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Longyearbyen Photos

From: Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard


The Longbyearbyen graveyard dates back to 1918, when seven Norwegian miners died in the worldwide Spanish Flu epidemic. In the late 1990s, researchers hoped to find samples of the flu virus in the victims' frozen remains. (See an archived Canadian Medical Association Journal article in PDF format.) A Longyearbyen resident told me that the experiment was unsuccessful because the bodies had deteriorated, but I haven't been able to confirm that information on my own.

Today, people who die in Longyearbyen are flown to the Norwegian mainland for burial, because natural heaving of the permafrost gradually brings coffins (and bodies) to the surface. Cremation urns can be buried in the Longyearbyen cemetery, but few residents or their relatives have taken advantage of this option.

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