Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mine 2B, Airships, and Twenty Years of Tourism

By Alexandra Wright and Jane Rivas
Today we started bright and early.  It was our intention to scale the cliff face directly behind our guesthouses with the goal of exploring the remains of Mine 2B.  Of all the mines present in the mountains of Longyearbyen, Mine 2B is the most complete.  It was created in 1937 after its adjoining mine, 2A, became too long, so an alternative, and more practical, entrance was created: 2B.  The mine used the long wall technique, where long tunnels were used in the mine with side aisles.  The coal was extracted via coal cutters and floor scrapers that helped to move the rocks to the entrance of the mine where they could be processed.  In 1943, with the continuation of the World War II, German warships visited Longyearbyen and set fire to its mines.  It was not until 1947 that work was restarted in the 2B system.  It continued to be in use until 1960 when the coal seam ended and Store Norske started work on Mine 5.
Like many of our other hikes, the one up to 2B proved to be a rewarding challenge! Being able to maneuver around within the old mine, its adjoining buildings, and the surrounding landscape provided us with a valuable new perspective on the mining industry present in Spitsbergen.  The steep terrain, cold climate, and relative isolation faced on the side of the mountain represented only a fraction of the difficulties faced by those that chose to make their home here.  Having seen this mine, it also gives a greater historical significance and understanding to the role that coal mining companies, like Store Norske, have and continue to play within these Arctic environments.
After safely making it back down the mountain, we continued to examine the built environment within Longyearbyen city while grabbing lunch at the local café, Fruene.  Our next stop was the newly opened Spitsbergen Airship Museum.  A private owner, with the sole purpose of bringing these artifacts back to their rightful home, compiled the entire collection and covered the ceiling and walls with aluminum to give the exhibition a modern Arctic feel. The museum deals with three of the dramatic aerial expeditions to reach the North Pole that originated in Svalbard. Our day concluded with a relaxed interview of Andreas Umbreit, a local tourist company owner.  It was nice to discuss over hot chocolate the changing character of Arctic Tourism as a means of better understanding the evolution that has occurred in this location. 

Alexandra Wright is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently studying Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Human Dimensions. She is from Chicago, IL

Jane Rivas is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is currently studying in the pre-medical field and pursuing a duel degree in Chemistry and the History of Art.  Jane is studying in Stockholm, Sweden with the Arctic Summer Program.


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