Spitsbergen (formerly known as West Spitsbergen; Norwegian: Vest Spitsbergen or Vestspitsbergen) is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 39,044 km2 (15,075 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-largest in the world. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen; and other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund and the mining outpost of Sveagruva.
The island was first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which it was 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 established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol remain the only mining companies. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, featuring among others the University Centre in Svalbard and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve as local transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear provides the main point of entry and exit.
The polar bear (Ursusmaritimus) is a carnivorousbear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest bear, together with the omnivorousKodiak bear, which is approximately the same size. A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (770–1,500 lb), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time at sea. Their scientific name means "maritime bear", and derives from this fact. Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present.
The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the nineteen polar bear subpopulations in decline. For decades, large scale hunting raised international concern for the future of the species but populations rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of Arcticindigenous peoples, and polar bears remain important in their cultures.