Spitsbergen: A glimpse into life near the North Pole

Published on 8th January 2014 by Shing Yoong in Norway , Winter Holidays

Imagine a place far up north in the Arctic where Polar bears outnumber people, and over 60 per cent of the area is covered by the extraordinary mass of glaciers; a place so far up north that it calls itself ‘the last stop before the North Pole’. The place I’m talking about is Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway.

Back in September I made my first trip to Spitsbergen and glimpsed at what life is like in a place that has always seemed at the edge of the world, somewhere unreachable, somewhere otherworldly. Even now, four months on, after visiting Rome and Gothenburg since then, I keep thinking about my visit to Spitsbergen. It’s somewhere I can’t really get out of my head, visiting this place isn’t just another holiday...

I was fascinated to learn that there are around 2,500 permanent residents living here, located predominately in Longyearbyen, the most Northerly town in the world. Coming from London which has over 8 million people, I find the population of Spitsbergen so miniscule that I can barely comprehend it. I couldn’t even get my head around the population of Iceland which at 300,000 now sounds ridiculously overpopulated in comparison! Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t make Longyearbyen feel solitary; instead a feeling of community knits the town together, everyone knows everyone in a roundabout way. In a place like this, the meaning of 'neighbour’ seems to apply to everyone who lives here.

But silence certainly isn’t lost. If you like the idea of escaping civilisation, then there are few better places on Earth. The desire to retreat into the Arctic wilderness where there’s no internet, no mobile phone reception, and no electricity is easily achieved here. 

This way of life made me think about my own life back in London. In a bid to keep up with what’s going on, I’m constantly on the internet or using my mobile phone, but Spitsbergen makes you stop and realise that it’s just not necessary, I don’t need half of the belongings I have. It’s a place that makes you enjoy the silence, and appreciate how diverse and extraordinary Mother Nature really is.

If you would like to experience life in Spitsbergen, then see our new summer tour titled Arctic Wonders: Tromso and Spitsbergen. You can talk to one of our specialist at Taber Holidays on: 01274 875199 or make enquiries to office@taberhols.co.uk

Blog Author: Shing Yoong