Random weirdness for the week of June 16, 2015

cokemines

Whoa…it seems Svalbard may have a very lucrative future in mining after all. Our dwindling coal deposits may never make it back into the black, but we’ve now got the Great White Hope, according to an Italian visitor who has revealed the existence of “coke mines” covering a vast area of Spitsbergen. Apparently built before 1946, “everything has remained intact” since men abandoned them, wrote Liliana Monticone in a blog post titled “Svalbard, 12 reasons to choose them” (tinyurl.com/ngahqt5). We can think of many reasons the miners stopped – ranging from a collective fatal overdose to achieving riches beyond the gross national product of every nation on Earth – but as Monticone’s photo shows, it clearly wasn’t due to tapped-out deposits. We learned a few other things from her listicle, such as the “Pink Zone” in the core of Longyearbyen is guaranteed to be bear-free and “in Pyramiden you can see the history of human stupidity.” Because we’re not actually cruel, we’ll point out much of the seeming absurdity is due to language and layout issues, but it’s still mind-blowing – so to speak – to ponder the possibilities with all that “snow”…

Svalbard doesn’t exactly have a large Muslim population, but with visitors arriving by the thousands on ships and planes it seems worth mentioning we’ll be the toughest town in the world for those observing Ramadan when it begins Thursday. The dawn-to-sunset fasting thing has long presented practical and theological difficulties for those in the polar zones, but new rules from the European Council for Fatwa and Research state the faithful should use the most recent sunrise and sunset times. In Longyearbyen, that means fasting from 1:52 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. which, among other things, might put a chill on their spirits during the annual summer solstice beach party Saturday at the Svalbard Sailing Club. Luckily, the bonfire might cure some of that since they’d probably pass on the hot dogs anyhow.