Sailing on Kongsfjorden to reach
Ny-Alesund is one of the world’s
northermost year-round communities.
It came about when coal was found
close to the surface (apparently the land "flipped" over when
Greenland "crashed" into the area millions of years ago bringing
the coal bearing strata to the surface), but mining was put to an
end after a serious accident in 1962. Many miners died and the
Norwegian public demanded the mine be closed down.
There are many signs of the mining past scattered
around the settlement, including the wonderful little train which
hauled the coal down to the landing for loading into ships.
The northernmost train
carried coal down to waiting ships at Ny Alesund
Ny-Ålesund has also been the starting
point of several attempts by various nationalities to reach the
North Pole. One such epic journey in 1926 was carried out by
Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Italian Umberto Nobile. There is a
bust of Amundsen in the settlement.
story told by the guides is that following the successful pole
expedition by the airship Norge (the gantry still visible today)
Nobile was highly put out by all the attention being lavished on
He decided to repeat the feat but this
time with a completely Italian crew. Unfortunately the ship
crashed, killing several crew members and stranding the remainder.
A massive hunt for the survivors was carried out and the group were
found by the crew of an aeroplane.
Nobile was given the option of rescue,
but he had to leave the rest of the survivors behind, or he could
wait for rescue with them. He chose to go, much to the disgust of
the Norwegian people. The saying goes that he was banned from
"touching Norwegian soil" and had to walk on wooden planks when the
Eventually the remainder of the
survivors were picked up. Another sad note is that Amundsen was
killed when his plane crashed while out searching for the
Ny-Alesund is now an international
research station. Accommodation ranges from tiny little cabins to
the multi-occupancy 'hotel'. It is the world’s northernmost,
permanent civilian research community, an international base for
Arctic research and monitoring in the natural sciences. In the
winter there are only about 30 people but in the summer this number
escalates. There is a small airstrip transporting people and
As we made our way up from the beach
our guides gave us strict instructions to follow while in the
settlement: Do not disturb the birdlife; don't touch technical
stuff; stay on the roads and pathways; don't walk into people's
homes, don't leave any rubbish and watch out for polar bears.
One thing to bear in mind when walking
around the settlement is to keep a wary eye out for nesting birds
who take umbrage if they think you are too close to their nest and
will dive bomb you. Fortunately, they go for the tallest people so
being only 5ft tall I was quite safe! Our guide said that if you
were buzzed by the birds to put your arm up in the air and they
would go for that instead of your head.
The statue of Roald Amundsen in Ny-Alesund, where he and Ingenior Umberton Nobile set off in the air ship Norge to cross the North Pole
The tiny museum at Ny-Alesund contains many relics from the mining era
A plane comes in to land at Ny-Alesuns tiny airstrip. It brings in supplies and ferries researchers
The northern-most cable car at Ny-Alesund, is used to get to research equipment high up on the mountain
The northern-most Post Office at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard
The cafe and entertainment building at Ny-Alesund is vital to the community. The researchers have all their meals prepared for them so they do not waste time
Some of the many researchers homes and offices at Ny-Alesund