søndag 30. september 2007

Pyramiden revisited

I said earlier that I´d dig out some of William´s old photos from his last visit to Pyramiden (last summer), from the inside of the buildings. Well, I did and here are some of them:

I suppose most of this is still the same, as things have been left alone since then. I´ve heard that the books in the library have been removed, so maybe those shelves above are empty now.

After our visit to Pyramiden, I´ve had time to read a neat little book about - indeed - Pyramiden. This is a fairly new book (published in 2007), written by Kjartan Fløgstad. The book was a gift from Tonni and Helge, thank you very much to them!

It contains a lot of interesting information about the town, about it´s architecture and history, also related to the history of the Soviet Union. The state of the houses in Pyramiden is described very poetically, which suits the eerily empty photos of abandoned rooms and streets, taken by Siri Hermansen.

However, the book is also about mining, and industry, and all kinds of associations around mining and shafts, caverns and the underground in general - stretching from Mother Earth and Orfeus, through Nils Klim and poetry by Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and a list of other Americans. After some reading you get a feeling that Fløgstad´s main project has been to describe the idea about mining, and about a (failed) mining town, rather than the story about Pyramiden in particular. On the whole, it feels like too much information - crammed into too little space.

But a neat book it is, and I like the pictures.

And we discovered that a person we know rather well plays a small part in it. Terje, if you read this, check out what you´re doing on page 161!

fredag 28. september 2007

Solidarity for Burma

The local community of Longyearbyen also held a demonstration to show solidarity with the people of Burma, arranged by Amnesty International. 65 people were gathered in front of Svalbardbutikken earlier this afternoon, which is quite a good crowd, considering the whole thing was pretty spontaneous.

Emma asked, as we walked there wearing our red coats "But it doesn´t help, does it?"
I suppose she´s right, in a way - it doesn´t, but what else can we do?

tirsdag 25. september 2007

Something sad and something wonderful

Another beautiful day, another walk. This time across Adventdalen, where we saw the memorial of the awful airplane-crash that happened here 11 years ago.

Crossing the river on the way - very little water by now.

Patterns left in the riverbed. The white stuff is snow.

The memorial, with many flowers and some sweets, maybe left for the children who died.

The mountain in the background, Operafjellet, is where the plane crashed. 141 people died when the plane, probably due to human failure, missed the airport and hit the mountain at about 850 m altitude. It was full of Russian and Ukrainian miners and their families.

That was the sad part. The wonderful bit was the weather and the fresh air and the light and the scenery. I just can´t get enough of the light and the scenery. This is the view towards the mountains Nordenskiöldfjellet and Plateaufjellet.

And here the remnants of a happy reindeer.

fredag 21. september 2007

Expedition to Billefjorden II

Approaching Pyramiden aboard Langøysund, it´s obvious which part of the mountain that gave the town its name.

We walked as a group into town, guarded by rifles in front and at the rear.
There are only four people living in Pyramiden at the moment – they do some maintenance work and try to save the buildings from falling apart. Especially water is a big problem - in the spring, melted ice finds new ways through streets and under buildings.

They also collect a fee from the boats that use the quay , and charge 10 kr for each visitor. This is an official fee. As we approached town, one of the Russians offered to open the doors to some of the buildings for the sum of 20 kr per head. It was obvious that this was a private enterprise of his, so we declined.

Therefore, I have no indoor pictures. But William came here last summer, and got inside. Maybe I´ll dig out his photos and show you. I don´t think that much will have changed.

Another Russian. Left behind.

Pyramiden was abandoned in 1998, so it still looks fairly OK. The Russians had a very pleasant society here, apparently, but as the coal in the mines ran out, the authorities decided that everyone should leave – immediately. Lots of stuff were just left behind, as if the inhabitants were planning to come back soon.

Later, people have been visiting and wrecked stuff, and they´ve probably been helping themselves to souvenirs as well. So now the Russians have barricaded all the houses - windows and doors. There are rumours that they plan to renovate and reopen the hotel. Maybe they´ve realized the tourist potential of the ghost town, a potential the Norwegians discovered years ago.

Funny thing to se a Norwegian Post office sign here. As Svalbard is under Norwegian government, they (we) run the post service in the Russian settlements too. This one was closed, though.

But the bar was open. Birds only.

Pyramiden is nicely situated, this is the view towards Nordenskiöld glacier.

And towards Billefjorden.

Remnants of wall poster, detail. Art created by time and rough weather.

And then we left. A weird place.

Travelling out the fjord, we passed the Gipshuken mountain range.

And more rock. You learn to appreciate a good rock formation when you hang out with a geologist.

The whole trip to Billefjorden took around 9 hours, and if you ever come to Svalbard, I can certainly recommend it!

torsdag 20. september 2007

The Mystery about the Passing Polar Bear

Did it pass Longyearbyen in July or only one week ago? Tracks were discovered yesterday, and the local paper Svalbardposten reported at first they were completely fresh. However, as William found these last Sunday, he could correct them.

We all went and had a look Sunday afternoon (they´re only about 500 meter from where we live), but as we thought they belonged to the bear that passed earlier this summer, we didn´t make a fuss. It appears that we were wrong, it probably strolled by quite recently.

Anyway, here be photos (from last Sunday):

They were BIG, at least 25 cm across.

Have any large carnivores passed through your neighbourhood lately? Eek.

mandag 17. september 2007

Expedition to Billefjorden I

Underneath is Langøysund - the vessel that took us to Billefjorden, to the Nordenskiöld glacier and Pyramiden. Very nice boat, with a friendly and skilled crew.

The weather was like this in the morning, luckily it cleared up during the day.

But it was COLD the whole time. Heavy clothing was the only way to dress.

By the way, that polar bear on the wall was the only one we saw on the trip.

Going into Billefjorden, snowy mountains in the distance.

Turning into the fjord, we passed this ship. "Der Noorderlicht", a Dutch schooner from 1912 that takes tourists on cruises around the island in summer, and lets itself freeze into the ice in the winter. You can actually stay overnight on it in winter, like in a hotel. More about that here.

Right next to the Nordenskiöld glacier, lies three cabins, the place is called Brucebyen. This was built by the Scotsman William Spiers Bruce around 1900 (more here).

William claims that if it hadn´t been for Brucebyen, we wouldn´t have been here at all (meaning our family might have decided to go somewhere else for a year - not Svalbard, but maybe, let´s say, Hawaii). Early in the eighties he stayed here a whole summer as an assistant for a geology student - this was before he´d started studying geology himself. It was partly this experience that convinced him that geology on Svalbard was the thing for him.

I´m not sure if I agree it´s this simple, but it would be kind of amusing if our choice was determined by three shacks on a windblown bank in the arctic.

Moving on, and finally approaching the Nordenskiöld Glacier, we met the ship belonging to the Gouvernor of Svalbard (Sysselmannen), Nordsyssel. They were there to assist the Red Cross while they practiced glacier walking.

On the middle of this photo, to the right, you can see a line of people walking the glacier. It certainly is a big heap of ice.

And beautiful too, in a brutal way.

Some of the surrounding mountain sides, covered in powder-like snow.

Ice floating everywhere - hopefully not because of global warming.

A little of the ice was fished out of the water and put in drinks. 12 year old whisky on 3000 year old ice.

And then lunch ...

...as we left the glacier and headed for Pyramiden on the other side of the fjord.

And by next chapter, we´ll have arrived... See you then!