Longyearbyen Part 2 - Another day in this crazy town!
Thursday the 17th of August – Departure day from the Polar Pioneer, ending our circumnavigation of Svalbard.
Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen, Svalbard, Norway?
Norway is the country that administers the archipelago of Svalbard, the capital of which is Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen, the largest island. Hope it’s all clear now.
11 days after we set out to explore Svalbard, we were back. At 9 o’clock, after an early breakfast, we were ferried to shore as our last ride on the Zodiacs.
After farewells to the crew, we jumped onto a waiting bus to be given an official ‘tour’ of Longyearbyen, beginning with the dog kennels outside of town. The kennels attract polar bears, both because of the tasty dogs and because of the dog food seal meat to found there. We watched a team of huskies pull a quad bike, their exercise in the ‘off’ season when the ground is not covered by snow and sleds are not needed. Most of the year they are hard-working and busy.
Before heading into town, we stopped for a cup of tea and a snack. I thought the samples of smoked seal on crispbread with sour cream tasted quite unpleasant.
Returning to the bus under the watchful eye of a group of wild Svalbard Reindeer grazing nearby we went to town, literally.
Next stop was the museum. The visit with the group was too short, but went back later.
Most people are flying out this arvo, and the bus is their shuttle to the airport. Nathan have another day here to relax.
The art gallery was next. Having been there on our first visit to Longyearbyen. We said our good-byes to everyone there and walked our bags the two hundred metres to Guesthouse 102. No sign of anyone, so we left our bags and ran back to the gallery to join them for a lift the 2km back into the town centre. After lunch in a local café, and checking emails now that we’re back to “civilization”, we returned to the museum for a proper look at our leisure. It is a really great museum with a wide variety of exhibits so that there’d be something for everyone. They also have giant polar bear, shot nearby just 2 years ago!
The 2km walk back to our accommodation gave us plenty of time for reflection as we savoured our remaining time here in the high Arctic. Longyearbyen is 78 degrees north and only 1300kms from the North Pole.
After checking in and relaxing with a drink or two, we rugged up for the walk into town. (This could well be the last time we get to wear such warm clothing as down jackets. Made with feathers, they are so warm it is rarely cold enough anywhere outside the poles to wear them.)
When you’re on a good thing….. We returned to Kroa, the restaurant/bar with the seal skin seat covers for another of their pizzas. A couple of Grolsh to compliment topped it off.
Our uphill walk home was fun. The 24 hour light is unsettling at times, as without a watch, you can never tell what time it is. We stopped in the playground and went on the swings. Full daylight, but midnight.
For a place that proclaims its wilderness credentials like Svalbard, Longyearbyen is an aberration, a blot on an otherwise pristine landscape. The town of 1500 mostly coalminers, is a scar up the valley.
Mining relics blighting the scenery and skyline are ‘preserved’ for posterity as historical.
It’s a strange town with a frontier feel. People walk around with guns slung over their shoulders and the bars have gory hunting pictures on the walls. Due to the very real risk of polar bears, stepping out of the town without a gun, or someone with one, is foolhardy (see Longyearbyen blog Part 1)
I say, “Any year in Longyearbyen is a long year.”Norwegians LOVE their summer houses. I was surprised to see them here in Longyearbyen, given their short summer. On enquiring, I was told, “Would YOU want to live here all the time?”
Another fact about Longyearbyen is that no one is born here and very few people die here and even fewer buried here. Residents go the Norwegian mainland to give birth. As for deaths, you need to work here to live here and in Norway you must stop working at 67, so there is no one over 66 resident in town. It makes for an interesting mix of people and families, but with no grandparents. Even if someone in Longyearbyen does die, the family on the mainland usually repatriate the body.
Interesting and unique place. Again I say, “Any year in Longyearbyen is a long year.”
Next morning - Time to go!
Carrying our bags, we walked from our accommodation into town for the last time.
We met the Aurora expedition leader, Henrik and his partner Sue in town. They too were leaving on the same afternoon flight, so we shared a cab to the airport. We shared the plane with them to Oslo, where we changed to Copenhagen, their destination too.
Ah! Copenhagen. That is for the next blog!