Friday, July 26, 2013


Pyramiden. Photo: Dag Avango
After a nice sunny night, we woke up to another rain filled morning. Today our plan was to hike to Pyramiden, an old Russian mining settlement, named after the central mountains pyramid shape. The main goal in going to Pyramiden was to understand how the settlement functioned and how it impacted the Arctic environment.

The five kilometer hike to the settlement was cold and uncomfortable due to the constant rain and poor visibility. On our way, we had to to climb over large boulders and trek through thick mud. In the mud we even came across footprints from the same mother polar bear and cubs we had seen a few days prior.

After two hours of hiking we finally saw the fog covered settlement in the valley below. Walking through Pyramiden we saw several public buildings including the old cultural center, swimming pool, and kindergarten. Because the mining in Pyramiden was halted in 1998 all of these buildings were abandoned and mostly uninhabited. However, as of recently, Russia has begun to renovate this once thriving mining town. One of the most striking features of the settlement was the delapadated buildings which created the feeling of a ghost town. Many of these buildings had been built in the late 1970s–early 1980s and left as they were.

By the time we headed back to our camp, the sun had found its way out amidst the fog, revealing the majestic Nordenskiöld glacier across the bay. Tomorrow we plan to revisit Pyramiden to see more of the mysterious city and interview the local population on their experience with the mining town.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who traveled during summer 2013 to Stockholm, Sweden and Svalbard, Norway to participate in the interdisciplinary course, “Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic,” provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and co-organized with KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Course participants from both universities learn about issues related to climate change and the Arctic, capped by an excursion to conduct field research near the Arctic Circle. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a European Union Center of Excellence grant, and is an initiative of the Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational Research Exchange (INSPIRE). Student blog entries also appear on the web site of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.


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