Pole to Pole
Day 7: Longyearbyen
In my spartan room at Hotel Number 5, the information sheet on Longyearbyen reads more like a company report than a tourist brochure. The settlement was founded in 1906 by an American, John Munroe Longyear. For ten years it was run by men only but in 1916 the Norwegians bought Longyear out and the first women were allowed to accompany their mining husbands here. The population today consists of 250 women, 250 children and 550 men. 'However,' it adds, a little ominously, 'there are still important differences between Longyearbyen and other small towns in mainland Norway. Here there are neither pensioners, handicapped people, nor persons terminally ill.' I half expect my door to be flung open, and my birth certificate and pulse given a snap check.
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