THE LAND ANNEXATIONS 1898-1925
THE CLAIM SIGNS
The claim signs
THE ANNEXATION-PERIOD 1898-1925
Before the Norwegian sovereignty of Svalbard in 1925, these islands were a No man’s land. Not until the beginning of the 18th century people started to take an interest in the economical value of the coal bearing areas. The first occupation took place on Bjørnøya in 1898. There were no rules telling how this should be legally or formally done, but everybody seemed to agree that claim boards were a necessity. These boards, or signs, came in all kinds and shapes. They were made of either wood, iron, sink or enameled metal and held a great variety in design and writing. Sometimes the signs were put up on poles, sometimes it was written directly on the wall or on the door of a cabin. Usually, the text had information with the name of the claimer, the date and year for the occupation, and a description of the claimed areas. They were also often signed by witnesses. The claimers mostly used their native language, but English was also very common. Some of the signs had a tin can buried by the foot of the pole keeping a document with a closer description of the area. Even though an area already had been occupied by someone, it didn’t keep others from occupying the very same area. This could be done either by removing the existing signs, or by replacing them with their own. Incidents like these often led to conflicts.