National Geographic : 1948 Jul
115 P'i Once a No Man's Land, Norway's Arctic Outpost Owes Its Development to an American Engineer The coal deposits of Vest Spitsbergen were discovered in the 17th century, but mining did not really begin until John M. Longyear, of Boston, sank a shaft in 1905. His success touched off a battle for mining rights which compared with the Alaska gold rush. Russia, Sweden. and Norway claimed the coal-rich island, largest of the Svalbard ("cold coasts") archipelago. Longyear sold out in 1916 to the Great Norwegian Spitsbergen Coal Company, which con tinued to use American methods. Norway acquired the group in 1925, under the Treaty of Paris, drafted six years earlier. Today both Norway and Russia operate mines in Spitsbergen. Russia's mining rights, established during the free-for-all days when Spitsbergen's coal belonged to any nation able to mine it. were recognized under the treaty. Dutch concerns, also active in early development, sold their interests to Russia. Early in 1947 Russia proposed to fortify the island jointly with Norway, a move which aroused interest in Washington and other capitals because of Spitsbergen's place in polar air strategy. Norway's Parliament rejected the proposal, since the other treaty nations-the United States, Great Britain and its Dominions, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden-would have to consent.