We’ve arrived in Longyearbyen…the world’s northernmost settlement (defined as 1,000 people or more). The name Longyearbyen literally translates to “Long year town.” There are more polar bears (3,000) here than people (2,500).
Longyearbyen is home to the Global Seed Vault — which stores 2.5 billion seeds. Like a safety deposit box for our planet’s seeds, the vault’s purpose is to provide a safeguard against both incremental and catastrophic loss of our planet’s crop diversity. The vault is built into the side of a hill taking advantage of the permafrost (see photo below). In 2015, Syria was the first nation to withdraw seeds from the vault.
Interesting facts: No one is permitted to be born or die here! Pregnant women must return to the mainland 3 weeks prior to their due date and no one has been buried in Svalbard for 70 years! This is because bodies can’t decompose in the ground due to the permafrost. Cats are also banned in Svalbard…but there are 900 Dogs. 🐕 > 🐈
Update: I just saw my first Svalbard reindeer!