Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Before going into the town of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the central high Arctic region of Canada, we took a long hike along the stone beach waterfront with an Inuit expedition guide from Pond Inlet, Baffin Island

Before going into the town of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the central high Arctic region of Canada, we took a long hike along the stone beach waterfront with an Inuit expedition guide from Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, who gave us excellent insights into the Inuit hunting and fishing traditions

 

Cambridge Bay is located on the southeast coast of Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada.  The traditional name for the community is Iqaluktuuttiaq, which means “a good place with lots of fish.”  Archaeological sites in and close to the community show that people have lived in this area for at least 4,000 years.  In the 1920s the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police established posts at Cambridge Bay, attracting local Inuit who settled nearby.  The construction of a Distant Early Warning Site in Cambridge Bay in 1955 attracted more people to the area, and it has since grown in size.  Cambridge Bay is currently the administrative center for the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut.  The May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre and the Arctic Coast Visitors Centre feature displays on the local culture and history.=

This protected harbor on the south coast of Victoria Island was historically a convenient meeting place before crossing the Dease Strait.  Now the largest community in the region, it is home to about 1,766 residents and is the logistical hub for the central Arctic.

Cambridge Bay is also home to the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), illustrating how traditional Inuit life and the modern scientific age meet in this bustling Arctic community.

 

Vacation fishing shacks on the beach at Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada, built from plywood shipped in from southern Canada, as there are no trees in the tundra regions of the northern central Arctic region of Canada

Vacation fishing shacks on the beach at Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada, built from plywood shipped in from southern Canada, as there are no trees in the tundra regions of the northern central Arctic region of Canada

 

A traditional Inuit fish drying rack on the beach – here the Arctic Char is being air dried (a local delicacy) in the wind with temperatures around freezing as we walked by, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

A traditional Inuit fish drying rack on the beach – here the Arctic Char is being air dried (a local delicacy) in the wind with temperatures around freezing as we walked by, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Also on the drying racks were caribou meat on ribs and other bones that is eaten like American beef jerky and fish on the lower racks; Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada – all traditional Inuit techniques

Also on the drying racks were caribou meat on ribs and other bones that is eaten like American beef jerky and fish on the lower racks; Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada – all traditional Inuit techniques

 

The signage is universal – a beach outhouse shack, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

The signage is universal – a beach outhouse shack, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

This is a special Inuit food – air dried reindeer hoofs (a tradition in our guide’s family, although she had not personally eaten it), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

This is a special Inuit food – air dried reindeer hoofs (a tradition in our guide’s family, although she had not personally eaten it), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

One-half of a caribou antler in the front yard of one of the beach fishing shacks, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

One-half of a caribou antler in the front yard of one of the beach fishing shacks, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

“Downtown” Cambridge Bay has many large public facilities on the main street such as the arena and curling rink pictured here, along with the public health center, one of the two town grocery stores, and the town government offices

“Downtown” Cambridge Bay has many large public facilities on the main street such as the arena and curling rink pictured here, along with the public health center, one of the two town grocery stores, and the town government offices, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The Canadian communications company’s office in town has quite a bit of modern equipment and antennae on the property, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

The Canadian communications company’s office in town has quite a bit of modern equipment and antennae on the property, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The copper clad exterior of the main research facility of CHARS, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, that opened in late 2017 after very ecologically-minded construction for the whole complex that cost about $250 million Canadian

The copper clad exterior of the main research facility of CHARS, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, that opened in late 2017 after very ecologically-minded construction for the whole complex that cost about $250 million Canadian ($188 million US), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The state-of-the-art research facility at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is designed to optimize innovation in the field of Arctic science and technology from ecosystem monitoring to DNA analysis with, at its core, a focus on Indigenous knowledge.  We had an opportunity to visit the knowledge sharing center modeled after a traditional tupiq (Inuit sealskin tent) ringed by glulam columns and the large-scale floor art by Inuit artists.  We met with one of the lab managers to learn about the genesis of CHARS and insights into the research projects underway in its first years (the center opened in late 2017).

