Coordinates: 78°55′30″N 11°55′20″E / 78.92500°N 11.92222°E / 78.92500; 11.92222
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Ny-Ålesund in June 2013
Ny-Ålesund in June 2013
Ny-Ålesund is located in Svalbard
Location in Svalbard
Coordinates: 78°55′30″N 11°55′20″E / 78.92500°N 11.92222°E / 78.92500; 11.92222
LandOscar II Land
 • TotalSummer: 117 Winter: 35
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Websitenyalesundresearch.no kingsbay.no

Ny-Ålesund ("New Ålesund") is a small town in Oscar II Land on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. It is situated on the Brøgger peninsula (Brøggerhalvøya) and on the shore of the bay of Kongsfjorden. The company town is owned and operated by Kings Bay, which provides facilities for permanent research activities by 19 institutions from 11 countries. The town is ultimately owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment and is not incorporated (i.e. is not recognised as a town by the Norwegian government). Ny-Ålesund has an all-year permanent population of 30 to 35, with the summer population reaching 114. Its facilities include Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben, Svalbard Rocket Range, a port and Ny-Ålesund Town and Mine Museum, as well as a number of buildings dedicated to research and environmental monitoring activities. It is the northernmost functional civilian settlement in the world.

The town was founded in 1917 by Peter Brandal and his mining company, Kings Bay Kull Comp. Initially mining was carried out until 1929, but it was unprofitable for most of the 1920s. There were a series of air expeditions launched from Ny-Ålesund towards the North Pole. The company was nationalized in 1933 and the town was used for tourism and as a fishing port. Mining resumed for some months in 1941 and then from 1945. After several fatal incidents occurred including a mining accident on 5 November 1962 that killed 21 miners in what became known as the Kings Bay Affair, mining activity was terminated and Gerhardsen's Third Cabinet resigned. Kongsfjord Telemetry Station opened in 1967 and the town gradually transformed into a research settlement, with the Norwegian Polar Institute having had a year-round presence since 1968. As of 2021, 18 institutions from 11 countries have a more or less permanent presence in Ny-Ålesund[1] – five of them with year-round activity, the remaining primarily present during the spring-summer-autumn field season.


Ny-Ålesund is located on the north shore of Brøggerhalvøya, a peninsula of Oscar II Land on the island of Spitsbergen. The town is located on the southern shore of Kongsfjorden (literally "the King's Bay"), a bay on the west coast of Spitsbergen which connects to Forlandssundet of the Greenland Sea. Across from Ny-Ålesund is the island of Blomstrandøya and the former settlement of Ny-London.[2]: 260–265 

As Ny-Ålesund has no legal existence as a town, it lacks any formal area. If the land owned by Kings Bay is used to define the town, it would have an area of 300 square kilometers (120 sq mi), which would encapsulate both the north and south shores of Kongsfjorden. Kings Bay retains ownership of all land in the area, although the mining claims are held by Store Norske.[3]: 12 


The coal deposits at Kongsfjorden were first discovered by Jonas Poole during a whaling expedition in the area in 1610. They did not receive more careful analysis until 1861, when Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand carried out surveys. A Swedish expedition looked into the coal in 1870 and in 1901 Bergen–Spitsbergen Kulgrubekompani laid claims to the deposits. Failing to follow up, Ernest Mansfield occupied claims in 1905 and 1906, which were sold to The Northern Exploration Co. Ltd. in 1910. The first test shaft was built in 1909,[4]: 9  followed by a hut in 1912.[4]: 10  The claims were sold to Peter Brandal of Ålesund in 1916, who dispatched two ships and sixty men to Kings Bay for the summer of 1916. Arriving on 21 July, they immediately started breaking surface coal. Kings Bay Kull Comp. was founded on 14 December 1916.[4]: 16  Thirty people were sent to Kings Bay for the 1917 season, and started construction of a town. By winter buildings, mines, a port and a railway were completed.[4]: 15 

