Svalbard: Prelude to The Arctic
August 7, 2015
I arrive at the airport in Longyearbyen.
The evening sky is overcast. The clouds are bright.
A young guide greets me at the airport.
“When does it get dark?” I ask him.
He smiles and responds, “This is as dark as it gets.”
“Wow! I know my geography. I am above the Arctic Circle!”
The map in my guidebook shows Svalbard as an inset in the map of Norway. Can I be forgiven if I didn’t know the exact location of this remote archipelago? Now it’s clear: The Arctic!
I will spend the next five days on a cruise above the Arctic Circle!
A former coal mining town, the major settlement on Svalbard, Longyearbyen (pop 2100) is now devoted to tourism and climate study.
Longyearbyen was named for John Munro Longyear, an American timber and coal developer.
“Sawatdee krop” (hello) is a perfectly common and appropriate greeting here. After the Norwegian population, Thailand workers are the second largest group. More than 250!
There’s even a Thai restaurant!! Next to the Sushi bar!!!
Also Swedes, Russians and Ukrainians.
Sven, the grizzled local bus driver observed:
“Longyearbyen is a multi-national metropolis, in miniature.”
“Sawatdee krop.” (Goodbye.)