A city where you can not die: how people live at the edge of the world
Longyearbyen is a small Norwegian settlement on the Svalbard archipelago. It is home to just over 2,000 people, but the city is still famous all over the world. It has an airport, a university, and even a research center. It is also home to permafrost, bears, and the northern lights. OBOZREVATEL has collected unusual facts about the lives of people in such conditions.
History of the city: mines, its own currency, and defiance of any authority
The town was named after its founder, John Munro Longyear, who laid the first coal mine here in 1906. For ten years, he developed business here until he sold the company and, in fact, the entire settlement to a large Norwegian company, Store Norske. It is interesting that the laws of the country did not apply here for a long time, there was a local currency, and the head of the company had full power.
The settlement grew rapidly as coal production increased. However, during the Second World War, Longyearbyen was completely destroyed by bombardment from warships. At the time, people were evacuated to Britain. Immediately after the end of the fighting, everyone returned to their normal lives.
The town was rebuilt, and a school, a shop, and a library were opened. Since the company still owned the settlement, it did everything to increase the volume of mining. The number of mines grew rapidly, and Norwegians moved to Longyearbyen, bringing their families here.
The country's authorities were dissatisfied with the existence of such an "autonomous" region that did not fully obey them. Therefore, in 1980, the city came under state control. Since then, rapid development has begun here. A university, a research station, and an airport were opened. Hotels and restaurants were rebuilt, and the tourism industry was promoted. The settlement even had a person responsible for painting houses in matching colors.
Bears and shooting courses
Despite the rapid modernization of Longyearbyen, polar bears have always been its true masters. They can be found all over the island. The animals are not scared off by the city as they walk freely through its streets in search of food. Unfortunately, sometimes they see people as a source of food or danger and attack. That's why almost all the locals start carrying weapons in their teens. You can even go with a gun to educational institutions, where both boys and girls are trained in shooting in the first year.
It is forbidden to enter some shops or entertainment venues with weapons. In these cases, there are special storage rooms where you can leave your gun. But the owners of such places always keep an eye out and post guards at the entrance so that a bear can't get in by accident.
Strange laws that make sense
Legally, you cannot die in Longyearbyen. In cases where a person has an accident or becomes terminally ill, they are required to be transported to mainland Norway at the expense of the local authorities. If it so happens that a local resident has lost his life in the city, they will still be transported to another part of the country.
This is not a strange whim, but a requirement of reality. The island is covered by permafrost. In such conditions, burial is impossible because the body will retain its original appearance for a long time. This attracts the attention of predators that flood the region, leading to an increase in attacks. So there is no cemetery in the town.
In other terms, the life of the locals is not very different. They go to work, travel, start families and make plans for the future. It is true that it is almost always cold here, with lots of snow and animals. But this is what attracts tourists who dream of relaxing among the northern landscapes.
Earlier, OBOZREVATEL wrote about where to see the northern lights.