 

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) main research facility has an excellent collection of local Inuit art; pictured here is a duffel and felt quilt by local artist Mabel Pongok ETEGIK (born 1943) titled “Present Day Cambridge Bay”

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) main research facility has an excellent collection of local Inuit art; pictured here is a duffel and felt quilt by local artist Mabel Pongok ETEGIK (born 1943) titled “Present Day Cambridge Bay”; Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The CHARS main research facility is open to the public with an excellent art collection, focused on local Inuit artists, and quite a bit of information about the environmentally-friendly and conservation-minded construction of the center in a sensitive tundra region.  One of the placards was educational for both children and adults:

DID YOU KNOW?  Daylight is precious in the High Arctic.  Depending on the season, there can be 0 to 24 hours of sunlight in a day.  The total yearly daylight time in the High Arctic is approximately 1,730 hours/year, compared to Ottowa, Canada at 2,084 hours/year.  In Ikaluktutiak (Cambridge Bay), the sun stays below the horizon for 40 continuous days during the winter months.  During the summer months, the sun does not set for approximately 62 days.

 

Instead of a selfie with the polar bear, your blogger figured you’d just rather see this fine local resident of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Instead of a selfie with the polar bear, your blogger figured you’d just rather see this fine local resident of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Peel Sound (pack ice and polar bear), Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Our first encounter with pack ice was in Peel Sound on our Northwest Passage journey through Nunavut Territory, Canada

Our first encounter with pack ice was in Peel Sound on our Northwest Passage journey through Nunavut Territory, Canada

 

Sailing south from Beechey Island (and Devon Island) we entered Peel Sound, the waterway between Prince of Wales Island to the west and Somerset Island to the east.  Here we encountered the first pack ice, a great spot to hunt for polar bears living on the ice (eating seals for their sustenance).  We were fortunate and did spot a polar bear, just after it had caught and killed a seal (the half-eaten, bloody carcass was on the ice a short distance from the bear who had blood on its front right leg and its face).  In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to sail through the pack ice in Zodiacs, looking for polar bears (unsuccessfully) and enjoying the innumerable ice forms.

 

We came across this polar bear on the pack ice just after it had caught and killed a seal and eaten quite a bit – notice the blood on its front right leg and its right cheek, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

We came across this polar bear on the pack ice just after it had caught and killed a seal and eaten quite a bit – notice the blood on its front right leg and its right cheek, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Polar bear # 2, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Polar bear # 2, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #1 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #1 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #2 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #2 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #3 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #3 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #4 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #4 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #5 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #5 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #6 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #6 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #7 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #7 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #8 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #8 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island (polar bears), Nunavut, Canada

Panorama of our ship at anchor in a bay in one of Canada’s most northern islands, Ellesmere Island, where we explored the sedimentary mountain ranges, ice caps, glaciers, fiords, fertile arctic oases and abundant wildlife

Panorama of our ship at anchor in Boger Bay in one of Canada’s most northern islands, Ellesmere Island, where we explored the sedimentary mountain ranges, ice caps, glaciers, fiords, fertile arctic oases and abundant wildlife by Zodiacs and our helicopter

 

Encompassing Canada’s northernmost lands, Ellesmere Island National Park in Nunavut Territory is an enclave of sedimentary mountain ranges, ice caps, glaciers, fiords and fertile arctic oases.  Here, glacial debris ice can be found drifting late into the summer, making it a prime area for wildlife viewing.  During our visit there was so much polar bear activity on shore that we had to cancel our planned hikes.  Instead, we ventured out in Zodiacs for scenic cruising and were surprised with the rare sighting of polar bears dragging up a seal carcass to the beach and then eating it as we drifted by just offshore in our Zodiacs.  Meanwhile, dozens of beluga whales swam by, between our Zodiacs and the beach – at one point creating a challenge for two more polar bears in the water who were attempting to swim ashore to join the eating frenzy (seal carcass).  Look at the photos, below, to see the time line and what happened…

After the Zodiac cruising and helicopter flights [see our upcoming blog post], we sailed to the end of the bay and set an all-time record for our ship’s furthest northern point in North America: 77 degrees 18.92 minutes N latitude and 078 degrees 50.51 minutes W longitude.

