Nørd Three hours in Ny-Ålesund

On July 3rd, 2012, I reached the shore of Ny-Ålesund (78.9235° N, 11.9099° E) aboard the M/S Costa Voyager, where I was working as cruise staff animator. Working as an entertainment crew member on a cruise ship has been the most dreadful experience of my life, but it offered me the opportunity to visit the northernmost human outpost on our planet. "Visit" is an overstatement, as I was chained to an unforgiving, oddly paced work schedule that almost left me no time to eat nor sleep, let alone take any pictures. In this case, my only chance to get off the ship was by volunteering as a guiding assistant for the tourists who'd booked an organized tour of the village.

As the ship was approaching the dock, I saw a boat streaming close to a shrinking glacier. The temperature on July 3rd was around -2 °C.

Tourists were quickly briefed about the fragility and hostility of the arctic ecosystem, and were advised to stay on the path at all times. The tour of the village would have lasted around three hours, which was exactly the amount of time I ended up spending ashore. Not enough time to fulfill a deeper understanding of the village, its inhabitants, their lives and scientific endeavors.

Entrance to Ny-Ålesund soon after getting off the ship. Tourists can be seen reaching the village, with a standing guide dressed in white at the crossing.
The gray building, second to the left, appears to be a coal storage deposit. Ny-Ålesund, like most of the Svalbard, used to be home to a very busy coal mining industry. The industry diminished in favor of scientific research, enforcing a very strict environmental policy providing great benefits for the mostly pristine ecosystem.
The old coal mining train lays abandoned not far from the village center. Its now truncated tracks used to lead all the way into the heart of the mountains and back to the docks.
A couple of shots of the shore as seen from the path I was forced to stay on to avoid the risk of close encounters with Polar Bears. I've seen villagers move around on mountain bikes, carrying a rifle behind their shoulders while venturing from one research station to another (click on the pictures to see them in full).

I later just had a few minutes to explore the village on my own. I met a few researchers of different nationalities who were glad to see a few Summer visitors. They all seemed to be quite in a hurry, however, moving around on rusty mountain bikes, and I was too shy to ask them to take their portrait. I believe my shyness was also due to the unhappy ship life I was living at that time. I opted for buildings and landscapes instead.

A researchers' hut, possibly a private home.
The northernmost post office in the world. I was told it's also one of the most efficient ones as well. I took this shot on my iPhone at a time I was still completely new to the medium. As a consequence, I applied one of those cheesy Instagram filters, not to mention being attacked by an angry arctic tern at the very moment I took this shot, as I was completely oblivious to the bird brooding on her nest to the ground on my immediate right.
The northernmost hotel in the world. I really wished I could have spent a few nights here and work on more specific photo essays, rather than being forced shortly after to return to the ship.
Back on the ship. I wish I could have stayed more, in order to listen to the stories and document the lives of the inhabitants of this hostile, yet magical place.

Ny-Ålesund is undoubtedly a fascinating, albeit challenging place. I know researchers across all of the Svalbard are carrying on significant work and witnessing first hand the effects of climate change and global warming. My greatest hope for the future is to come back and work on deeper, better and more insightful essays. Three hours truly haven't been enough.

Created By
David Tinius Rossi

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