The morning sunrise greeted us through our hotel window at 3:30 am. Still finding our sleep patterns 😴 – but the coffee machine yielded an excellent brew and the view is world class from our room 😀 We are at the Polar Blu Radisson. If you go ask for a main floor room in the main building overlooking the fjord. Also don’t forget to take your boots off when you come inside the hotel – there is a huge boot rack to your left as you enter the hotel.
Longyearbyen is the world’s northern most city (at 78+ degrees north ) with more than 1000 inhabitants. Just over 2000 people make this city, located by the Aventfjorden, their home. The average age is 25-44, apparently no one over the age of 66 is a permanent resident. This is not a retirement Mecca. The mining industry which was the backbone of the economy here has moved elsewhere and tourism has replaced it. The town was evacuated during WWII but was returned to following the cessation of hostilities. It is now home to a University satellite campus as well as the Svalbard Global seed bank which contains millions of seeds, brought here from many countries, stored in case of global catastrophe. How people are going to get here to access the seeds if TSHTF poses an interesting question. That aside, good is being done as some seeds have already been withdrawn recently by Syrians attempting to rebuild agricultural communities destroyed by the ongoing civil war. The permafrost conditions make the seed vault invulnerable to power outages.
The geological history of Svalbard is fascinating – the rocks and sediments that make up this area are both world and time travellers. Some of the oldest rocks on earth are here. Carol sent me a cool chart that summarizes everything from a geological and evolutionary perspective.
Our trip today was with Spitzbergen adventures and our guide was Erica. The day was excellent and we highly recommend both the company and our guide Erica as resources during a trip to Svalbard. Spitzbergen adventures can be reached at www.spitzbergen-adventures.com . Our explore Longyearbyen trip took us from one end of the adventfjord to the other.
Erica – a multi-lingual Italian expat who like so many people here came here fell in love with the place and came back to live – was an informative, awesome guide who filled us in in the history and biology of the area. Some interesting tidbits include the fact that no one is allowed to die here. Victims of the Spanish flu in 1918 that were buried here were perfectly preserved by the permafrost, unfortunately so was the flu virus that killed them. Since that time onwards all burials or cremations have been carried out on the mainland – some long time residents do have their ashes brought back to rest here.
We were lucky to see reindeer, arctic bunting and barnacle geese today, plus incredible scenery and a couple of sled dog teams pulling carts – who knew????
An added bonus was a visit to the Svalbard global seed bank. You can’t go in but we could go to the entrance. The compressors were humming away like a giant broody hen which I guess is a fitting analogy.
The weather gods were with us as well. All in all a fabulous day😀😀😀