Postcards from the Far North

One of the perks I offered in return for support of my crowdfunding effort at Hatchfund was a postcard! How special, you are thinking, a “thank you” postcard! But there will be something unique and special about these postcards I send to many of you… they will be postmarked by the northernmost post office in the world! IMG_6903 There is, of course, a northernmost of every thing in the world, and Longyearbyen is the northernmost city of >1,000 people! The title of most northern currently inhabited settlement period is Alert, Nunavut at a staggering 82°28′N. The claim to Museum, Post Office, Blues festival, Church, University, Piano and Automated teller all belong to Svalbard as well! Some more fun northernmosts:

  • Brewery, Brewery Immiaq, Illulisat Greenland
  • Zoo, Bardu, Troms Norway
  • Non-human primate colony, Shimokita Peninsula, Honshu Japan
  • Location with all monthly average temperatures above freezing, Værøy, Norway and Røst, Norway
  • McDonalds, Murmansk Russia
  • Flower (a purple saxifrage) on Kaffeklubben Island, Greenland

    Purple Saxifrage

Interested in receiving a postcard from me, from Svalbard, too? Let me know! If you share my blog on social media (or mail me a roll of film, haha) I’d be happy to include you on my list!

Postmarked from the north!

Postmarked from the north!

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Svalbard: Breakdown

W_W_Svalbard_LandSat7_21.14475E_78.71545NSvalbard is an archipelago, a clumpy chain of islands in the far north of the arctic ocean. It’s made up of 11 sizeable islands and many additional small skerries. The area boasts many hundreds of rivers, fjords and glaciers, and has many eerie former settlements sprinkled across the islands, too. The islands also became the launching point for a number of Arctic explorers, including William Edward Parry, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, Otto Martin Torell, Alfred Gabriel Nathorst, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton.

Spitsbergen is the largest island in Svalbard and the only truly permanently populated settlement, Longyearbyen, is located there. Although some weather and research stations exist on the other islands, none of them have a population over 10 nor are they permanent communities.DeGeerdalen, SpitsbergenSettled in the 17th century as an ideal location for whaling and then coal mining, Spitsbergen is a cold, mountainous place. Besides Longyearbyen, with a population of around 3,000, Ny-Ålesund isa former mining town, permanently settled around scientific research. Ny-Ålesund has a winter population of 35 and a summer population of 180. 

Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen

Barentsburg is the only remaining Russian settlement since Pyramiden was abandoned in 1998. All facilities are owned by Arktikugol, who operate a coal mine (operations have, however, been stopped since 2006). Pyramiden is a tourist favorite for taking creepy, ruin-porn photos of the abandoned town.

A scene from Pyramiden

A scene from Pyramiden

Nordaustlandet is more northely in the chain and is mostly covered in ice caps. Another island in Svalbard, it had previously been the site of walrus hunting, and to this day is still populated by reindeer and walrus. Edgeøya, an island further south in the chain, has within it the massive glacier Edgeøyjøkulen. Barentsøya, located in between Edgøya and Spitsbergen, has some truly incredible scenes of the beauty of the arctic desert.

A Nordaustlandet walrus

A Nordaustlandet walrus

Kvitøya is the island I am most excited to visit. Known as White Island, Kvitøya is the site of S.A. Andree’s death, where his and his comrades’ bodies were recovered forty years after he first set sail in a balloon from Danskøya, Svalbard in 1897. I’ve written about S.A. Andree and his failed ballooning attempt to reach the North Pole; his story, and that of his two companions, is amongst the greatest and saddest in the whole saga of Polar Exploration.

Andree sets off from Danskøya

Andree sets off from Danskøya

The ørnen, crash landed not three days after take-off

The ørnen, crash landed not three days after take-off

Memorial for Andree and his companions, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel, on Kvitøya

Memorial for Andree and his companions, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel, on Kvitøya

Inspiration 4

As I prepare my clothes and my gear to head to Svalbard in September, I’m also looking at work from so many amazing artists that are thinking about place, landscape, time, travel, history and all these themes and threads that I’ve been turning over in my mind lately. A selection follow, and you can see more from earlier in the year here.

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Katrin Sigurdardottir

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Joseph Pielichaty

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Martin Azua

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Elena Damiani