The town in the late 1910s

Sixty-four people stayed the first winter. They were supplemented from May 1918, bringing the summer population to 300. In the following years the town was gradually expanded with additional housing and work buildings.[4]: 18  During the first years several names were in use for the settlement, including Kings Bay, Kingsbay and Brandal City. Ny-Ålesund came into use in the early 1920s and was soon the official name of the settlement.[4]: 19  The mining was hit by two strikes in 1919, the first lasting from the summer to October, and the second from November to January 1920. Because of the ice, each year the shipping was limited from May through October.[4]: 21  By 1919 the company had fallen into severe financial difficulties. A British take-over was waved off and instead state coal purchasing agreement, effectively subsidies, were enforced.[4]: 22  By 1921 the men had started bringing their families, raising the female population to twenty-two and the child population to twenty-three.[4]: 23  An improvised school was therefore taken into use.[4]: 125 

The Geophysical Institute of Tromsø established a geophysical station at Kvadehuken in 1920,[4]: 44  although it only remained in operation until 1924.[4]: 45  Production rose through the 1920, reaching a peak 99,000 tonnes per year.[4]: 28  Coal liquefaction was attempted from 1924 to 1927, but proved unprofitable.[4]: 38  The labor union, Kings Bay Arbeiderforening, was founded in 1925, although many of the workers had previously ad hoc organized themselves.[4]: 134  In 1919 Northern Exploration Company laid pressed that they had claims on Blomstrandhalvøya.[4]: 31  The case ended with the Government of Norway buying their claims in 1925, parts of which were sold to Kings Bay.[4]: 33 

Norge in Ny-Ålesund on 7 May 1926

Between 1925 and 1928, four attempts were made to reach the North Pole by air from Ny-Ålesund. One involved flying boats led by Roald Amundsen.[5]: 102  Floyd Bennett and Richard E. Byrd made an attempt. Amundsen and Umberto Nobile's airship Norge left Ny-Ålesund and traveled via the North Pole to Alaska. Because of controversies over previous efforts, this is regarded by some as the first successful expedition to the North Pole.[5]: 103  After two short skirmishes, Nobile's airship Italia left Ny-Ålesund on 23 May 1928 to reach the North Pole, but crashed on the return.[5]: 49 

The first fatal mining accident took place in the Ester Mine on 16 December 1926, killing two miners. Gradually a series of smaller accidents took place.[4]: 34  The company's lack of profitability caused the government to cease subsidies from 1929.[4]: 40  A small guard and maintenance crew was kept in Ny-Ålesund in the following years.[4]: 61 

As of 1929 Kings Bay owed NOK 18.6 million to the state and Aalesunds Kreditbank. Thus the state nationalized the company, taking effect on 23 December 1933.[4]: 61  A fisheries station opened in 1935, which sold supplies to fishing vessels and carried out steaming of cod liver oil and salting of the cod.[4]: 65  As the station was in need of subsidies, it was closed after two years.[4]: 66  From 1936 a hotel service targeting tourists opened. Its most elaborate building, Nordpolhotellet, opened on 3 September 1939, although the town was abandoned just days later because of the outbreak of the Second World War.[4]: 70  However, this spurred a Norwegian demand for coal, and the town was resettled on 7 May 1941.[4]: 73  However, the entire island was evacuated on 29 August, with critical infrastructure blown up.[4]: 74 

Miners in the Agnes Mine

Kings Bay dispatched a crew after the war ended, with the first 90 workers arriving at Ny-Ålesund on 13 August 1945. They started reconstruction and mining commenced in November.[4]: 78  Production reached 61,000 tonnes in 1947.[4]: 80  A 4 December 1948 explosion killed fifteen miners.[4]: 82  A trial postal air drop took place in 1946, and regular services were provided from 1949.[4]: 159  Weather observations were carried out in 1950 to 1953, and again after 1961.[4]: 149  The mine flooded on 26 April 1949 and it took half a year to empty it.[4]: 83  On 7 January 1951 there was an explosion in the Ester V Mine, killing nine men.[4]: 85  On 19 March 1952, yet another explosion took place in the Ester Mine, this time killing nineteen men.[4]: 86  These caused several investigations and inquiries, leading to improvements to mining safety.[4]: 87 

