Friday blog post – Hidden gems of the Svalbard archipelago
This summer 15 students participated in our “Arctic tectonics, volcanism and climate” course hosted by UNIS at Svalbard and arranged by NOR-R-AM and DEEP. As part of their assessment the students wrote a blog post in groups. Each Friday, in the five weeks to come, we will post one blog for you to read and enjoy.
by Albina Gilmullina (UiB), Svetlana Grigoreva (SPbU) and Alexandra Zaputlyaeva (CEED, UiO).
Several degrees above Arctic Circle, with 60% of the land covered with the glaciers, 100 days without the sun, hosting the northernmost settlement and the university centre, this archipelago is not just popular for polar bears and reindeers, but as well possess amazing geological history!
Svalbard archipelago (or Spitsbergen, the name used before 1952) was possibly discovered in XII century, however first documented landing dates to 1596. For three centuries, the area was popular for hunting whales, walrus, polar bears and fox. Coal deposits discovered in the end of XIX century shifted the focus for the mining industry. Nowadays, the three main industries on Svalbard are coal mining, tourism, and research.
One may wonder what is so spectacular to study about in that God-forgotten land? The truth is that the archipelago was not always that far to the north and that cold and calm as today. Since Cambrian to Paleogene (from ~540-40 Ma) Svalbard continental platform was drifting from the southern latitudes to the north, experiencing various climate conditions which resulted in the deposition of different type of sediments. Moreover through the Early Proterozoic – Holocene geological records (1600-0.01) Svalbard has been affected several times by magmatism and is considered as a part of High Arctic Large Igneous Province. Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) are known to have a significant impact on the environment. Formation of such provinces is followed by the release of large masses of volcanic aerosols that could lead to the collapse of the ecosystems and climate changes. Therefore, revealing the geology of the Svalbard archipelago helps the scientists to constrain a broad picture of the Earth development through time.