My final stop on my Hurtigruten expedition around the Arctic Circle last summer was the world’s northernmost settlement: Ny-Alesund, at 79 degrees north.
It was nowhere near as ominous as the vacant Russian mining town of Barentsburg, but still had a similar feel of depression. Its inhabitants probably wouldn’t agree, but I’m not so sure I could live under such a gray sky year-round.
As one can imagine, there’s not a whole lot to do in Ny-Alesund. Much of its people’s lives revolve around wildlife and climatology research. I think I lasted an hour in the bitter wind, during which time I circled the town a minimum of three times, before I retreated to the boat.
Besides, it’s not like you can venture beyond the colony of homes anyway; (computer print-out) “POLAR BEAR DANGER” signs (mounted on plywood) prohibit you from doing so. (And these are not just for the fear factor; you’ll see villagers all over Svalbard carrying around rifles for protection.)
There were some interesting bits nonetheless, like the family of Arctic foxes inhabiting the underside of one of the houses…
…the somewhat random sculpture of Alan Rickman as Professor Snape some famous explorer in the town’s epicenter…
…and the world’s most northern post office, where you better believe I sent postcards to my momma and SVV.