PROVIDENCE, RI, Oct. 15, 2019 – Here’s a question primed for Halloween.
Where are the bodies (not) buried – and why? What about the coal mines?
Poseidon Expeditions, a specialist in active adventure cruises in the high latitudes, challenges passengers on any of its 2020 Arctic cruises to find out the answer by lingering in Longyearbyen, a coal-mining community on the only populated island in the high Arctic wilderness between Norway and the North Pole.
This one-time whaling hub on the island of Spitsbergen is the gateway for Poseidon’s Polar Ice Edge cruises, Arctic Wildlife Safari and Best of Svalbard, departing in spring 2020. The town’s human history is worth more than a one-night pre-embarkation pass through. Its saga since the early 1900s has to do with coal, corpses and cats.
About coal and corpses: The year is 1906. An American, John Longyear, founded the Arctic Coal Company on the heels of a by-then-defunct whaling industry; his name was burnished on the outpost. Colorful wooden structures (constructed after 1943 when the Nazis destroyed the town) have been rebuilt on stilts because the frozen permafrost underfoot wobbles about. The island, part of the Svalbard Archipelago, was of strategic importance to the Allies during WWII, and its coal coveted. A visit to the Svalbard Museum shares this and many other stories; other tales of North Pole expeditions are revealed at the Spitsbergen Airship Museum.
And the corpses? The clue is the permafrost. Until summer when permafrost starts to melt, buried bodies were preserved in the ice. But along with the bodies came viruses (like the Spanish flu) that dead people harbored. The viruses were simply dormant. Pandemics could well surface under the sun here. Therefore, corpses are sent off-island to Oslo for burial elsewhere. Senior citizens are carted off the island before they are allowed to die here.
The cat issue is a no-brainer. Birds are important to the ecosystem which is also important to tourism. So, no cats. Also, lots of folks here carry rifles in case they encounter hungry polar bears, which has more to do with man than bird.
Because of its proximity to the North Pole and its remoteness, the island has also emerged as a scientific center with an early focus on the importance of radio communication and more recently on telecommunications, fiber optic cable and satellite technologies. Research is supported by Earth’s most northernmost center of higher education, University Centre in Svalbard, and by the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Svalbard Museum and the Svalbard Science Forum.
The archipelago boasts one of the Arctic’s highest concentrations of polar bears. They are the world’s largest land carnivores and have become a symbol of the imperiled Arctic wilderness. This is one of the best places in the world to view Northern Lights and polar bears hunting seals in their preferred habitat -- the pack ice. Poseidon Expeditions’ 114-passenger Sea Spirit on its up to 12-day cruises here comes as close as is safely possible to the jumbled and broken edge of the polar ice cap where polar bears stalk the frozen sea in search of seals. The ecosystem of Spitsbergen is almost entirely protected in a network of nature reserves and national parks. This region is also home to walrus, Arctic fox, reindeer and a variety of whales and seals.
To round out the Arctic experience, guests explore on this cruise other places rich with history: remnants of whaling camps, trappers’ cabins, staging areas for historic attempts to discover the North Pole (think Roald Amundsen and Walter Wellman) and even an abandoned polar research station. Human habitation in this region can be found only at Ny Ålesund, a former mining town that is now home to an international community of Arctic researchers. This is one of the world’s most northerly settlements, complete with museum, gift shop and post office.
The rates for the nine-day Arctic Wildlife Safari - West Spitsbergen & Polar Ice Edge, offer an early booking discount plus extra savings on theMay 31-June 8 and June 7-June 15 cruises if booked before October 31, 2019. Discounted prices start at $6,486 per person double (from the regular rate of $8,095 pp, dbl) with similar savings on all other cabin classifications. On the June 7 departure guests receive a bonus, the opportunity to mingle with Dr. Erin Curry, a Polar Bear Reproductive Physiologist from the Cincinnati Zoo. For details please see: https://poseidonexpeditions.com/arctic/west-spitsbergen-and-ice-cap/149/.
On the Svalbard & Polar Ice Edge – Best of Svalbard cruises the discounted rates begin at $8,286 per person double (from the regular rate of $10,095 pp, dbl) on the 11-day, June 21 departure. On the June 30, 12-day departure, discounted rates begin at $9,276 per person double (from the regular rate of $11,195 pp, dbl). Similar savings are offered on all other cabin classificationsif booked before October 31, 2019. For details please see: https://poseidonexpeditions.com/arctic/spitsbergen-and-polar-ice-edge/.
About Poseidon Expeditions
With offices in the US, UK, Germany, Russia, Cyprus and China, Poseidon Expeditions is a leading provider of polar expeditions in the cruise industry. The company is committed to safe and environmentally responsible polar travel. It is a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO).
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