Random weirdness for the week of Jan. 10, 2017


Imagine paying lots of bucks to see and/or hear yourself starring in the professional championship game of your choice (a thing that has actually been offered). Now apply that concept to being a brave Arctic explorer in the rugged untamed wilds of Svalbard and you’ve got a grasp on a trip being offered at the end of May by a UK company that allows “budding David Attenborough’s” to “star in your own wildlife documentary.” Up to four people will be accompanied by a five-person film crew who will record all that they see and do and “will subsequently produce a broadcast-quality recording of their adventure, to be shown to the group’s friends and family at a private screening upon their return home,” according to a description by The Telegraph of London. And this oh-so-bold “Heart of the Arctic” weeklong adventure? A tour of Longyearbyen, a visit “to the site of” the Doomsday Vault (meaning the parking lot), dogsledding and snowmobiling (because snow conditions are typically ideal the last week in May), kayaking in Adventfjorden (which basically means paddling around in the bay while never losing sight of town), and a whale and walrus cruise. Oh, and they promise, “Up close and personal with the star of our show, the Polar Bear.” Because that trumpeting pitch is more winning than “maybe you’ll see one from a distance, but the odds are against it. Oh, and you definitely won’t be the guy in this cage, who paid massively in fines and humiliation for this illegal stunt.” Not that we’d ever suggested anything that might cause actual harm to people, but if you don’t want to bore your relatives with a very expensive “Standard Tour of Svalbard” home movie, allow us to float the idea of embracing the “reality TV” concept and use tasers/alcohol/nudity or some similar event-altering device and turn the whole thing into an elimination competition…


End of the world: An artistic shot of an innocent ski trip near the Pole on a sunny day or people fleeing after a nuke is launched from SvalSat?

Or maybe some powerful rulers in the New World Order can use the trip as cover for one of their devious dastardly doomsday deeds here. Their exploits were exposed by the always-reliable folks at the World Social Web Site, which notes the SvalSat facility in the hills above the airport is crucial to the U.S.’ nuclear strategy because it is “vital to discover and intercept Russian missiles over the North Pole headed towards the continental U.S.” Among the visitors to the facility, according to the website, are Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Senator John McCain. But the Svalbard Treaty almost certainly makes the militarized facility illegal, so “therefore, the official purpose of John Kerry’s visit to Svalbard in July 2016 was to ‘view the effects of climate change.’ Similarly, when McCain visited Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard in August 2015, it was declared that the purpose was ‘to highlight the plight of polar bears.'” On the other hand, while we’re pretty sure Wiggy (“light ’em if you got ’em”) Trump could afford to purchase the trip for his family (all those foreign dignitaries being told to stay in his hotel add up), we’re guessing his idea of subtle secrecy would be asking on-camera “so…which of these buttons shoots down the nuclear missiles?…”



Green with envy: If you drive away on a kicksled that doesn’t look like this, you’re basically committing Svalbard’s version of joyriding. Photo courtesy of Visit Svalbard.

In much cheaper local travel news, Longyearbyen became part of the conspiracy to allow the UN to take over the world by offering bikesharing during the summer and kicksledsharing. Obviously word of the somewhat unique mode of communal transport has gotten out – a bit too efficiently. There have been a few inquiries on community Facebook pages about missing kicksleds owned by residents, as there seems to be a genuine belief among some visitors (we’re assuming locals know better, but it’s not like we’re done a scientific study) that all such contraptions are shared equipment. This, of course, is why Visit Svalbard ordered the shared sleds in a rather distinctive green color and put signs explaining the rules on them (i.e. if you take one to the store, don’t count on it for bringing your groceries home). Tip: the kicksleds seem to be clustered in the lowest parts of the town (we’re looking at you UNIS) rather than those higher in elevation, for reasons we can’t possibly imagine…

Speaking of free communal stuff, Bruktikken may seem hopelessly cluttered and casual in how it gives everything away, but it turns out they keep rather detailed records of their operation. According to their Facebook page, “we got 4,398 visitors (34 per open day) and 16,693 (116 per open day) items left our shop into new hands. Roughly half of it was clothes.” It’s not hard to understand how they were among the big winners in a surreal 2016, since so many people had to move from Longyearbyen due to downsizing and many who stayed were forced to abandon their homes multiple times due to avalanche and landslide threats.