Despite Svalbard's conversion from unrestricted exploitation and mining to a "green" environment, the largest tourist business is for Norwegians to come up in winter to ride the snowmobiles all over the place. Snowmobiling in wild lands, is apparently forbidden in Norway
|The only town in Svalbard is Longyearbyen, with a reported population of around 2000
Originally a coal mining town founded by a Mr. Longyear, it is now the seat of government and a tourist centre.
It is rather a strange place, with a total of about 35 km of roads available, but more cars & trucks, mostly new, per capita than anywhere we have been, as well as a huge number of snowmobiles ("snow-scooters" in local English)
Crime is almost non existent, so people are happy to leave these machine all over the place.
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|Spitsbergen has less than half the snowfall fo Montreal, and winter is not so cold, but some bureaucrat seemed to believe that radar is necessary on one of the government snow-cats.||Prior to 1974, Longyearbyen was isolated for
about 5 months every winter, due to the port icing over. Then an
airport was built.
An inscription in the excellent local museum mentions many advantages of having an airport, but also laments that it facilitated the arrival of influenza, bureaucrats and members of parliament.
The port has been open for the past five years. One more symptom of global warming.
|When Longyearbyen was a company
town, most residents were men living in barracks.
Liquor is much cheaper than in Norway, due to absence of taxes, but a permit is required to buy any. Cruise ship passengers can not buy liquor, but yachties are given the same permit as the miners used to get. We were told that the quantity was intended to be enough to keep a miner drunk for 4 days, but no more, since the mines worked for 10 days then took 4 days off.
Today, the houses are mostly modern, as seen behind the snowmobile park and to the left.
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