The Recreational Mariner's Guide

3. Svalbard


The information below is in addition to that presented in the Norway Communications chapter; some of which also applies to Svalbard.


For the first part of the passage to Svalbard you will be in VHF range of relay stations monitored by Coastal Radio North in Bodø. As you get closer to Bjørnøya you will again be able to communicate with Coastal Radio North relayed through an antenna on Bjørnøya, and then, as you approach Hornsund, the Polish Polar Station can be called on VHF. 

There is a gap in VHF coverage between the Polish Polar Station and Coastal Radio North’s relay antenna at the mouth of Isfjorden.

Once out of range of their aerial at Ny Ålesund, only SSB MF will be useful, communicating with Coastal Radio North relayed through antennae on Spitsbergen and Bjørnøya.

Mobile Phones

There is mobile phone coverage for most of Isfjorden, around Ny Ålesund, and for N Bjørnøya, if you can access Telenor towers, but check your plan and make sure the roaming charges won’t bankrupt you.

When in Ny Ålesund you must turn off WiFi and Bluetooth in order to protect sensitive research equipment

Satellite Phones

When deciding whether to carry a satellite phone or rely on emergency beacons and VHF, consider that, in the case of an emergency, rescuers will be able to communicate with you directly on a satellite phone, which they won’t be able to do with the others (except on VHF when very close by).


Iridium is the only one of the mainstream satellite phone systems that provides complete coverage to the high latitudes due to their polar-orbiting satellites.

Iridium handset

  • more expensive
  • intuitive to use

Iridium Go!

  • good solution if paying for unlimited data
  • clumsy to use in an emergency

Iridium GO! Exec

  • good solution if paying for unlimited data
  • much easier to use than the original GO!

More on which Iridium product to buy and how to make it work (plus search on “Iridium” to get relevant Tips) at Attainable Adventure Cruising


People with cabins outside the settlements in Svalbard were early adopters of Starlink. They have their antennaes at their cabins during winter and move them aboard their boats for the summer cruise.

At least one boat sailing with paying customers uses Starlink, giving their passengers the online access that many feel necessary for daily life. A cruising boat on a seasonal cruise may find that the investment, complexity and power requirements are not worth it.