Our first stop on my expedition trip around the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Circle was an eerie one indeed. A permanent Russian settlement that’s more or less autonomous, Barentsburg is one of only three “inhabited” towns on the whole island and had this creepy feeling of a ghost town where something bad had happened in past years. (To my knowledge it has not.)
Wikpedia says: “The Russian-owned Arktikugol has been mining coal here since 1932, and during the Cold War Barentsburg was a hotbed of activity as the Russians attempted to expand their zone of control over the islands.”
It looked a bit like a construction zone in parts—only, there was nary a sign of an inhabitant, or worker in hard hat for that matter.
In fact, the 60 of us who disembarked in Barentsburg seemed to be the only people in the dilapidated town.
I was a bit taken aback by the whole setting, and while the background—the never-setting sun illuminating the glaciers over the horizon—was miraculous, the coal mining trade did nothing to further the appearance of the shoddy place.
There were houses, but no faces.
Do you think if I wait under that lamp post long enough, Mr. Tumnus will materialize and save me from this god-forsaken place?
Kidding, I found it fascinating. I was particularly enamored with the Russian text and propaganda—it reminded me so much of Cuba and the ubiquitous cartoon-like billboards there.
I’m not quite sure what purpose this building serves—town hall for the ghosts that haunt the place, perhaps?—as clearly I veered away from the tour to document the town in my own way.
There was a sole bar-cum-post office-cum-gift shop, which I found hilarious, but sadly took no pictures inside. And then, lo! I finally found some semblance of lifeforms: It’s Barry Manilow (circa 70’s during the height of his bad hair days) and his Band of Dancing Misfits!
To read more about my trip around the Arctic island of Svalbard, start here: