TO THE VISITOR WHO TOOK OUR POLAR BEAR SIGN: Not to sacrifice journalistic impartiality or anything, but you suck


So now you’ve got our famous sign countless thousands of people took photos of themselves with as their requisite Svalbard “trophy” shot. What are you going to do with it – hang it on your wall so you can brag to your family and friends about your trophy? (Seems fitting for your judgement and very hopefully not theirs.)


This guy and the dozens of others who worked up a serious sweat getting themselves into position for this iconic shot during the Spitsbergen Marathon in 2015 are very cool. You, who stole this sign during the chilly hours overnight Friday/Saturday, are not(although you might work up a sweat if/when you get caught trying to smuggle it out of town at the airport or post office). Photo by Mark Sabbatini

By the way, it seems safe asserting that headline is objective fact. There’s no way a local is going to steal the sign since, like stealing a car, where can you possibly keep it safely? There’s also the basic decency thing unless perhaps you’re among the residents forced lately to leave against their will (in which case, sorry because we of all folks know it had to be heartbreaking, but with that act you’ve truly lost your “resident” claim).

Presumably you took it during the hours surrounding midnight Saturday now that we’ve got a few hours of full cover-under-night darkness just past the autumnal equinox. And you took by far the most famous of the two “headed out of town” road signs about half a kilometer to the east near the dog kennels so there weren’t any nearby street or building lights. While the dogs may have raised a ruckus that can happen for all kinds of reasons including an actual polar bear approaching town, which of course is why the “you need a weapon now” warning exists.

Of course, the large, flat metallic triangle might raise alarms if you try to get it through the metal detectors at the airport (the only way off the island unless you happen to be on a cargo ship or one of the other very few boats going between Svalbard and the mainland during these pandemic days). Also hard to envision the post office isn’t going to be suspicious of any large, heavy flat packages since us small-town folk quickly tend to know what everyone’s up to, as they say.

But if you somehow snugly smuggle it home and hang it on your wall it’s hard to envision what kind of judgement it takes (although stealing the sign is an obvious indicator) to think it’ll be admired by family and friends. Unless they’re inclined to the same type of peer approval as a gang of bullies who beat up kids half their size on the playground. Like showing off feathers, historic relics and other cultural/wildlife items that are also illegal to take from here, mostly it just affirms you’re part of the unfortunately growing crowd that during the past decade has given many locals a bad taste about the tourists seen as so vital to Longyearbyen’s economic future.

Alas, lest if you get satisfaction (if not your loved ones) in thinking you’re some kind of Svalbard “master criminal,” your heist isn’t unique nor does it measure up to your predecessor(s). Back in 2008 somebody swiped the polar bear signs at both ends of the road in early August when there was 24-hour daylight (although it was during the early morning hours of a very foggy Saturday).

Finally, just so you know, on social media only a few locals are responding with a handful sarcastic quips (i.e. “no tourists, so no sign I guess”), so if you’re part of “the cruelty is the point” crowd sorry (cough) to deny you that pleasure.

But, hey, you got us to give you some attention (as if that’s flattering unless you’re akin to a woman who considers it an honor to appear naked in Hustler). But we’re done with that now – unless of course the police nab you and we follow up with a few more quickly-tossed-out-there neutral observations.