Random weirdness for the week of April 14, 2015

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If an armed society is a polite society, then the North Pole is a very tactful place indeed these days. The always-weird spring season at the top of the world is getting an extra dose of firepower this year as the usual crowd of marathoners, rugby players, wedding parties and other adventure/novelty seekers is being joined by a whole bunch of Russian soldiers conducting extreme weather exercises. The military camp at roughly 89 degrees north latitude is on a different ice floe than the Barneo ice camp camp that hosts scientists and tourists, but it’s safe to say the latter groups are probably in better shape than any of their predecessors if a large-scale rescue situation or foreign invasion occurs (and since a youth group got stranded at the Pole with almost no fuel or food for a few days last year, that’s not entirely a laughing matter). We also figure the military camp has the best-trained polar bear guards in Barneo’s history, but machine guns and artillery aren’t going to result in the kind of pelt anybody lacking an NRA membership is going to want for a rug in front of the fireplace…

We thought a New York Times reporter was a bit off last year when he called Longyearbyen the ugliest town he’s even seen, but that’s fairly tame compared to an essay published last week by geologist Karsten Eig titled “A Visit To Mordor”. Clouds wrapping them into a world of black and white where fiery mountains and fearsome flesh-ripping creatures cast a pall over a place that’s forgotten its summer. “Mordor without the volcano, where black riders could emerge any minute?” he wrote about his visit last August. “Narnia when the evil witch ruled? At least it could have been a set for a James Bond movie intro. We are in Hornsund on the southwest part of Svalbard, a place so in the middle of fucking nowhere that even very few tourist trips go there.” He then proceeds to challenge readers on the types of rocks he sees and, with answers like “carboniferous rift sediments, mainly continental,” we find that a lot more haunting than the possibility Sauron might be secretly alive and raiding the kiełbasa at the Polish research station…

Moving on to some true heroes in a truly chilling situation, anybody remember the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Týr that did fill-in duty in Svalbard last summer when delivery of the governor’s new service vessel was delayed? The ship rescued 320 refugees from countries such as Palestine, Pakistan, Ghana and Libya when the wooden boat they were in began leaking off the coast of Sicily during Easter, according to ruv.is. At least 1,150 other refugees have been rescued by by Týr in the Mediterranean since December, according to the news agency.

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