 

Tidewater glaciers flowing into the ocean in a bay on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

Tidewater glaciers flowing into the ocean in a bay on Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

By the time we arrived on the “scene” in our Zodiac, a mother polar bear and her yearling had dragged a seal carcass up to the beach and were busy eating while two other polar bears (only one is pictured here) were looking on with envy

By the time we arrived on the “scene” in our Zodiac, a mother polar bear and her yearling had dragged a seal carcass up to the beach and were busy eating while two other polar bears (only one is pictured here) were looking on with envy, waiting “their turn” as they weren’t dominant in that group, Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

A great spot for a feast of a luncheon! -- Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

A great spot for a feast of a luncheon! — Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

A close up of the mother polar bear, taking a short break from eating, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

A close up of the mother polar bear, taking a short break from eating, Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

We took a break too, as we drifted and then checked out this large iceberg full of gulls…, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

We took a break too, as we drifted and then checked out this large iceberg full of gulls…, Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Suddenly, we spotted two more polar bears (another mother and yearling) in the water who smelled lunch and were heading towards the shore, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

Suddenly, we spotted two more polar bears (another mother and yearling) in the water who smelled lunch and were heading towards the shore, Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Oops – traffic jam – the two polar bears in the water couldn’t get ashore for a while due to the large number of beluga whales (the adults are white and the young whales are darker in color) swimming by the shoreline

Oops – traffic jam – the two polar bears in the water couldn’t get ashore for a while due to the large number of beluga whales (the adults are white and the young whales are darker in color) swimming by the shoreline in front of the luncheon spot (note the whales’ spouting water visible against the sandy shore); Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The swimming polar bears finally made it ashore, shook themselves dry, and proceeded to invite themselves to lunch, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

The swimming polar bears finally made it ashore, shook themselves dry, and proceeded to invite themselves to lunch, Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The first two polar bears hadn’t invited guests for lunch, so the new arrivals starting barking and showing that the new mother was the dominant one on the beach; Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

The first two polar bears hadn’t invited guests for lunch, so the new arrivals starting barking and showing that the new mother was the dominant one on the beach; Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

After a few minutes of the standoff, the first mother (on the right with her yearling) relented and made room for the new arrivals to join in the seal luncheon; Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

After a few minutes of the standoff, the first mother (on the right with her yearling) relented and made room for the new arrivals to join in the seal luncheon; Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

And a nice feast was enjoyed by all; note that the two mother polar bears each put their yearling off to the side away from the other mother, for protection; Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

And a nice feast was enjoyed by all; note that the two mother polar bears each put their yearling off to the side away from the other mother, for protection; Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

A close up of two beluga whales, the white one being an adulte and the grey one, a young whale; Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

A close up of two beluga whales, the white one being an adulte and the grey one, a young whale; Boger Bay, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Polar Bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

After the captain announced that we had a polar bear swimming in the vicinity of the ship on the starboard side, we went out on our verandah and saw the polar bear immediately abeam of our apartment, not very far away; Fitzroy Fjord

After the captain announced that we had a polar bear swimming in the vicinity of the ship on the starboard side, we went out on our verandah and saw the polar bear immediately abeam of our apartment, not very far away; Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada. Where’s Waldo? Hopefully you can see the polar bear (he’s not one of the icebergs…) in the water.

 

Cruising north from Pond Inlet on Baffin Island on the east side of Nunavut Territory, our ship entered Lancaster Sound, the body of water between the Devon and Baffin Islands in Nunavut, which is the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage.  The Sound is an important wildlife area, with Arctic cod feeding an abundance of marine life. Look for narwhal, beluga, and bowhead whales, ringed, bearded, and harp seals, walrus, polar bears, thick-billed murres, blacklegged kittiwakes, northern fulmars, black guillemots, arctic terns, ivory gulls, and snow geese.  One of the larger members of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Devon Island is the second largest of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, and the largest uninhabited island in the world, with anarea slightly smaller than the country of Croatia.

 

Our first “port of call” on Devon Island was to drift (in a controlled manner – the water was way too deep to anchor!) in the beautiful Fitzroy Fjord.  We were quite surprised when the captain announced after we were in position that a polar bear was swimming alongside the ship on the starboard side (where our apartment is located).  Grabbing my camera, I went out on our verandah and saw the polar bear immediately abeam of our apartment, not very far away (see photo, above).  The polar bear swam calmly around for quite a while outside our apartment before deciding to circumnavigate the ship not once, but twice.  In order to load our kayaks back on board, the captain had to order a Zodiac to lure the polar bear up the fjord, away from the ship, so the kayaks could be brought on board.  The circumnavigation of the ship and the blockade of the marina by a polar bear were firsts in the ship’s history!

