Random weirdness for the week of March 20, 2018


It’s been entertaining in a grim sort of way to read all the articles during the past month about scientists “freaking out” about the weather in Svalbard and elsewhere in the Arctic, but, wow, did things jump to a new level during the gale-force windstorms during the weekend. An alert issued for Longyearbyen by actual scientists warned the winds might cause trees to end up laying across the road, along with other large unsecured items like trampolines.Much as we might cast a suspicious eye on the cast filming a certain Unreality TV Show here since trees keep showing up in their fictional version of Svalbard, our impressive team of Public Eyes hasn’t spotted any shrubbery on the sets. So that leaves possibilities such as the possibility trampolines and trees are among our newest invasive species, such objects are part of those huge garbage patches matching their way north in our oceans or that the winds really were so wild locals might have a “hey, maybe we are in Kansas now” moment. Note we didn’t say those are all of the possibilities – among other things, we notice there are still discarded Christmas trees next to dumpsters for whatever reason and last year the city paid 20,000 kroner for a big trampoline at Svalbardhallen since “there are almost no private trampolines in Longyearbyen…”

Speaking of out-of-place study greenery, it’s easy to suspect the photo at the top of this page is a Photoshop job – or perhaps a container for the various vehicles, technical gear and other stuff being used by the Above Mentioned Show. But it turns out to be one of the more unusual entries in a photo competition, according to a blog post by Baard Fiksdal of Nettavisen. “There is a lot of seriousness in nature,” he wrote about the photo taken by his friend Olav Njaastad. “There is often drama in mountains, skies and sea. But suddenly you can see something completely different, and maybe begin to laugh aloud. When you are going to take pictures on Svalbard, there are often almost no other colors than black and white…” 

And since this week’s rant seems to be about out-of-place objects, here’s yet another tall tale that no doubt will end up being part of the area’s false folklore among some. An article headlined “The bear who came to church” in India’s Morung Express by Easterine Kire, repeating a tale from someone who was supposedly a visiting priest at Svalbard Church recently. “The church on Longyearbyen, the main township, always keeps its doors open,” Kire wrote. “Visitors can come in and sit in the church and meditate or take pictures. Filming is allowed. And coffee and cookies are always laid out as the climate is arctic and it is a normal part of arctic life to offer any guest a cup of warm coffee. One day, a hungry bear walked in and helped himself to the cookies and left. There is only one story like that. The bears do not make a habit of dropping in at church and emptying the cookie plate.” It is, as Kire says, a “sweet story” – but saccharine rather than sugar according to a few long.timers we asked. There has been an occasion or two or a polar bear spotted outside the church, but the only one indoors is the one that’s been lazing in the lounge for quite some time (unless it’s only pretending to be stuffed, of course, or is in a really deep sugar coma from the raid). Almost as odd is the article – which goes on a long and somewhat rambling fashion – omits a true legendary raid when describing Pyramiden. The writer notes how “one tourist wrote a horror piece about encountering a polar bear” (with no details), but overlooks the story now told by every guide about the bear that went on a beer binge after breaking through a window into the hotel’s bar.