Sunday, August 24, 2008


I've been trying to figure the best way to tell about my trip to the Arctic. In the interests of making it logical, I've decided to break it up geographically/chronologically, in the following manner:
  • Longyearbyen
  • Hiking/geology
  • Beach party
  • Scenery
  • Pyramiden
  • Whatever is left over.
That list also helps me remember what the hell I am going to write about!

Ok, so first? Longyearbyen. We flew into Longyearbyen from Oslo by way of Tromso. Longyearbyen is named after an American who came there in the 1800's. "Byen" means town or village. So, Longyeartown. Population 2000.

It's really small yet surprisingly modern. It's surrounded by looming mountains that make it feel a bit hemmed in, though in the distance you see a gap between two mountains where a glacier and bright white snow glow. The town nestles up to the mountains and then opens up to a nice harbor on the Advent fjord. Small colorful wooden row houses with big windows line the few roads. There's only about 50km of roads there, but a surprising number of cars for so little road space. Snowmobiles are parked EVERYWHERE. There are a few hotels, including a Radisson SAS, a compact shopping street, a very good library, and a good number of bars for such a small population. There are a lot more kids than I expected. (Well, the bars and the kids sort of show you what people do in winter, I guess. I mean, what else is there to do besides read, drink and screw?) The town has very good social services and a quite large health center. It also has an international airport. That was built in the late 70's, I think, and totally changed the town bringing with it fresh fruit and the flu.

And now for some pictures.

A snowmobile parking sign.

Row houses in Longyearbyen. We were in Longyearbyen only very briefly at the beginning of our trip, but had a day and a half there at the end. That was our only cloudy day of the whole trip, the mists rolled in really quickly.

Many of the houses had hunks of meat hanging on the outside of them, I guess it was just cool enough that they hung it there to cure. Very odd looking, jackets, shoes, snowshoes and meat all jumbled together on the side of the house under the rafters.

The Svalbar. Damn they made strong drinks.

Road in Longyearbyen towards the fjord. Note the little white flowers on the right? We saw reindeer and Arctic fox in the middle of town on a number of occasions.

More meat storage, this time in the family sized haunch!

View from my hotel room. The room was very cozy and I was oh-so-happy to have a bathtub!

View from the dining room of the hotel. In the distance, on the side of the hill, you see an old coal mine. Coal mining used to be the main industry in Svalbard, now replaced by research and tourism.

This was the location of my 40th birthday and the ensuing craziness! (No pictures of that, just fuzzy memories of dancing, drinking and everyone putting ice down everyone else's clothes. Might have been a 40th birthday, but we were acting like 15 year olds.) (15 year olds with cranky knees, at least, in my case.)

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