A bit later, but as they say – better late than never. Ny-Ålesund is no regular town – it is the northernmost functioning community in the world and home to research stations from 14 nations, and there is scientific presence from more. We are hosted by the Norwegians at Sverdrup Stasjonen, but the UK Natural Environment Research Council has a very, very active presence here, too. The entire town and infrastructure is administered by King’s Bay AS – a company started long ago to mine coal in the area, now owned by the Norwegian Government in a logistic capacity. (Side note: they also administer Bjørnøya, the island halfway between Svalbard and northern Norway.)
Here is Ny-Ålesund from the plane as we flew in. The long, thin building on the bottom right is the Norwegian Sverdrup Stasjonen, the gray/black building cut off on the right side is the main King’s Bay building with the dining hall and common spaces, the red building next to that hosts the French and Korean stations, and the blue building in the middle is the German station.
Down the road are the post office, the ‘Samfunshuset’ where Jon and I have our rooms (and the gym and sauna are located), the Indian station, the UK station, the Dutch station, the bar, and eventually the port where tourist ships stop in with some frequency.
The Chinese station has two (very distinctive) stone lions out front. Fjord couldn’t quite overcome the reindeer-lion language barrier.
There is a large statue of Roald Amundsen in the centre of town (with a quite distinctive nose), commemorating his polar exploration and in particular his flight in an airship from Ny-Ålseund over the North Pole. Conveniently, it is right next to the Norwegian station which is in the background.
The Ny-Ålesund post office is a much-photographed location.
And the shop (or butikken in Norwegian) has a large range of souvenirs (mostly for tourists, but also for residents) as well as snacks and the liquor store (which, like all liquor on Svalbard is rationed because of very, very low tax levels – beer here costs one third of what it does on the mainland!).
As the settlement used to be a coal mine, they needed to move the coal around. As a remnant – here’s a random train in town.
The port receives the high volume of tourists that pass through as they briefly get off their cruise ships to see the station. Fjord likes it down there – evidently the rescue ring is a good place to rest.
Right next to the large quay is the harbor where the small research boats (for getting around Kongsfjorden and slightly beyond) are located. In the background you can see the Marine Laboratory, a first rate facility for all research having to do with the ocean.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the little photo tour. It’s a small place, but there’s a lot in it. Too much for one blog post. You’ll just have to come here some time to see it yourselves!