In 1956 Parliament approved a major upgrade to the mining facilities, which would cost NOK 20 million,[4]: 96  in the hope that production could reach 200,000 tonnes.[4]: 98  In 1956 two brothers, Einar Sverre and Gunnar Sverre Pedersen, through their company Norsk Polar Navigasjon, proposed that an airport be built at Kvadehussletta, on the outer-most point of Brøggerhalvøya.[6]: 15  It was met by opposition from both Norwegian and Soviet authorities and no permits were granted,[6]: 23  even though they pursued the case for a decade.[6]: 45  By 1959 Ester I was depleted and the railway was closed—transport having been taken over by trucks, and production remained low during the late 1950s.[4]: 105 

An explosion on 5 November 1962 killed 21 miners. Two investigations were carried out and the issue became a heated political debate.[4]: 167  In what became the Kings Bay Affair, Gerhardsen's Third Cabinet was ultimately forced to resign in August 1963,[4]: 171  and all mining in Ny-Ålesund was terminated from 5 November 1963. For the meanwhile, Kings Bay was to retain the equipment and facilities in case later technological development would allow for safer mining operations.[4]: 171  The first research establishment came in 1967, when Kongsfjord Telemetry Station was opened to communicate with the European Space Research Organization's satellites. The Royal Norwegian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research took over daily management of Ny-Ålesund until the telemetry station was closed in 1974.[4]: 183  The station resulted in the construction of Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben,[4]: 185  and resulted in about thirty employees.[4]: 178 

Pipelines and cables are located in utilidors to avoid permafrost

The Norwegian Polar Institute established a scientific station in Ny-Ålesund in 1966, moving their ionosphere measurement station from Isfjord Radio.[4]: 177  An early scientific agent was the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, which has conducted air research in Ny-Ålesund since the mid-1970s.[4]: 211  Gradually there was increased interest in research in Ny-Ålesund. In the first years a series of universities sent summer expeditions.[4]: 202  Kings Bay also generated revenue from selling fuel, supplies and air transport to shrimp fishers.[4]: 206  By 1977 Kings Bay stuck a deal by the then state-owned Store Norske to sell all its claims, although it kept the property rights around Ny-Ålesund.[4]: 181  During the early 1980s a plan for cultural heritage management was developed, which included the renovation of several older houses. In 1992 nearly the entire town was listed.[4]: 210 

Construction of the Zeppelin Station commenced in 1988[4]: 211  and in 1990 Kings Bay moved its administration from Oslo to Ny-Ålesund. From 1992 the government allowed international research institutions to establish stations in Ny-Ålesund,[7]: 171  and thus several institutes built stations the early 1990s.[4]: 214  This was matched by Kings Bay, who invested in increased capacity, including dorms, a new dock and better communications.[7]: 173  By 1996 there were over one hundred research projects in Ny-Ålesund.[7]: 183 


Ny-Ålesund has a polar climate (Köppen ET). However, winter temperatures are very mild compared to other locations with the same classification because of the North Atlantic Drift.

Climate data for Ny-Ålesund
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 6.6
Average high °C (°F) −7.4
Daily mean °C (°F) −10.5
Average low °C (°F) −13.6
Record low °C (°F) −36.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 56.1
Average precipitation days 15 15 14 16 16 15 16 16 18 20 20 16 197
Average snowy days 15 14 14 15 14 6 3 2 11 18 18 15 145
Average relative humidity (%) 71 78 76 74 76 81 83 80 77 71 71 69 76
Source 1: Météo climat stats[8] Météo Climat[9]
Source 2: Ny-Ålesund, Norway Travel Weather Averages


The gondola which runs up Zeppelinfjellet to Zeppelin
VLBI radio telescope.

