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Mining the Past

PyramidenSvalbard & Jan Mayen
Worth a detour
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Story by
VJ Singh
On a rainy day, at 78°N, M/S Polar Girl sets out from Longyearbyen to Pyramiden. Even in dreary weather, there is joy in watching the puffins swimming alongside the boat.
Then we step on to the most surreal of ghost towns, Pyramiden, a Russian mining settlement with the northern-most statue of Lenin.
The decision to abandon in the 90s was sudden. People were given just hours to leave. Signs of a hasty departure are everywhere. Dried up plants. Rusted playground swings. Utensils and stoves left in disarray. Hand-drawn artwork taped on the walls.
The guide points out the men’s and women’s dorm buildings, euphemistically called London and Paris. Everything is trapped in a 1970s time-warp. A blast from the Soviet past.
Trust Arktikugol (Arctic Coal), a Russian state owned coal mining company, continues to run this, now as a tourist destination. Perfect for filming a James Bond movie.
Back on the boat, we have views of the glacier and freshly barbequed burgers to cheer us up.