 

Polar bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, #2

Polar bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, #2

 

“Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. They have a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellant coat that insulates them from the cold air and water.  Considered talented swimmers, they can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder.  Polar bears spend over 50% of their time hunting for food.  A polar bear might catch only one or two out of ten seals it hunts, depending on the time of year and other variables.  Their diet mainly consists of ringed and bearded seals because they need large amounts of fat to survive.  Scientists have divided the total polar bear population into 19 units or subpopulations.  Of those, the latest data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that one subpopulation is in decline (Southern Beaufort Sea) and that there is a high estimated risk of future decline due to climate change and data deficiency.  Because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change, polar bears were listed as a threatened species in the US under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008.  The survival and the protection of the polar bear habitat are urgent issues for WWF.” — http://www.worldwildlife.org

 

Polar bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, #3

Polar bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, #3

 

Polar Bears:

Population  22,000-31,000

Scientific Name  Ursus maritimus

Weight  800–1,300 pounds (363-590 kilograms)

Length  6–9 feet  (1.8-2.7 meters)

Habitats  Arctic sea ice

 

Polar bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, #4

Polar bear swimming in Fitzroy Fjord, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, #4

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Nuuk, Greenland

In addition to the celebration of Greenlandic art at the Nuuk Art Museum, there are many outdoor displays of art, such as this sculpture in the capital city’s pedestrian shopping mall

In addition to the celebration of Greenlandic art at the Nuuk Art Museum, there are many outdoor displays of art, such as this sculpture in the capital city’s pedestrian shopping mall

 

Nuuk, the capital and largest city of Greenland, is a stylish Arctic metropolis characterized by Greenlandic culture and international influence.  It’s a little known fact that although it is Greenland’s largest and capital city, Nuuk is actually one of the world’s smallest capital cities based on population (16,800), despite that approximately one-quarter of the country’s total population lives in Nuuk.  Summertime activities range from fishing and kayaking among fjords to spotting humpback whales off the shore.  This summer’s activities also included the guessing game of how serious U.S. President Donald Trump is about his real estate offer to Denmark to purchase the whole of Greenland (mostly covered in ice).

 

The pedestrian shopping mall in the center of downtown Nuuk (population 16,800), Greenland

The pedestrian shopping mall in the center of downtown Nuuk (population 16,800), Greenland

 

These beautiful colored musk ox wool sweaters stood out from most of the local plain grey, soft and extremely warm musk ox wool products available for sale in Nuuk, Greenland

These beautiful colored musk ox wool sweaters stood out from most of the local plain grey, soft and extremely warm musk ox wool products available for sale in Nuuk, Greenland

 

The Katuaq Cultural Center’s (Grønlands Kulturhus) distinctive architecture and undulating wooden screen is inspired by Greenland’s landscape of icebergs and mountains, Nuuk, Greenland

The Katuaq Cultural Center’s (Grønlands Kulturhus) distinctive architecture and undulating wooden screen is inspired by Greenland’s landscape of icebergs and mountains, Nuuk, Greenland; the multipurpose building hosts theatre, concerts, exhibitions, cinema, conferences and a café

 

A beautifully carved small statue of a polar bear and whale, Nuuk, Geenland

A beautifully carved small statue of a polar bear and whale, Nuuk, Greenland

 

A modern apartment complex in downtown Nuuk, Geenland

A modern apartment complex in downtown Nuuk, Greenland

 

Typical brightly colored homes and apartments in Nuuk, Geenland

Typical brightly colored homes and apartments in Nuuk, Geenland

 

An older church in the Colonial harbor section of Nuuk, Geenland

An older church in the Colonial harbor section of Nuuk, Greenland

 

Historic whale blubber presses (to extract whale oil), Nuuk, Geenland

Historic whale blubber presses (to extract whale oil), Nuuk, Greenland

 

Our ship is visible in the main harbor-port of Nuuk, Geenland; note that outside of the main part of town, there is a new container port which is critical for commerce and supply in Greenland

Our ship is visible in the main harbor/port of Nuuk, Greenland; note that outside of the main part of town, there is a new container port which is critical for commerce and supply in Greenland

 

Across the bay from the harbor, a whole new residential “suburb” has been constructed, with schools, a grocery store, etc., with another section under way; Nuuk, Geenland