Eighteen research institutions from eleven countries have a more or less permanent presence in Ny-Ålesund.[10] Five of these have a year-round presence, while the others are active primarily during the spring-summer-autumn field season. In addition there are several institutions which carry out research without having a permanent presence. Most research is centered around environmental and earth sciences (atmosphere, glaciology, terrestrial ecology and marine research), taking advantage of the town's latitude, close access to pristine nature and relatively mild climate. Compared to other locations at such a latitude, Ny-Ålesund research station provides a well-developed infrastructure in terms of facilities, laboratories, access and communication. Ny-Ålesund is owned and operated by Kings Bay, which provides services to visiting scientists.[11]

Representatives for the participating institutions meet in the Ny-Ålesund Science Managers' Committee (NySMAC) twice per year. NySMAC's main goals are to distribute information on existing research and provide input to the coordination and prioritising of future research and research infrastructure.[12] The Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) is an agency which acts as an information and coordination facilitator for research throughout Svalbard. Based in Longyearbyen, it is chaired by the Research Council of Norway. Among SSF's tasks is the management of the Research in Svalbard (RiS) database, which contains information on all previous and ongoing research on the archipelago. Kings Bay participates in SSF and requires all researchers to register their projects with RiS.[13] The Americans do have a presence in the form of a National Science Foundation funded group known as Svalbard REU which conducts research on the surrounding glaciers annually.

The following is a list of all actors engaged in research and environmental monitoring on a permanent/semi-permanent basis in Ny-Ålesund. It states the name of the facility, the institute operating it, the nationality, the year the facility was established, and the nature of the research carried out.

Key institutions, Ny-Ålesund Research Station[14]
Facility Institution Nationality Est. Research
Amundsen–Nobile National Research Council of Italy Italy Italy 2009 Atmospheric
Arctic University of Groningen Netherlands Netherlands 1995 Ecology and others
Arctic Yellow River Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration China China 2004 Environment, glaciology, meteorology, marine ecosystems, meteorology, space–Earth measurements
British British Antarctic Survey United Kingdom United Kingdom 1991 Earth and life sciences
Corbel ‡ French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor France France 1963 Atmospheric sciences, hydrology, glaciology
Dasan Korea Polar Research Institute South Korea South Korea 2002 Atmospheric chemistry glacial and periglacial geomorphology and hydrology
Dirigibile Italia National Research Council of Italy Italy Italy 1997 Environment and climate
Himadri National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research India India 2008 Atmospheric sciences, marine ecosystems and pollution
Japanese National Institute of Polar Research Japan Japan 1990 Atmospheric physics, glaciology, meteorology, oceanography and terrestrial biology
Koldewey ‡ Alfred Wegener Institute Germany Germany 1991 Atmospheric physics, biology, chemistry and geology. Part of the Total Carbon Column Observing Network.[15]
Marine Laboratory Kings Bay Norway Norway 2005 Marine biology
Rabot ‡ French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor France France 1999 Atmospheric and life sciences
Rocket Range Andøya Rocket Range Norway Norway 1997 Sounding rockets
Sverdrup Norwegian Polar Institute Norway Norway 1999 Various
VLBI Norwegian Mapping Authority Norway Norway 1992 Very-long-baseline interferometry
Zeppelin Norwegian Polar Institute Norway Norway 1988 Atmospheric

‡ The French and German activities are all part of the joint AWIPEV Arctic Research Station since 2003.


