Thursday, October 1, 2009

Travelling to Svalbard

Here I sit in the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I knew it was going to be amazing, but to see Svalbard from the air as we flew in was incredible...corny as it sounds it brought tears to my eyes.

I've checked in at the Polarrigg hotel, walked around town, shopped at the local grocery, and met with Eike Müller and fellow paddlers. Mary Ann's Polarrig is perfect for the group...full of character, stuffed polar bears and endless hallways (since I'm the only guest it has horror film written all over it). The communal space is great and the rooms will acclimate us to life shipboard (they can't be much larger than the boat's cabins).

The shopping area here has lots (considering the size of town) of sport outfitter shops so if anyone is lacking clothes they can pick them up here. There is an hardware/electronic store, but I haven't checked it out yet.

The hotel has wifi, but charges for it ($20 US for 24 hours access and about $1.50 per hour). Eike told me that there is a coffee shop in town with free wifi and it's also free at the library.

There is a communal kitchen here (that can be used for a small fee) which is great for me staying for a couple of days.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk into the town center (depending on how much ice is on the roads...there are two main dirt roads with smaller roads off to private residences.)

Great facts I learned tonight about Longyearbyen ... you can not retire here so all people of retirement age must return to the mainland. There is no unemployment and housing is expensive (most owned by mining companies who will only rent, not sell. To buy a house here costs more than in Oslo). No children are allowed to be born here as they don't have the medical care for births at the hospital and the child wouldn't have a nationality since the treaty makes Svalbard neutral (a great book in the making ... the birth the government doesn't catch). All pregnant women are flown to the mainland at about 6-7 months.

1 comment:

  1. The Norwegian health statitistics show that there was a birth at Longyearbyen in 1999, (Table 58 Longyearbyen Hospital,Activity, by type 1996-2004). The footnote says "in ambulance aeroplane").

    I don't have any more details on that, but conceivably this is the northernmost birth by a European in history.