Destination: Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Exploring the town that boasts the highest of most things: the northernmost post office, museum, restaurant, and university to name just a few.
The largest settlement in the high Norwegian Arctic is Longyearbyen, which is also the administrative center of Svalbard, Norway. For cruise passengers who are meeting a ship, like I did at the end of June to embark Silver Explorer, the private air charter will take about 3 hours from Oslo, Norway.
The views upon approach are amazing and the sense of the otherworldliness to come are awe inspiring.
Most of the viewing is of snow and mountain peaks that look more like mounds. Once you land, the dominant geographical feature is the permafrost, which is a thick subsurface layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the year. Because the soil is frozen year round (depth can range from 10 to 40 meters deep) homes and buildings are on stilts, which helps the structures not flood.
The settlement was founded by John Longyear, an America who started the Arctic Coal Company in 1906. Since then, the area has evolved and attracts residents who attend the university or work in the limited tourism industry or the coal industry.
This from the Wiki: “Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the archipelago, the seat of the governor and the only town to be incorporated. The town features a hospital, primary and secondary school, university, sports center with a swimming pool, library, culture center, cinema, bus transport, hotels, a bank and several museums.”