Across the bay from the harbor, a whole new residential “suburb” has been constructed, with schools, a grocery store, etc., with another section under way; Nuuk, Greenland

 

The relatively new local college, Nuuk, Geenland

The relatively new local college, Nuuk, Greenland

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Pyramiden, Grønfjorden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

The welcoming “pyramid” (in English and Russian) greeting visitors to the abandoned “ghost town” of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, that was home to up to 1,500 people i

The welcoming “pyramid” (in Russian and English) greeting visitors to the abandoned “ghost town” of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, that was home to up to 1,500 people in the Russian coal mining town in 1989 before it was abruptly abandoned in 1998

 

One of the world’s most fascinating ghost towns, according to National Geographic. At first glance it looks like an idyllic settlement with urban architecture consisting of apartment buildings made of brick or wood. But there is one thing missing: inhabitants.

“Pyramiden was founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927. In the 1980s, the mining community had a population of more than 1,000. It is named after the pyramid-shaped mountain of the same name nearby. Pyramiden is now mostly visited by seagulls, polar foxes and, not infrequently, polar bears. Tourists visit too – by boat in the summertime and by snowmobile in the wintertime – to experience this surreal place

 

A railroad “car” with the last load of coal mined in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, on 31 March 1998

A coal mine railroad “car” with the last load of coal mined in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, on 31 March 1998

 

The pier at the harbor at Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, with a crane that helped load the locally mined coal onto transport boats for the journey back to the motherland (Russi

The pier at the harbor of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, with a crane that helped load the locally mined coal onto transport boats for the journey back to the motherland (Russia)

 

“Visiting Pyramiden is like stepping into a time machine. The architecture and buildings are so well preserved that many visitors feel like they are ‘Back in the USSR’. When the mine was closed and the settlement was abandoned, it seems like everyone left in a hurry. Cups were left on the tables, newspaper clippings on the walls and skis in the corridors. The beautiful indoor swimming pool and painstakingly made cultural centre both feature Soviet era architecture and bear witness to the settlement’s golden days. Pyramiden was a good place to live with a family-friendly community and facilities such as a petrol station, greenhouse and cowshed, school, kindergarten, hotel and restaurant. Most of the buildings remain just as they were left. At the top of the main street, a statue of Lenin watches over the abandoned town and the beautiful Nordenkiöld glacier. The statue is surrounded by grass imported from Siberia.

 

An abandoned factory building adjacent to the harbor at Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

An abandoned factory building adjacent to the harbor of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

Site of the future Trump International Hotel in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

The structure for the future Trump International Hotel in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

Shutes running down the mountainside from the mine (at 500 meters (1,640 -feet) elevation) to protect the buckets of coal that were gravity fed to the processing plant in Pyramiden, Spit

Shutes running down the mountainside from the mine (at 500 meters (1,640 feet) elevation) to protect the buckets of coal that were gravity fed to the processing plant in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

“The ghost town at the foot of the Billefjord is now home to eight people, who work at the hotel and as tourist guides in the summer. During the dark winter months, the population is halved to four who have the task of maintaining the buildings and checking the power generators. It’s possible to stay at the very authentic Pyramiden Hotel, which has a fascinating history in the walls, delicious borsch on the table, locally brewed beer from Barentsburg on tap and smiling people to welcome you. Remember to bring cash (NOK), as they don’t take credit card payments.

 

This abandoned building housed the children_s school in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; at the peak population of the coal mining town, there were approximately 300 children o

This abandoned building housed the children’s school in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; at the peak population of the coal mining town, there were approximately 300 children out of the 1,500 personnel from Russia

 

One of several Svalbard reindeer (smaller than their cousins in Norway) we saw freely wandering around Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

One of several Svalbard reindeer (smaller than their cousins in Norway) we saw freely wandering around Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

The “Champs Élyseées” – so-called by the locals -- is the parade ground around the town_s central buildings with a statue of Lenin at the high end of the parade ground, in fr

The “Champs Élyseées” – so-called by the locals — is the parade ground around the town’s central buildings with a statue of Lenin at the high end of the parade ground, in front of the town’s cultural center, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

A statue of Lenin and Russian insignia in front of the town_s cultural center, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, is re

