norway, and the foreign nations with the highest number of people on Svalbard are Thailand, Sweden and Russia. The average time for someone to live on Svalbard is seven years, and at the start of 2016, one in four of the inhabitants had lived here more than ten years. The people living on Svalbard are young, and compared with the mainland there is a much higher number of people between 25 – 49 years old. Very few inhabitants are over 70 here.
The archipelago has an Arctic climate, but with a much higher average temperature than other areas at the same latitude, due to regular low pressure systems and the warm Atlantic Ocean currents. Today, the fjords on the west of Spitsbergen are ice free during much of the winter, but if you meet people who were here back in the day, they may tell stories of reaching Pyramiden and Barentsburg on foot over the ice. The average temperature is -16 degrees Celsius in January, and +6 in July, and there is generally little precipitation in Longyearbyen, although we can get a fair bit of stormy weather. At the coast, the permafrost layer reaches 100 metres below ground, and during the summer, it is only the first metre or so that melts. The polar night and the midnight sun rule the skies for much of the year, adding an exotic touch to your wilderness experiences.Longyearbyen experiences midnight sun from April 20 to August 23, and the dark season between October 26 and February 15.
Polar bears are probably the animal that most people connect with Svalbard, but there are many other animals that call Svalbard home, including walrus, harp seals, ring seals, bearded seals, beluga, bowhead whales, narwhals, Svalbard grouse, polar fox and Svalbard reindeer. The Svalbard reindeer is genetically distinct from other species of reindeer, with short legs and a fat layer that can be 10cm thick. The sea around Svalbard is nutrient-rich, and during the summer large numbers of sea birds flock to the archipelago. There are seven national parks and 23 nature reserves, which combined cover two thirds of the archipelago, and this helps to protect the untouched and incredibly fragile ecosystem found on Svalbard.