Pages from the Arctic Archive V

One of the most fascinating things about the Arctic is the history of exploration and scientific research. Many weather patterns begin in the Arctic, and so much of the world’s weather research takes place here. During the world wars, the Arctic was a strategic location to have bases for that reason. Destroyed bases and intact huts dot the Arctic landscape.

There’s also the town of Ny-Alesund, the northernmost town in the world, and home to many scientists around the world, although mostly only during the summer season. During the winter season, only a crew of maybe 30 people remain, taking care of the town until the next summer, when over 100 people populate the remote place. It’s owned entirely by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, and has a pub, a cafeteria, a little gift shop that’s only open a couple days a week, a post office (or rather, a post box attached to the gift shop), and many research stations and labs.

It was originally founded by the Kings Bay coal mining company and operated under that until it became unprofitable and became the launching point for North Pole expeditions by airship. The coal mining was finally ended in the 60s after multiple accidents throughout the 50s and 60s killed 40 miners.

Today, the town is a research town and hosts much atmospheric, environmental, and marine research. The townspeople are only to go so far outside the bounds of town in case of a polar bear, and should a bear come into town, the people remain indoors until the bear eventually goes away. There’s one main street that curves through the town, and a hotel or two, although I’m not sure they get that much business. The pub is only open one night a week, and is open only to locals, which doesn’t seem like much of a problem, and everyone eats meals in the dining, which seems very much like going back to college.

During the summer, it doesn’t seem all that bad to live and work in a small town like Ny-Alesund. It seems almost quaint, like living in a whole different world where research is the center of life. Although, it does seem almost depressing to be there year round, especially when there is no daylight, and only the same small group of people remain behind.

It’s fascinating to think about living in such a place, where life is work and work is life, but it’s only strange to think of in terms of science. It seems like a whole world apart, and yet, I work in Hollywood where 12-14 hour days are normal, and when we’re on location, life is work and work is life and the cast and crew are the only people we ever see, so I suppose it’s really quite similar. And yet, it’s completely unimaginable.