A statue of Lenin along with Russian insignia in front of the town’s cultural center, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, is revered in Russia as the founder of the Russian Communist Party, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and first head of the Soviet state]

Still hanging on the pegboard on the mezzanine above the lobby of the town_s cultural center is this child_s drawing of 2 children in Pyramiden and the ghost of a comrade child, Pyra

Still hanging on the pegboard on the mezzanine above the lobby of the town’s cultural center is this child’s drawing of 2 children in Pyramiden and the ghost of a child comrade, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

“The abandoned mining settlement is ‘one of 10 ghost towns in the world you need to visit’, according to National Geographic.” — https://en.visitsvalbard.com/visitor-information/destinations/pyramiden

 

The cantina – where the community dined for free, 24 x 7 – has been partially restored and contains evidence that the town_s inhabitants left suddenly in 1998, Pyramiden, Spitsberg

The cantina – where the community dined for free, 24 x 7 – has been partially restored and contains evidence that when the town’s inhabitants left suddenly in 1998 that they expected a group of coal miners and some families would return and repopulate the town, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

The unlit right-side staircase to the upper floor of the cantina where the workers and family dined – part of a symmetrical, dual stairway – shows the elaborate workmanship and decor

The unlit right-side staircase to the upper floor of the cantina where the workers and family dined – part of a symmetrical, dual stairway – shows the elaborate workmanship and decoration that the coal mining company invested in to make Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, a Russian “worker’s paradise”

 

At the top of the dual staircase in the cantina is an elaborate, hand-made mosaic panorama of the Pyramiden site with the mountains and town overlooked by a female polar bear and her cub

At the top of the dual staircase in the cantina is an elaborate, hand-made mosaic panorama of the Pyramiden site with the mountains and town overlooked by a female polar bear and her cub and a husky dog, Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

The abandoned kitchen of the cantina gives evidence that the departing workers expected the kitchen to be back in use a year or two after the 1998 evacuation of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Is

The abandoned kitchen of the cantina gives evidence that the departing workers expected the kitchen to be back in use a year or two after the 1998 evacuation of Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

At the end of our extensive tour (by a young Russian woman who grew up near Volgagrad), we stopped at the restored Pyramiden Hotel, Bar & Restaurant for tea or Pyramiden vodka, Pyramiden

At the end of our extensive tour (by a young Russian woman who grew up near Volgograd — formerly Stalingrad, a city in southwest Russia, on the western bank of the Volga River), we stopped at the restored Pyramiden Hotel, Bar & Restaurant for Russian pastries and tea or Pyramiden vodka (produced in Russia, as there are no distilleries in Svalbard – although there is a brewery in Longyearbyen), Pyramiden, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; on the sign the large lower word is “Pyramiden” in Russian

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

The harbor and pier of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, a small coal-mining town in the center of Spitsbergen Island – on the Adventfjorden (Advent Fjord), off Isfjorden -- located at latitude

The harbor and pier of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, a small coal-mining town in the center of Spitsbergen Island – on the Adventfjorden (Advent Fjord), off Isfjorden — located at latitude 78˚ North, just 1,316 km (818 miles) from the North Pole

 

Longyearbyen is a small coal-mining town in the center of Spitsbergen Island – on the Adventfjorden (Advent Fjord), off Isfjorden — in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, located at latitude 78˚ North – just 1,316 km (818 miles) from the North Pole.  Svalbardi literally means “the land with the cold shores”.  Svalbarði fundinn was mentioned in traditional Icelandic accounts dated to 1194.

“Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Svalbard, is a tiny Norwegian metropolis with 2,100 residents from almost 50 different countries.  The small Arctic town is inhabited by nature enthusiasts who live in close unity under tough climatic conditions with the High Arctic wilderness right on their doorstep.  Longyearbyen is the gateway to the nature-based experiences and the starting point for most adventures in Svalbard.  This Arctic wilderness starts virtually in the town centre and never ends!  Maybe it seems a bit over the top to call our little town a metropolis.  However, with its vitality, international vibe and warm people in wonderful surroundings, that’s exactly how we perceive it.  Longyearbyen’s central location in a geopolitically interesting Arctic also contributes to it being perceived as larger than it actually is.  Furthermore, the range of services on offer to residents and guests is surprisingly extensive with a wide range of shops, restaurants and bars, along with varied cultural offerings.  In Longyearbyen, the North Pole is right around the corner from the pub.  Perhaps some find it strange that a settlement so incredibly far north has its own brewery, chocolaterie and greenhouse that supplies us with fresh herbs and vegetables, but that’s just the way it is!…

