Photo of Crown Prince Haakon, center, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit at Arctic Husky Travellers kennels by Sara Svanemyr, The Royal Court
It’s about as royal a three-day trip as any random tourist seeking a “real life” experience in Longyearbyen might hope for: meals and music with students, roaming coal mines with the workers, dogsledding, and literally topping off the tour at a top-secret mountaintop satellite facility.
Of course, this red-carpet rollout isn’t just for anyone. The tourists in this case were every much an attraction to locals as vice-versa as Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit participated in a packed schedule of gatherings focusing on how residents are faring during turbulent times and raise awareness about climate change.
“I have to praise the Crown Prince couple for the way they met with everyone,” Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen wrote in a post on his Facebook page. “We all felt comfortable in their company and the conversation was loose.”
The royal couple has made multiple trips to Svalbard on official and private visits over the years, and as with most of them their public focus and comments were largely about climate change.
“In Svalbard, we see with extra clarity the fundamental challenges of our time: the melting ice, the threatened species, the changing climate,” Crown Prince Haakon told reporters. “This is nature at its harshest, and at the same time its most vulnerable.”
A chronicle of their visit, according to Olsen:
• Day 1: The royal couple got an overview of “Longyearbyen today” at the library – including outdoor recreation programs, a language cafe for foreign residents, and emergency rescue services – before taking a walk along the mountains where avalanche barriers have been installed the past few years. That was followed by a walking tour through town with Visit Svalbard tourism officials.
• Day 2: Sharing meals and music with youths at Polarflokken Kindergarten and Longyearbyen School, followed by a dogsledding trip and a gathering with about 60 people at Svalbard Museum.
• Day 3: A trip to Mine 7 and the Svalbard Satellite Station, followed by presentations about Arctic research at The University Centre in Svalbard.
“Haakon and I are very, very grateful to be back in Longyearbyen once again,” Crown Princess Mette-Marit said during the reception at the museum. “I think you who live here know how much the Royal Family enjoys visiting Svalbard. What strikes us each time we come is that this is a very special meeting place – even if it’s a bit off the beaten track.”