Tag Archives: Pyramiden

SAME SAME, BUT DIFFERENT: Barentsburg and Pyramiden avoid layoffs and mining remains strong, but transit is harder and no one is vaccinated as they share Svalbard’s COVID-19 struggles


Photo by Alena Kutsenko

There’s no layoffs (although hours and seasonal hires are being cut), but travel to/from their home countries of Russia and Ukraine is even more of a hassle than for their neighbors from mainland Norway. The economic situation is also somewhat better because they’re maintaining significant coal mining activity, but nobody’s been vaccinated yet.

Call it a classic case of “same same, but different” compared to Longyearbyen as Svalbard’s Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden struggle with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and this week’s long list of new restrictions threatening to choke off much of the already subpar the spring and Easter tourism season.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR EASTER WEEKEND (WED.-MON.): News/events added frequently and chronologically, so you can keep reading it without turning your brain into a fried egg


This story will be updated through the holiday (most recent update 4 p.m. Saturday), with major/breaking news reported in separate articles. Photo of Russian settlement residents chilling out with some ice fishing during an excursion last weekend by Timofey Rogozhin.

Much of Svalbard may be unusually quiet during Easter weekend due to the usual businesses closures and most unusual coronavirus restrictions, but those wanting a spiritually and physically inspiring experience still have plenty of options including free guided accompaniment on snowmobile trips between Longyearbyen and Pyramiden on Thursday and Friday.

The weather forecast generally calls for safe conditions, although strong winds and some snow is forecast Thursday afternoon and evening, and mostly clear skies on Friday will give way to increasing clouds through Monday. Temperatures will generally be in the range of minus 15 degrees Celsius.

HOW SVALBARD’S ‘OTHERS’ ARE FARING: Pretty much ‘normal’ at hysterically cool Bjørnøya film fest, two women self-isolating all winter at trappers’ hut, no layoffs in Barentsburg


While 90 percent of Longyearbyen’s tourism employees are facing layoffs, all of those in Barentsburg and Pyramiden are busy and planning for the summer season. Life in the international research community of Ny-Ålesund continued normally with the obvious health precautions. Those on a research ship frozen in the ice far to the north are going about daily life normally, but anxious about the virus cutting off incoming staff and support.

Then there’s the tiny Bjørnøya Meteorological Station at the southern tip celebrating its annual film festival despite problems caused by “hysterically clear and fine weather” and black-market tickets. And two women well into nine months of “self-isolation” at a remote trapper’s hut who just celebrated a birthday and are blogging sympathies to those elsewhere following their adventures.

PYRAMIDEN.NET: Russian ghost town famed for lone tiny phone ‘hotspot’ sets aside reluctance and installs internet service


(Photo by Elizabeth Bourne)

Among the many peculiarities in the world’s northernmost ghost town was a lone “hotspot” where getting an often-spotty mobile phone signal was possible – which was how the handful of modern employees without a connection to the outside world said they preferred it as part of preserving the character of a truly remote Arctic settlement. But that’s now over – very likely to the relief for a rapidly growing number of visitors –  as future ambitions are supplanting historic nostalgia as Pyramiden now wired for internet as well as phone signals.

1,600-liter barrel of diesel captured on film as it falls from governor’s helicopter into sea near Pyramiden


A 1,600-liter barrel of diesel fell from a helicopter into the water near Pyramiden while it being carried by one of The Governor of Svalbard’s aircraft, with those transporting the fuel lacking the equipment to contain the spill before it dispersed into the sea, according to officials.

‘Dah’ to détente: Russians get money to upgrade Pyramiden, fight aliens in record round of environmental grants


Turns out the governor agrees with the Russians: there’s too many unwanted foreigners in Svalbard – and some serious money is about to be spent doing something about it.

More than 1.1 million kroner for three projects involving alien species – including one  assessing alien plants and growth conditions in the Russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden – are among the 39 projects receiving a record 13 million kroner in the latest grants from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund.

Polarizing art: ‘Crazy’ overtakes quality as ten live performance artists squeezed into nine-day Arctic Action festival


Quality (and quirky) art – such as a guy being buried alive in coal – was the emphasis when it debuted last year. This year they’re just rushing impulsively through things all at once.

Ghost of a ghost: Pyramiden’s tourism revival means both new life and becoming a shadow of its haunted past


Tours begin with a humorous quip about the only thing it’s OK to steal.

Standing under Pyramiden’s iconic entrance sign next to a cart containing supposedly the last ton of coal mined in the settlement, the famous guide known as Sasha delivers his usual spiel in a voice and clothing directly from central casting of the stereotypical Soviet era.

“Sometimes tourists like to take coal from there so we have to refill it,” he said. “It’s OK though. If you want some coal, that’s OK.”

Riches and refugees: People ask about buying Pyramiden weekly; here’s one guy’s reason – and what he’s eyeing now


(This is a guest column by Jiwoon Hwang)

I’m a newcomer from South Korea. I graduated Draper University’s international entrepreneurship program in Silicon Valley, attended an entrepreneurship program in South Korea and used to enjoy making robots.

When I was traveling Europe, I decided to visit Svalbard. I visited here two months ago. What amazed me was its great scenery and its open-border policy welcoming every world citizen. After going through a seven-week entrepreneurship bootcamp in Silicon Valley, I decided to develop Svalbard as international hub of creativity, entrepreneurship and cosmopolitanism.

Chillingly clueless: Svalbard’s 10 strangest stories of 2015


Which is stranger: a year where parasitic wasps went on a killing spree or the year that actually happened? Yeah, we’re not sure either.

All we know is both versions of Svalbard will be back – and probably even stranger – next year.