Our exciting and luxurious Norway-Svalbard expedition on the NatGeo Resolution came to an inevitable end when we docked in Longyearbyen, (Svalbard's main centre of population amongst very few others). The town is located in Adventfjorden and there was tourisim to this area since 1896. The present name derives from an entrepreneurial English whaler John Munro Longyear who, having first visited as a tourist and seeing the opportunities offered by the mineral deposits there, returned and established the Arctic Coal Company. The mines have all but ceased operations now, but what remains of them define (some would say 'blight') the appearance of the town. The only other towns on Spitsbergen, and indeed in all of Svalbard, it seems, are the Russian mining communities of Barentsburg and Pyramiden, the former is still operating. Both are on Adventfjorden but neither are accessible by road, only by boat or helicopter, or ski-do in winter.
Once you leave the town limits of Longyearbyen, polar bear protection must be carried, guns and flares. We understand that there is also a night-time curfew within the town, for pedestrians. 
In WW2 1943, the Germans almost completely destroyed the town, but it has been rebuilt. Longyearbyen is still predominantly a minining town, but tourism must be a major earner. Longyearbyen has a population of 1800, of which 16% are from Thailand, Sweden, Russia and Ukraine. The brief time we spent in the pleasant village centre made us wish we could stay here for a few days more, but we had commitments to London to meet, so just one day here nad then we flew out via Oslo. Only SAS (Scandinavian Air) services Longyearbyen with flights to Tromso and Oslo, "some to Russia".
Out of town a few kilometers, up the fjord, we visited Camp Barentsz, a custom built function centre we think. There, in what was apparently a circular Sami meeting place, we were treated to a cosy fire, a presentation on polar bears and fresh pancakes. Another building there was a replica of the cabin that Barentsz' carpenter built to shelter his team when they were locked in the ice over winter during his third attempt to find the north-east passage to China. The cabin was built from his ship's own timber (there being no trees), so they had to be rescued when summer came. And at Camp Barents, ane enthusiastic man introduced us to his team of husky dogs and talked about their lives and how sleds work. No live demonstrations though, not enough snow! Our expedition co-passengers were very attracted to the animals.
The Sami meeting hut where we had pancakes and learned about polar bears, in particular how protected they are. 
All sled dogs live outside, even if they are pets, because it is too warm inside for their furry coats. 
Pancake making in the Barentsz cabin replica. It would have been very cramped with the entire crew sheltering inside.
It has been estimated that there are 3000 polar bears in all of Svalbard. We saw two of them. They have been seen in Longyearbyen. They are strictly protected and we were told repeatedly (on the ship and in town here) that to harm a bear is a criminal offence, to kill one is as serious as murder, and that you must prove self-defence to get off the charge. The bear must be attacking you and be within 10m. A bear shot in the back is proof of murder.
As southerners, Willem Barentsz (spelling is variable) is not well known to us, but his exploits were of similar significance to those by others in the Antarctic. He is well recognised up here, with his name given to many geographic features, not just this camp! The Dutch, frustrated by the dominance of Spain and Portugal, wanted a north-easterly passage to opportunites and markets in the orient. Barentsz was the leader of three Dutch expeditions. After being turned back by sea ice in the first two, he took a different tack in 1596 and in the process discovered Bear Island and, continuing north, Spitsbergen (previous blog posts). Again frustrated by sea ice, Barentsz pushed ahead with only one ship but got stuck. Despite the cabin, he and other crew members did not survive, but most eventually made it back to Amsterdam where they were first excoriated for failing and losing everything, but then feted when it was realised what they had achieved.
Longyearbyen township itself is replete with small apartments for mine-workers and visitors. Laid-up ski-dos are everwhere, relatively few wheeled transports. The small CBD centres on a pleasant square and features an impressive statue commemorating the miners who have worked the area. There is at least one bar, cafe, hairdresser, pharmacy, and a myriad of souvenir shops. An outdoors wear store has everything you could need, and there is a large supermarket. For a frontier town, Longyearbyen is pretty well complete.
The spectacular wood-lined natural history museum in Longyearbyen. Multiple universities participate in research from the university complex here. 
A special treat was a lunch at Huset, just means 'house', which is a large and dated establishment closer to the mines than downtown built for the relaxation of miners. Possibly it's the only place in town capable of handling our boatload of passengers? You could describe it as 'art deco with Norwegian touches', and our meal was served in a large theatre area. The buffet was excellent. Old photos of the walls indicated past good times in this place!
Arguably, Longyearbyen's most significant contribution to the contemporary world is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which is dug into the side of a mountain (abandoned coal mine) and overlooks the airport. The vault, which stores seeds from all over the world, is entirely funded by Norway, was opened in 2008, to provide 'security of the world's food supply against the loss of seeds in genebanks due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease and natural disasters' (Wikipedia). It is almost never open to the public, we could only look at it from outside, and it started as a domestic Norwegian project in 1984.
It was sad to depart the NatGeo Resolution which is such a modern and innovative vessel that it is a destination all by itself. The experience on board, a ship that is so quiet you can hardly tell it is moving and can turn on a dime by itself, was enhanced by great facilities and comfort on board, truly excellent service from the hotel staff, fine dining quality food throughout, a most experienced, knowledgeable and enthusiastic expedition team, and an adventurous capatin. There is really nothing to criticise and plenty to be in awe of!