Calling an event lively when it begins with a fossil and ends with a polar bear pelt might seem like a contradiction, but in-between those two remnants from deceased wildlife are more than a hundred items locals will spent several hours battling each other for – including a chance to infiltrate a top-secret government facility, a barrel of jet fuel and a chance to pick up trash for several days.
Sunday is essentially Auction Day in Norway thanks to an annual telethon that this year is raising funds for women in troubled regions, but in Longyearbyen a separate bidding bonanza starting at 6 p.m. at Kulturhuset features a huge range of exotic offerings (anybody want to rent the governor’s rescue ship for a day?) that takes things up a level – much as happens with the fundraiser itself since the community historically raises the most per-person of any town in Norway.
The large individual donation total is due largely to a month of local events leading up to the auction/telethon, which during the past week have included a two-day flea market at The University Centre in Svalbard and a games/food/sales/lottery at Longyearbyen School. Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik, lead organizer of the local events for many years, estimates between 300,000 to 400,000 kroner has been raised as of Thursday morning.
The annual total frequently exceeds one million kroner by the end of the local auction, due in part to several premium items such as the polar bear pelt (an annual end-of-bidding tradition that some years fetches more than 100,000 kroner), an overnight trip for 10 to Ny-Ålesund and a daylong expedition for 20 on the governor’s Polarsyssel vessel. But plenty of memorable, strange and/or unique items – most with themes tied to Svalbard – are on the auction list for those with lower budgets.
A sampling of some (not all) noteworthy items, in order of their appearance on the full list:
• #4: A tour for four people of SvalSat (normally off-limits and a target for spy/war conspiracies).
• #21 and #63: Four days of picking up trash in north Svalbard during the governor’s summer cleanup cruise.
• #29: A search-and-rescue helicopter exercise for three people.
• #43: A trip to Hornsund for one person hosted by Svalbard Church.
• #54: A children’s birthday party for 10 at Olaf Storø’s gallery.
• #68: A tour of Svea (where tours are ending as the mine dismantling progresses) for two people.
• #72: A mini-concert by the Store Norske Men’s Choir.
• #101: A “Babes, Bullets and Bubbles” target-shooting training evening for 12 women.
Also occurring during the final days of the fundraiser are sales of baked goods and lottery-drawing tickets (for a range of prizes) at the entrance Svalbardbutikken, and door-to-door donation collections from 2:30-5 p.m. Sunday afternoon (volunteers interested in collecting are asked to send a text message to 412 37 209).