Kings Bay mining operations during the first years

The coal seams are located between the town-site and towards the mountain of Zeppelinfjellet. The coalfields are about 5 kilometers (3 mi) wide in the east–west orientation, and about 1.5 kilometers (1 mi) wide in the north–south direction. There are six seams, located at a ten to twenty degree angle towards the surface. The seam thickness varies from a few centimeters (about an inch) to 15 meters (49 ft). The varying thickness increased the complexity of mining. From the top the seams are named Ragnhil, Josefine, Otelie, Advokat, Sofie and Ester. Most of the latter three are located below sea level. Each shaft was named for the seam it connected to. The area has further been subdivided into areas: Eastern, Agnes, Eastern Center, Western Center, Western and Lagoon. Only three have seen production, the Agnes, Eastern Center and Western Center.[4]: 57 

The coal layers are part of a Tertiary formation created 65 million years ago. It is classified as bituminous coal and cannel coal, with a high petroleum content (16–25 percent) and high sulphuric contents (2 percent). This is the same formation as the coal mines in Longyearbyen and Sveagruva, but the Ny-Ålesund layer has been shifted in relation to these.[4]: 57 

Transport and communications[edit]

A Lufttransport Dornier 228 landing at Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben

Ny-Ålesund has a road network which connects the buildings at the settlement, but this network does not extend beyond the settlement. Off-road motorized transport is prohibited on bare ground, but snowmobiles are used extensively during winter—both for commercial and recreational activities.[16] Ny-Ålesund Harbour is operated by Kings Bay. In addition to serving the research community, it is open to commercial and recreational vessels. It has one large berth which is International Ship and Port Facility Security Code compliant and is commonly used by cruise ships.[17] To reach the Zeppelin Station, located at 485-meter (1,591 ft) above mean sea level, there is an aerial tramway which runs up Zeppelinfjellet.[4]: 211 

Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben consists of a single 808-meter (2,651 ft) long and 30-meter (98 ft) wide gravel runway, located northwest of the settlement. It features a 30-by-75-meter (98 by 246 ft) apron and aerodrome flight information service, but lacks a terminal and hangar facilities.[18] Kings Bay charters Lufttransport to fly two to four weekly flights using a Dornier 228 aircraft to Svalbard Airport, Longyear. Tickets are only available after permission from Kings Bay.[19] Svalbard Rocket Range is a launch site for sounding rockets. Owned by Andøya Rocket Range, its high latitude makes it well-suited for launching rockets to investigate Earth's magnetic field.[20] It is the world's northernmost launch site.[21]

From the implementation of the Svalbard Undersea Cable System in 2003 Ny-Ålesund had a twin 155 megabits per second microwave connection to Longyearbyen. Two redundant fiber pairs were laid in 2014, increasing capacity to 10 gigabits per second. The fiber line is owned by Uninett and cost NOK 90 million (roughly €9.2 million) to install.[22] The very-long-baseline interferometry station at Hamnerabben is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation in certain frequencies. Thus there is enforced a 20-kilometer (12 mi) exclusion zone for devices transmitting at between 2.1 and 2.5 GHz. The ban includes mobile telephones, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other wireless devices.[23] Telenor Maritim Radio operates a VHF maritime radio transmitted in Ny-Ålesund, which is remotely controlled from Bodø Radio.[24]


Ny-Ålesund is located in a high-Arctic ecosystem within the tundra zone. It sits amid the richest fauna and flora areas of Svalbard, especially along the rim of Kongsfjord and particularly in its innermost parts. Some of the cliffs are heavily populated by birds; Ny-Ålesund is the archipelago's richest area for birds, especially waders. The Svalbard ptarmigan is the sole bird to winter. The vegetation is poor and vulnerable, mostly consisting of lichen. Mammals in the area include the Svalbard reindeer, the Arctic fox and the polar bear.[25] All people in the settlement must carry rifles because of the bears, and all doors in town remain unlocked for the sake of people seeking cover in the event of an attack.[23] There are three protected areas in the vicinity: Blomstrandhamna Bird Sanctuary, Kongsfjorden Bird Sanctuary and Ossian Sars Nature Reserve.[25]

