Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Longyearbyen is a small town of about 1,000 full time residents. It is located at 78 degrees north, making it one of the most northern cities in the world. 

This town was settled by an American named Longyear and he mined for coal here. The area produces a very rich and pure blend of coal. Who knew there were different qualities of coal? Not I, apparently. 

Only one of the seven coal mines is still operational. They ship most of it to Germany, but it is also mined and used to power the town. 

There are students living here studying marine biology, a big sled dog operation, Santa's post office, white reindeer, some Arctic foxes, and a few polar bears. Oh, and a small but interesting museum. Main mode of transport, besides a few trucks and cars, are sled dogs and snowmobiles. 

This is the land of the midnight sun, daytime Northern lights, 24-hours of daylight during summer and 24-hours of complete darkness during the winter. We're so far north that during winter the sun doesn't even get high enough to see any glow or reflection so when it's dark it's pitch dark. All the better for the northern lights I'd say. 

Santa sends his elves down here to pick up the mail. They've got a pretty big mailbox in town to hold it all. You'll see a picture of it. 

There's one main street in town and a small Radisson hotel. There's also a small hospital staffed by three doctors. Real emergencies need to be flown several hours to another city, so try not to get too sick or badly injured while here. 

My tour today was a 4 kilometer hike through the spongy and hilly bog that sits about a meter above the permafrost, to the sled dog camp facility. We lucked out with a gorgeous sunny day, balmy at about 48 degrees. Thank goodness, because our shoes, socks and feet were soaked through by walking in the very mushy and wet bog. 

They've got several hundred dogs working at any given time, and litters of puppies also abound. So cute, puppies!!  They are a mix of Alaskan Husky and other similar breeds. They are all extremely people friendly and we were encouraged to socialize with them. 

They are fed lots of seal, especially in winter, in order to give them enough fat to survive the very harsh winters. They sleep in raised wooden boxes, about three feet off the ground. They cuddle up in big heaps and keep each other warm. The keepers and trainers often have seven or ten dogs sleeping with them in their rooms. Ya gotta be a major dog lover to handle that. I bet they're total bed hogs. 

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