Time to head back to the mainland soon but one more opportunity to taste some more of Svalbard’s environment and historical locations on our return south from the ice. The capital of Longyearbyen only hosts 2,000 residents, there are more polar bears on Svalbard in winter especially. Over December and January it is in 24 hour darkness (no twilight). Accordingly the months of midnight sun – May through August – are highly valued, by people, plants and wildlife. Life is frenetic here during that time.
New Zealand is a signatory of the 1920 Svalbard Treaty which means we are free to become citizens here and set up commercial activities on the island – like coal mining. The Russians have been doing it for yonks but theses days there’s just the one mine left in Longyearbyen. If you’re thinking of heading up here though be aware that due to the isolation, women are not allowed to give birth on the island, and people must leave when they hit retirement age.
What’s left is a mostly young, healthy and vibrant society.
And most importantly – CATS ARE BANNED on Svalbard ! Yes that’s right, there are plenty of working dogs, but cats rightly are regarded as an invasive species that despoil the environment. So moggie lovers you can forget your plans to take up your Svalbard citizenship – they won’t even allow contained cats. Harsh (I knew I was a pussy when it came to control of these natural born killers).