The climate is mild for its northern latitude, due to the North Atlantic Current which flows northwards from mainland Norway up the west coast of Spitsbergen. It also receives heat from the predominant high pressure fronts which bring warm air from the Atlantic to the Barents Sea. The town has its lowest temperatures during March, at an average −12 °C (10 °F) and a high average of 6 °C (43 °F) during July.[26] The sun does not set from 18 April to 24 August (midnight sun) and does not rise from 25 October to 17 February (polar night). But there is no nautical twilight between December 11 to December 30, it only has 24 hour of darkness called astronomical twilight. The site is sufficiently isolated that it can be used to measure the background pollution levels in the high Arctic troposphere.[3]: 18  The town has some of the cleanest air in the world.[27]

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ny-Ålesund Research Station". Ny-Ålesund Research Station. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  2. ^ Norwegian Hydrographic Service (1990). Den norske los Svalbard og Jan Mayen (in Norwegian). ISBN 978-82-90653-06-9.
  3. ^ a b Shears, John; Theisen, Fredrik; Bjørdal, Are; Norris, Stefan (1998). Environmental impact assessment Ny-Ålesund international scientific research and monitoring station, Svalbard (PDF). Tromsø: Norwegian Polar Institute. Retrieved 4 April 2014.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc Hanoa, Rolf (1993). Kings Bay Kull Comp. A/S 1917–1992 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Schibsted. ISBN 978-82-516-1448-1.
  5. ^ a b c Hisdal, Vidar (1998). Svalbard: nature and history. Oslo: Norwegian Polar Institute. ISBN 978-82-7666-152-1.
  6. ^ a b c Tamnes, Rolf (1992). Svalbard og den politiske avmakt (in Norwegian). Oslo: Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies.
  7. ^ a b c Thusesen, Nils Petter (2005). Svalbards historie i årstall (in Norwegian). Oslo: Orion. ISBN 978-82-458-0742-4.
  8. ^ "Moyennes 1991-2020 Norvege (Jan Mayen/Svalbard)" (in French). Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  9. ^ "Météo Climat stats for Ny Alesund". Météo Climat. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Ny-Ålesund Research Station". Ny-Ålesund Research Station. Retrieved 2021-08-08.
  11. ^ "Research". Kings Bay. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Ny-Ålesund Science Managers Committee (NySMAC)". Kings Bay. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) and the RiS database". Kings Bay. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  14. ^ "Key institutions, Ny-Ålesund Research Station".
  15. ^ "Sites". Tccon-wiki. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  16. ^ Umbriet (1997): 63–67
  17. ^ "Regulations for Ny-Ålesund Harbour" (PDF). Kings Bay. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  18. ^ "ENAS - Ny-Ålesund/Hamnerabben" (PDF). Avinor. 18 November 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Travelling to Ny-Ålesund". Kings Bay. 20 December 2010. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  20. ^ "Other Research Institutions in Ny-Ålesund". Kings Bay. May 1997. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  21. ^ Larsen, Rolf L. (16 November 1997). "Romfartshistorie på 79 nord". Aftenposten (in Norwegian).
  22. ^ Zachariassen, Espen (13 March 2014). "Forskere på Svalbard får 10 gbits". Teknisk Ukeblad (in Norwegian). Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  23. ^ a b Shukman, David (6 September 2012). "So remote, it could pass for Mars". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  24. ^ "Bodø Radio". Telenor Maritim Radio. Archived from the original on 18 February 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  25. ^ a b Brekke: 6
  26. ^ Maturilli, M.; Herber, A.; König-Langlo, G. (2013). "Climatology and time series of surface meteorology in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard". Earth System Science Data. 5 (1): 155–163. Bibcode:2013ESSD....5..155M. doi:10.5194/essd-5-155-2013.
  27. ^ Filipova, Anna (29 July 2022). "The town with the cleanest air in the world". BBC. Retrieved 11 August 2022.


External links[edit]