How many large islands does Svalbard archipelago consist of?
Svalbard, prior to 1925 known as Spitsbergen, or Spitzbergen, is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya.
The islands were first used as a whaling base by whalers who sailed far north in pursuit of whales for blubber in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway. They also established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol remain the only mining companies in place. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, with the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault playing critical roles. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve inter-community transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear serves as the main gateway.