 

A church on the hill behind some apartment buildings in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

A church on the hill behind some apartment buildings in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

We had local cuisine (fish soup and cod) at Restaurant Kroa in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; at dinner, another specialty is their local moose burger

We had local cuisine (fish soup and cod) at Restaurant Kroa in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; at dinner, another specialty is their local moose burger

 

A graffiti polar bear decorates the outside wall of one of the shops in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

A graffiti polar bear decorates the outside wall of one of the shops in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

“The residents of Longyearbyen feel that we live completely normal everyday lives.  However, those looking from the outside often perceive our everyday life as somewhat extraordinary.  The polar bears are never far away, so it’s a necessity to carry weapons when we venture outside the settlement.  The climate is harsh and unpredictable.  Some people find the contrasts and changes between light and dark challenging, while others think it’s wonderful.  There are several other things about Longyearbyen that may seem “strange” to visitors.  There are separate “roads” in the town centre for snowmobiles, we only have one grocery store and we are used to living next door to reindeer.  We still take off our shoes when we enter hotels and restaurants, a tradition that has arisen from the problem with coal dust in the old days.  All the mining infrastructure is protected and remains as surreal monuments in and around the settlement.  The streets in Longyearbyen have numbers instead of names.  Longyearbyen has a university centre with 300 students, all of whom must learn to use firearms.  Seeing whales swimming in the fjord from our lounge window is not an uncommon occurrence.  We gladly have a beer with our colleagues outside after work while wearing mittens.  During the winter darkness, we wear a headlamp on our way to work, and it’s not uncommon to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky when we head outside to meet a friend for lunch.  In the summertime, you often go out with the Midnight Sun shining brightly on your face.” — https://en.visitsvalbard.com/visitor-information/destinations/longyearbyen

 

This stuffed polar bear is over the inner lobby entrance to the one and only grocery store in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

This stuffed polar bear is over the inner lobby entrance to the one and only grocery store in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard

 

Brighly painted homes on the hill just above the central business district in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; presently there is a severe housing shortage in town (rentals an

Brighly painted homes on the hill just above the central business district in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; presently there is a severe housing shortage in town (rentals and homes for purchase), so that many friends are sharing living quarters in cramped conditions

 

Fruene Kaffe, in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; we enjoyed a cappuccino with the bun, along with some homemade chocolates

A Norwegian bakery specialty, kanelsnurrer (cinnamon buns), at a bakery, Fruene Kaffe, in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; we enjoyed a cappuccino with the bun, along with some homemade chocolates – from the northernmost chocolaterie in the world

 

The Royal Yacht, SS Norge, with the King of Norway aboard, was visiting Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, at the same time we were docked at the town pier

The Royal Yacht, SS Norge, with the King of Norway aboard, was visiting Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, at the same time we were docked at the town pier

 

These wooden structures supported cables strung from the coal mine to the coal processing plant; buckets containing coal were lowered by gravity from the mine to the now closed plant; Lo

These wooden structures supported cables strung from the coal mine to the coal processing plant; buckets containing coal were lowered by gravity from the mine to the now closed plant; Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; only one of the original seven coal mines in Longyearbyen is still operational and it mainly supplies the local electrical generating station

 

These local sorrel plants grow in the tundra – the leaves are miniature compared with sorrel plants in more temperate climates, Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; note that so

These local sorrel plants grow in the tundra – the leaves are miniature compared with sorrel plants in more temperate climates, Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; note that sorrel contains some vitamin C which whalers and trappers in the 1700s and 1800s discovered and ate for the prevention of scurvy

 

These are the biggest flowers and tallest plant that we saw in all of Svalbard; Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island

These are the biggest flowers and tallest plant that we saw in all of Svalbard; Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island

 

A popular tourist attraction is visiting the husky dog kennels and then going for a sled ride on the outskirts of Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; we saw these sleds as we hik

A popular tourist attraction is visiting the husky dog kennels and then going for a sled ride on the outskirts of Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard; we saw these dog sleds as we hiked down from the mountain with a deserted coal mine that was located on the edge of town

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.