• Ben M.

LONGYEARBYEN

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How did Santa build a house at the North Pole without any nails? Iglooed it! And he did it all by his elf! Bad puns…, I know, I know. We talk an awful lot about this Santa guy during the Christmas season, who happens to live in the North Pole. It seems fitting that through the silly season, we take a look at a destination situated in the North Pole. In fact, this settlement is the world’s most northern permanent town. No, I’m not referring to Santa’s village. The settlement in question is Longyearbyen, an extremely isolated community located on the archipelago of Svalbard. Svalbard is actually located halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Svalbard translates to “cold coasts”; apparently the word was first used in Icelandic texts from the 12th century. Svalbard has enchanted globetrotters for many years. Spectacular arctic wildlife and old mining towns are located on the islands, which exhibit a bleak and spooky splendor. Longyearbyen is the largest town in Svalbard and is the home of the governor of the islands. The region contains thousands of polar bears approximately 2000 of the 3000 people in Svalbard. Longyearbyen was originally a mining town, was established in 1906, by John Longyear, the owner of the Arctic Coal Company. The settlement was known as Longyear City until 1926 when it was renamed Longyearbyen. It sits at 78 degrees north and 15 degrees east. In September 1943, Germany’s Kriegsmarine bombarded Longyearbyen with an armada of battleships and destroyers. Only four buildings were left standing, including the hospital. After the war, coal mining returned to production in the neighborhood of 530,000 U.S. tons a year. Svalbard maintains a special treaty status; Longyearbyen is not part of the Schengen or the European Economic Area. Because of the special treaty status, the laws are unusual compared to the rest of Norway. Longyearbyen requires that anyone outside carry a rifle, due to the risk and danger of encountering a polar bear. With the melting ice sheets, polar bears have become more brazen in their search for food. They are a protected species since 1973 and one may only shoot one in self-defense. A polar bear recently killed a man at a campsite around Longyearbyen, even though there had only been five fatalities in 50 years previously.


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