Ny-Ålesund …

the port office

The northernmost functional civilian settlement in the world. It has a winter population in the thirties which swells to more than 200 in the summer.

Ny-Ålesund started out as a coal mining town. There is a nicely restored steam train to remind us of its roots.

These days the town is a research centre owned and operated by the Kings Bay Company who provide the infrastructure to scientists from around the globe. The attraction being a nice civilised outpost close to the north pole yet with a warm climate. Everything is relative, James Bay Canada is the southerly limit of the Arctic marine ecosystem at just 53°N. Thanks to the gulf stream the weather is just as nice here at 78°N.

The view is amazing …

but the facilities are modern …

None of the front doors are locked. Should you meet a Polar Bear in the street duck into the nearest building and dial the number placarded by every telephone. You can’t use your cell phone – there is no service because it would interfere with some of the research equipment.

Downtown there is a statue to the glory of Roald Amundsen, first to the South Pole. He and Umberto Nobile flew an airship from here, over the North Pole to Alaska in 1926. Some regard this as the first successful expedition to the pole.

Roald Amundsen

At the city limit, about 100 metres away there are a couple of signs reminding you to take your rifle and giving explicit instruction on loading and unloading it as you come and go.

Every new arrival at Ny-Ålesund must learn to shoot if they wish to leave the base.                    The Local.

The south pole …

On 17 January 1912 Captain Robert Falcon Scott led a group of men to the South Pole. There he discovered that Raoul Amundsen had preceded them by five weeks.

The five members of Scott’s party died on the return trip.

These events have been analysed extensively and the most important difference between the two expeditions is usually said to be the mode of transport. Amundsen took the trouble to serve his apprenticeship in the Arctic, learnt from the Eskimo and chose dogs to pull him to the pole.

Scott on the other hand …

th… chose London Transport.

Well, not true, this is actually a photo from 1947 in England. Before it was fashionable to blame unusually cold weather on global warming, unusually cold weather just happened. Ignorant folks would blame it on the atom bomb. The tale of the exceptional winter of 1947 can be read <HERE>.