Articles, Blog, , , , ,

The Northernmost Town on Earth (Svalbard in 4K)

Come take a walk with me, around Longyearbyen. That’s the largest town on the Norwegian islands of Svalbard. Parts of it may look familiar. But make no mistake, this place IS different. At 78° north, It is just 1800mi/1300km from the North Pole. And with over 2000 permanent residents, it is the northernmost real town on Earth. There are only 50km (31mi) of road, including the small streets between houses. So people get around the island mainly on snowmobile. In fact, there are more registered snowmobiles, than residents. Anyone leaving town is required to travel with a gun and someone who knows how to use it. Because the islands are also home to polar bears. The average daytime high, is below freezing for all but four months of the year. Hi. And from the end of October to mid February, the sun doesn’t rise at all. This is the long polar night. Living here, is tough. This past December, an avalanche in town destroyed 10 homes, which used to be here, killing two people. So how did this cold, remote, ice-covered archipelago come to be inhabited? Well, the hills around town are rich in coal deposits, that have been mined for over 100 years. The coal was transported to the port via a series of aerial tramways. Some of which remain today, though they are no longer operational. Coal is a reminder that Svalbard was not always an Arctic ice world. 360 million yaers ago it was actually in the tropics, just north of the equator. A swampy area it was covered with a precursor to modern ferns, which were much larger than they are today, reaching 10-30m (33-98ft) in height. This vegetation was then covered in mud and sand, and submerged under the sea. Over time, it turned into the coal deposites that in the 20th century brought miners from Norway, Russia and the US. Most of the coal mines have now closed and the economy is gradually shifting towards tourism, education and research. Tourists take trips on snowmobiles and dog sleds. There is a university center in Svalbard which offers semester courses in biology, physics and geology. And up on the side of a mountain, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. But that’s a story for another time. The locals tell me that interest in the region from different nations is increasing. As the globe warms and Arctic ice shrinks trade routs are opening up across the north. And Svalbard is strategically placed between North America, Asia and Europe. So one day in the future, Svaldbard may no longer be as cold or as remote as it once was. But for now, it is a reminder of how through our ingenuity people can live in even the most inhospitable of places.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. I’ve got to say Derek, everything from the story you’re telling here, to the camera shots and angles you captured on your 4K drone, was crafted beautifully. I’m a huge fan of all your material, and in comparison to your other episodes, the cinematography in this one sets it apart. Absolutely fantastic work, sir!

  2. My grandfathers father worked in a mine at Svalbard when he was young. It feels like I have a connection to this place, its a part of my heritage.

  3. Quote "As the globe warms and arctic ice shrinks" … Total and utter garbage ! Please cite your evidence for this manifestly false statement. Your are just another far-left, racist FAKE!

  4. I wonder why the roofs aren't steep, wouldn't the weight of the ice and snow crush the buildings?
    So many windows wouldn't allow heat to stay in, cheap heating out there I guess?

  5. I have been living in Norway for 2 years but never been to Tromsø and Svalbard. I am gonna regret if I don't travel there soon.

  6. Any issues with the drone in cold weather? DJI gives 0C as the lowest operating temperature but I have been looking to fly it during the winter.

  7. He is all about science yet not one shred of information other than the stunning visuals (which are truly beautiful IMO) how about "They monitor Vitamin D levels of all residents due to the extreme lack of sun year-round" nope, instead we get "in the summer it is still cold" ** he mentioned the university briefly **. What happened? this has to be part of a series, there is so much human physiology data that can be explored to peak interest, he did write in the description of the video section "More information soon". I say title it "First impression of Svalbard, the closest town to the north pole"

  8. Was that cluster of snow mobiles banashed from Town? Seems puzzling to me; them parked way out there like that.

  9. I've been tryna gets some facts on living in Svalbard lately as it is visa free for all nationals but hey! Are there single man there as I will be needing lots of cuddles and some jobs for me to do?

  10. Do you think it would make sense to build a giant dam between Svalbard and Greenland to prevent icebergs from flowing through the Greenland Sea? This could have a benefit at preventing sea level rise by keeping the ice in the Arctic.

  11. Next time check out Pyramiden – an abandoned Soviet mining town just across the Sassenfjorden. Now that would be a cool drone video. I will be posting a video (on foot, no drone) as soon as I have time to make edits to the footage (definitely not as professional as yours). I just came back so there was no snow on the ground. Also, you forgot to mention another fun fact besides more registered snowmobiles than people. There are also more polar bears than people in Svalbard 🙂 Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I didn't see one during my days there. Thank you for sharing!

  12. I don't know why this town, and I am talking about the man made part of it, looks much better than Barrow, Alaska, which in comparison looks like a dump. Of course, the surroundings are also magnificent to look at.

  13. how sad to think that these isolated, serene and majestically beautiful places on earth are going to be transformed into a landscape we will no longer be able to label as being truly unique and wonderfully wild.