Spitzbergen, a group of islands in the Arctic ocean, between lat. 76° 30' and 80° 30' N., and Ion. 10° and 28° E., and nearly midway between Greenland on the west and Nova Zembla on the east; area estimated at 30,000 sq. m. The principal islands are Spitzbergen, Northeast land, Prince Charles, Edge, and Ba-rentz. Spitzbergen proper, the largest of the islands, is nearly divided N. and S. by two arms of the sea, Weyde bay and Ice fiord, which stretch so far inland that their heads are separated by only a narrow peninsula 5 or 6 m. in breadth. The two divisions are sometimes called respectively West Spitzbergen and East Spitzbergen or New Friesland. E. of Spitzbergen lie Barentz island and Edge island (Russ. Maloi Brun) separated from it by a strait called Wybe Jans water, or by the Swedes Stor fiord. Between Edge and Barentz islands is Freeman or Thymen strait, and between Barentz island and Spitzbergen on the north Heley's sound. Hinlopen or Way-gat strait separates Spitzbergen from Northeast land, so called from its relative position to the larger island.
Its coast line is rugged and penetrated by numerous fiords, and it is surrounded by many islands, the principal of which are High island on the east, the group called the Seven islands on the north, and Low island on the west. Near the southern mouth of Hinlopen strait is Waygat or Wilhelm island, explored by Smyth in 1871. W. of Spitzbergen, and separated from it by Foreland strait, lies Prince Charles island or foreland. Little is known of the interior of Spitzbergen, but many mountains' are visible from the coast, some of them 3,000 to 4,000 ft. high, the valleys of which are filled with glaciers. On the W\ coast the mountains rise generally within 3 m. of the shore, leaving a level space between them and the sea. The N. shores are not so high, but inland the ice hills gradually rise to an elevation of more than 2,000 ft. Around the South cape or Point Lookout, the S. termination of Spitzbergen, the coast is flat, but it soon rises into a mountain chain which extends northward. The E. coasts have not been thoroughly explored.
Spitzbergen feels the influence of two ocean currents flowing from nearly opposite directions: a polar current, which blocks up the E. and N. E. sides with ice and renders navigation dangerous, if not impossible; and a warmer Atlantic current, which flows up the W. coast and keeps it comparatively free from ice. The climate is intensely cold, the mean temperature on the W. coast during the three warmest months not exceeding 34.5°. The longest day in the N. parts is four months, and from Oct. 22 to Feb. 22 the sun does not rise above the horizon; but the long night is relieved by a faint twilight and the occasional brilliant light of the aurora borealis, and the moon and stars shine with great brightness. Winter begins at the end of September, and by the middle of October the cold is intense. Storms are frequent, and great quantities of snow fall. During the short summer the climate is temperate for the latitude, and a scanty vegetation springs up. About 40 species of plants have been classified, the most vigorous of which do not exceed 3 or 4 in. in height. The animals are polar bears, polar foxes, and reindeer. Sea fowl are numerous, and the surrounding waters abound with whales, seals, walruses, and large fish. Marble and coal of good quality have been found.
These islands have been visited by whalers for 2½ centuries, and though there is no permanent settlement on any of them, Russian sailors have lived for years at a time on the W. coast. Their sovereignty is claimed by Russia. - Spitzbergen is supposed to have been first seen by Willoughby in 1553, in the voyage in which he perished with his crew. Barentz came in sight of the N. end of the W. coast, lat. 77° 49', on June 19, 159G. He named it Greenland, and the Dutch navigators who followed him called it Nieuwland. By the English it was called King James's Newland. The name Spitzbergen (pointed mountains) first appears in a tract published by Hessel Gerard in 1613. Henry Hudson visited the N. and W. coasts in 1G07, and soon after the seas around Spitzbergen became a favorite fishing ground for whalers, principally English and Dutch. In 1G17 a ship of Capt. Edge's fleet explored the E. coast as far as lat. 79°, and discovered Wiche's land E. of Spitzbergen. This was renamed King Karl land in 1870 by Baron von Ileuglin, who saw it from off Edge island and supposed he had made a new discovery. It was visited for the first time in 1872 by Nils Jansen, a Norwegian whaling captain.
Important additions to our knowledge of Spitzbergen and its surroundings have been made by the Swedish expeditions under Nordenskjold in 1858, '61, '64, '68, and '72; by B. Leigh Smyth and Ulve in 1871-2; and by Altmann and Nilsen in 1872. SPITZ DOG, a small variety of the Pomeranian dog. It is evidently derived from some of the arctic or wolf dogs, and resembles in its short, ovate, erect, and hairy ears, pointed muzzle, much curved and bushy tail, the Esquimaux, Hare Indian, Siberian, Lapland, and Iceland dogs, though of smaller size and with finer and longer hair. The hair is long, especially on the head and neck, and varying from pure white, which is most common, to cream color and occasionally jet-black. It is very active, intelligent, and handsome, an excellent watch dog, with many of the qualities of the shepherd's dog, and probably of the same origin. It is not improbable that it may have come from a cross between some of the smaller arctic wolf-like dogs and the arctic fox.