I’ve been there. Flew up on a commercial (Braathens) flight from Oslo to Longyear town in early December 2001. It’s a wonderful, strange place. In December it remains completely dark during the day; not even a glimmer of twilight on the southern horizon. They warn you so much and so often about bears that you end up in a permanent state of nervousness walking around outside in the dark. You’re supposed to carry a high-powered rifle at all times if you go outside the settlements. They have lots of stories of what happened to people that ignored this rule.
As for getting a job, yes, any citizen of a country that is signatory to the Svalbard Treaty is entitled to live there. You can get a job teaching in the University, working in a shop or a bar (for example in Longyear town there’s a kebab shop, grocery stores and a night-club/bar called Huset). Many of the people in the Russian settlement seem to be Ukrainian; you could look into getting a job as a miner, if you fancy working down a coal mine in the High Arctic. Then there’s the Polish settlement at Hornsund.
Most people seem to live there for 2 years or less - I don’t think there are many permanent residents.
Been there? I worked there briefly in the early nineties (on the world’s tiniest drilling rig). Crew changed by snowmobile and we had the bear hunter available if anyone was foolish enough to go outside.
A quaint story a friend of a friend told me when I met him at a party a few years ago.
He went to Svalbard as an exchange student and had two very interesting experiences:
The first was that they spent the first week of classes learning how to shoot rifles. Just so they’d know how to handle them in case of polar bears. And as previously stated, they were supposed to bring their rifles (they got “loan” rifles) whenever they went outside.
The second was about a weird professor he had who said they couldn’t drink the tap water in most cities in Sweden. As the foaf was Swedish (and regularly drank tap water at home) he tried to dissuade the professor from this misconception, but failed.
I worked for NOAA briefly, and they regularly sent teams of two-to-six US government employees up there. We were building the ground station for NPOESS, a weather satellite, and Svalbard is an ideal place to take downlinks because it is so close to the pole that the satellite is able to communicate with Svalbard on every orbit. I’d say I’ve probably met a dozen or so folks who’ve set foot on Svalbard, including two who encountered a polar bear while driving out to the dish.
So, in addition to hibernicus’s list, I’ll say that if you know satellite communications or high-speed / low-latency / high-reliability ground communications, you can probably get a job in Svalbard helping to maintain or operate the array of communications antennae up there. Also they probably need a UNIX guru or network admin for the facility.
I’ve been there as a tourist for a weekend in the summer. There’s a fairly vibrant tourist industry there during the summer. It is a very peculiar place. No taxes. There’s alcohol rationing (not because of scarcity). The norwegian and russian settlement are like night and day.
I wouldn’t particularly recommend going out of your way to go there in the summer (but i can’t comment on the winter there because it’s vastly different). I went because I was living in Norway at the time, and it was actually fairly cheap to visit Svalbard at the time.
It’s an attempt to stop rampant alcoholism. There is no sunlight for three months of the year, you can’t go outside, there are very few women - the temptation to drown yourself in a bottle of vodka or two looms very, very large for a lot of people.
A small number of political asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected have tried moving to Svalbard. Legally they can do so, as long as they can support themselves and find a place to live. The problem is that the communities are all quite small, meaning relatively few available jobs, and living expenses are high due to the islands’ remoteness. But hey, if you think you can make a go of it…
A few questions:
-are the coal mining operations profitable? Why did the Russians close theirs down?
are there other minable minerals there?
-how much is the flight from Norway?
-I understand the mine buildings were shelled by german U-Boats in WWII-was any real damage done
-how is the tourist hotel?
I’d like to visit someday!
My round-trip flight was ~USD$220 in 2004 from Tromsø. Which is pretty cheap, but getting to Tromsø itself isn’t necessarily cheap. But, hey, you can bring back alcohol tax free which can considerably mitigate costs (assuming you live in Norway).
I don’t know how accurate it was, but in the movie “The 30 Days Night” (a vampire movie I didn’t enjoy much), which is set in an Alaskan town that has a stretch of 30 days of darkness every winter, alcohol sales were banned during that time. The reason given was that 30 days of no sunlight was depression-causing enough by itself , and they didn’t want to exacerbate it by adding alcohol to the mix.