I used to live in the northernmost town in the world. Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Living at 78 degrees north, means that you have to deal with midnight sun for 4 months, and the total absence of sunlight for 2 months, called Polar Night, when the sun is 6 degrees or more below the horizon all the time. I did not mind the dark season at all – I actually enjoyed it. But – of course it was a great pleasure when the light started to return, first in the form of a short period every day with this intense blue light, and later with actual daylight.
As Longyearbyen is situated in a North-facing valley, the first sunrays actually shining onto the mountain north of the bay was always a welcomed sight. For every day the sun would reach further and further down the side of the mountain. Then it would creep across the iced bay and noticeably approach the town more for each day.
The day when the sun shines on the location where the stairs to the old hospital used to be in town (the building long since demolished) – that is the official “sun day” in Longyearbyen- March 8th. All the kids are dressed up in yellow hats and collars resembling the sun or sun rays – and they gather around the stairs where the sun is to shine upon and they sing for the sun’s return. Good times!
The whole week when the sun is returning is turned into a giant sun festival. There are concerts, plays, vernissages, choir-café and all kinds of cultural events taking place on all the venues in town. It is great fun! And there is something to suit any age and any interest.
And then you also have “Ta Sjangsen” (“Take the Chance”, directly translated) which takes place on the foot of the mountain directly north of Longyearbyen. This is a fun contest where teams make sledges that they decorate, and the aim is to get down the hill the fastest, and there are also prizes for the best decorated sledge. Great fun!
It was at this event – the “Take the Chance” – where the ol’ hubby had planned a spectacular arrival. A formidable entrance. A great opening Line.
You see, snowmobiles are common. There are in fact more registered snowmobiles in Longyearbyen than there are residents. At “Take the Chance” the preferred mode of transport is to go by snowmobile. The ol’ hubby had gotten his hot, little hands on a different belted, snow going vehicle – some sort of a car, or small pick-up truck if you prefer. Let’s call it a “snow car”!
We got into all our bundles of clothes that are quite necessary – it is still very cold even though the sun is about to return, and got ourselves seated in the “snow car”. Down through the town towards the bay went with no hick ups. Also crossing the ice on the bay. No probs. A bit bumpy on the beach on the north side of the bay, but we still got ashore with no probs. Yea, we were looking good!
The ol’ hubby had planned a somewhat late arrival – and he wanted to make an elegant turn and park at the end of the front row of snowmobiles that were already neatly parked – next to the other weirdo “snow car” that were in town. We started driving up the small hill that would take us to the planned parking spot.
And that is when the “snow car” decided to have the personality of a spoiled, hormonal teenager. The ol’ hubby tried to reason with it – but as everyone who has ever met a teenager knows – his attempts did not bear fruit. Old Mamasan found this whole situation to be unbearably embarrassing.
Old Mamasan – being of somewhat sound mind – quickly grabbed the Kid and jumped out of the “snow car”. I spent the next hour pretending not to know the ol’ hubby, and to have absolutely nothing to do with the “snow car”. Yup- I imposed an embargo on him, of sorts.
With the help of a friend, the ol’ hubby got the snow car running again, and as it was a really long walk home, and both the Kid and I were starting to get a bit cold – I decided it was time to lift the embargo and get into the “snow car” for the return to town.
Besides – Longyearbyen is a town where everybody know everybody, so the whole pretending not to know ol’ hubby was useless.
Would you like to see more of this breathtaking scenery and know more about life in the Northernmost town in the world? Click on the links below: