Bjørnøya, or the Bear Island, is the southernmost part of Svalbard, located in the western part of the Barents Sea, halfway between Spitsbergen and the North Cape in Norway. Since 2002 it has been a protected nature reserve due to the richness of birds, including the endangered great northern diver. In addition to birds, it is also possible to meet here arctic foxes, arctic chars in lakes and polar bears in winter. The island is uninhabited, only in the north there is a meteorological station founded in 1932, operated by year-round staff.
The island was discovered in 1596 by Willem Barents during his third exploration expedition. It probably got its name thanks to the unexpected meeting of Barents with a bear. In the past, it was visited many times by overwintering trappers. The testimony of these times is Hammerfesthuset - the oldest preserved trapper house in Svalbard, which is right next to the weather station. Because there are coal and lead deposits here known already since the 17th century, an attempt has been made to acquire these minerals, but on a small scale.
Currently, the island is rarely visited, mainly due to unfavorable weather conditions and its barrenness. Although temperatures throughout the year range between -7°C and -5°C, which is not extreme, and it is not surrounded by ice, for more than half a year there are gusty winds here, with the strength of at least 6 on the Beaufort scale and it is very often foggy. In addition, it is surrounded from the south by shallow waters, which makes sailing difficult. There is very scarce vegetation all over the area. The monotony of rocks is broken by 740 lakes.
The island has about 178 km² and a unique terrain. In the north it is flat but it gradually rises up to almost vertical cliffs in the south. In the area there are many caves and characteristic rock formations Sylen and Stappen. It is in the south, with towering cliffs and shallow waters, where there are ideal conditions for birds that have their habitat here. This is an area that is completely protected and at certain times of the year you are not allowed to approach the island. In total, there are 13 different species of birds. Only the afore-mentioned great northern diver is endangered. The remaining species are: pink-footed goose, barnacle goose, northern fulmar, purple sandpiper, red phalarope, glaucous gull, black-legged kittiwake, auk, common guillemot, Brünnich's guillemot, black guillemot and snow bunting.