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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.
The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway.Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva.Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population.Seven national parks and twenty-three nature reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched, yet fragile, natural environment.Approximately 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords.During summer, it is possible to ski from Sørkapp in the south to the north of Spitsbergen, with only a short distance not being covered by snow or glacier. The tallest peak is Newtontoppen (1,717 m or 5,633 ft), followed by Perriertoppen (1,712 m or 5,617 ft), Ceresfjellet (1,675 m or 5,495 ft), Chadwickryggen (1,640 m or 5,380 ft) and Galileotoppen (1,637 m or 5,371 ft).
The longest fjord is Wijdefjorden (108 km or 67 mi), followed by Isfjorden (107 km or 66 mi), Van Mijenfjorden (83 km or 52 mi), Woodfjorden (64 km or 40 mi) and Wahlenbergfjorden (46 km or 29 mi).Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers.The islands were first taken into use as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned.Svalbard Airport, Longyear serves as the main gateway.The archipelago features an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude.The Norwegian state took possession of all unclaimed land, or 95.2% of the archipelago, at the time the Svalbard Treaty entered into force; Store Norske owns 4%, Arktikugol owns 0.4%, while other private owners hold 0.4%.