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Pole to Pole

Day 3: Ny Alesund

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe're quartered in simple comfort in a long wooden hut comprising individual bedrooms, shared shower and lavatory, sports hall and a room for conferences and classes. It's owned, as is most of Ny Alesund, by the King's Bay Kull Company. Kull, or coal, is the main reason for a human presence on Spitsbergen but following a series of disasters in the early 1960s the Ny Alesund mines were closed down and the accommodation is now used for scientific research, intrepid vacations and the inevitable weather station. There is even a fledgling British presence here in the shape of Nick Cox and his wife Katie who are employed in setting up an Arctic research station.

Life is still run along the lines of a company town. Breakfast at 7.30, lunch at noon and supper at five are all served in a communal canteen, a five-minute walk along a snow-covered track. The preferred mode of transport is the snowmobile, often known by one of its trade names as the Ski-Doo. Built like a fat motorbike, it is driven by a caterpillar track with short skis on the front for steering. With flashy trims and names like Exciter, Enticer and Phazer II they make a lot of noise and give a great impression of speed although rarely hitting more than 45 m.p.h. They are to be our transport on the 155-mile journey across the mountains to the capital town of Longyearbyen.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 3
  • Country/sea: Norway
  • Place: Ny Alesund
  • Book page no: 15

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