Longyearbyen & Pyramiden – a graphic report

16 Jun

Much of my last blog was consumed by a report on our team building activity in Longyearbyen, one that did not actually build any kind of team. However, since Spitsbergen is a pretty nice place on earth, I will break my usual cycle of complaint, and dedicate this blog to a description of a scenic part of Norway.

Longyearbyen has much of that typical mining town charm: lots of packed dirt with stubbles of brown grass, interspersed with big, grey factory buildings, and overly rectangular living quarters. The latter are mostly built for tourists and the small businesses that feed on tourists. The higher grounds feature rows of small wooden houses and big wooden compounds, mostly painted in bright earthen colours. The paint job probably keeps the suicide rate at an acceptable minimum.

Longyearbyen in Norway gives much time to reflect.

Longyearbyen in Norway gives much time to reflect.

Along the scenic coast line, speckled with ponds and tiny rivers, we find various patches of snow covering the ground. This is quite a sight, considering that it is already mid-June. Both sides of the asphalt road show meandering streams of brownish water and rocky mud, which I suspect will transform into huge patches of rocky grass once the snows have melted completely. The many ducks that seem to nest on the side of the road are already looking forward to the extended meal plan that the excruciatingly short growth season will provide.

The huskies, however, do not quite care about the greenery. They just sit in their fenced-off dog compound, staring out at the dwindling sled path, and day-dreaming about a close encounter with the lopsided birds that waddle back to their nests, not even ten metres from the husky home.

Svalbard Husky Station

Svalbard Husky Station

There really isn’t much here beside mining halls, painted houses, and a rough-edged landscape, but the little that shows produces a very idyllic life North of the polar circle.

Our way back South takes the ABC RypMeOff past white glaciers and the dark-brown canyons that they cut into the Scandinavian shield. The caps of most of the mountains are shrouded by a heavy grey mist, leaving the observer to wonder what kind of mysteries Spitsbergen might hold. I mean, beside the rich streams of coal and minerals.

One such mystery is the ghost town of Pyramiden. Once a prosperous Russian mining town, Pyramiden now lies bare and bold at the bottom of a kilometre-long train track that leads uphill, and into the mountain. Even the sharp Norwegian breeze cannot deter most of the passengers from crowding the open deck, trying to catch a glimpse of the former glory of Russian coal mines, driven deep into the slopes of grey-brown rock.

Ghost town Pyramiden in the Nort Sea

Ghost town Pyramiden in the Nort Sea is surrounded by misty rocks and glaciers.

When a young American couple asks me to snap a picture with their private camera, I hesitate only briefly. Afterall, they already booked and paid for a whole 100-picture package, so we are not going to lose any revenue, if I take a few photos with their camera. Our manager would be furious, if he knew of my transgression, but the tentacles of his numerous spies are unlikely to extend through the chilling fogs of Pyramiden, so I simply ignore protocol, and take a minute to make two of our best costumers happy.

As it turns out, our manager is actually aboard a small motorized rescue boat, attending a small excursion to one of the glaciers that dips into the North Sea. Some unlucky members of the crew sawed a hole into said glacier, and extracted a block of blue ice that they will soon bring aboard. None of the passengers know it yet, but during our sea day tomorrow the block of blue ice will be propped up on open deck, and some idiot from the photo department will shoot portraits in front of it. I can barely contain my excitement over this fabulous opportunity to capitalise from a rather ordinary natural occurrence. On sale now: dignity and a small piece of nature.

You can view my updated photo gallery of Longyearbyen and Pyramiden here.

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