Longyearbyen is the administrative centre of Svalbard and is located on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Longyearbyen has approximately 2,075 inhabitants, most of them Norwegians and some Russians. It is one of the world’s northernmost towns, taking second in that distinction by only the settlement Alert, Nunavut with 5 inhabitants. As the world’s northernmost town with 1,000 people or more, it has many of the world’s northernmost things.
Due to its location far north of the Arctic Circle, it is polar night from end-October to mid-February and polar day from mid-April to mid-August. Longyearbyen has an Arctic tundra climate (see Geography of Norway). The Governor of Svalbard resides there.
The settlement was founded in 1906 by John Munroe Longyear, main owner of the Arctic Coal Company of Boston. “Byen” is Norwegian for “the city”. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1943 and rebuilt after World War II, with the old foundations still visible in some places. Continue reading
I climbed the headwall of Mt Baker, lived in the forest for months during the winter snows and sailed the length and breadth of the Caribbean…but then again, I was in my 20’s?!
Now, I am 46 and the father of two teenage girls. I watch movies at night and, when I am feeling truly energetic, walk 3 miles to the next town enjoying the Tuscan landscape en route. Not quite the arctic landscape!
It is true, I am in fairly good shape for my age and, on assignment, I have been known to scale a mountain or two and even live/sleep with Bedouins of the desert (50 degree days, 0 degree nights…Celsius).
But we are talking about the North Pole, here! -30 degrees, snow, skis, ice, dogs, sleds…and did I mention ice!
So, how does a middle aged reporter prepare for an arctic expedition? First and foremost, he quits smoking. I have been meaning to for quite some time and this is just the excuse needed.
In addition, a program of alternate days:
Day on: 15 km hike with a 35 lb backpack full of camera equipment; and
Day off: 45 minutes of yoga and stretching to relieve the pain of the
More to come…
Why do so many business people with powerful jobs and loving families find the need to set themselves against a challenge completely unrelated to their life? Is something missing or is this another unique facet of our complex psychology…the need for risks, challenges and successes…the desire to test ourselves, failing from time to time, but ultimately succeeding at something we never expected to try.
Ben Saunders puts it like this, “I look up to people who have achieved in more than one field. Deep down, I guess I have this guilty feeling that what I am doing is completely pointless. I want…I need to have…more meaning. Some purpose.” src: Joanne Ramos, The Economist
Are amateur adventurers merely trying to find meaning in their lives or by achieving success in another field, do we believe our successes to be more valid?
From a recent article in the Economist’s Intelligent Life Quarterly:
“The North Pole, Earth’s northernmost point, sits not on land but in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. To get there, you must traverse hundreds of miles across sea ice that is, in many places, jagged with pressure ridges – towering heaps of broken ice blocks – and cut by fissures in the ice that can be so long and wide you must swim across them. Temperatures can plunge below -60 degrees. And, always, there is the danger of falling through thin ice into the deep.cold sea below.”
‘I am not an explorer in the Edwardian sense. The maps have been drawn. But I see myself as exploring human possibilities. I did something many think is impossible. ‘ Ben Saunders…the implication is, so can you.”
This week I received an assignment to accompany Dr. Victor Boyarsky, together with the “Polyus” Expedition Centre in an polar expedition to the 89th Latitude “Borneo” Camp culminating in a “last degree” ski trip to the North Pole. Offering the ultimate adventure, eco-tourism experience; Victor offers the adventurous amateur a destination seen only be a few, intrepid adventures like himself…the North Pole.
By motor sled, ski and finally on foot, Victor leads his guests on a once in a lifetime exploration of the ‘desolate pole’, in contrast to the richness of antartica, culminating in a satellite call to friends and family at the top of the world…or for more impact, call an arch rival just to let him know.
Follow along on the MAP Travels blog during the preparations, research and, finally, expedition itself…in words, photos, audio and video…as it happens.