Try not to get sick

The following article contains one palpable untruth:

Dying has been banned on the island since 1950 because bodies simply freeze.

Um, no. (And what would be the penalty? Surely not a life sentence.)

But this is the truth of the cold-as-you-name-it town of Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, north latitude 78.2°:

[In 1950] it was discovered that bodies in the local cemetery were not decomposing because of the chilly temperatures.

The island’s climate is so arctic …

How … arctic … is it?

… that in the 2000’s, scientists, morbidly fascinated by the discovery, tested corpses buried there who succumbed to the 1917 influenza virus — and to their amazement, retrieved live samples of the virus.

Residents had been living among the deadly virus for decades, without even realising it.

The graveyard no longer takes any new inhabitants because of fears disease will spread throughout the island, meaning that even those who have lived their whole life on the island, cannot be buried there.

That particular strain of the virus killed one of every twenty people on the planet.

In a bleak prospect, those who are terminally ill are shipped off the island and flown hundreds of miles to the mainland of Oslo, where they will spend the remainder of their days until death.

This is only one of several unusual laws that prevail in this town of 2,000:

Notable examples of such laws include a ban on cats, a restriction on how much alcohol an individual can purchase on a monthly basis, and a requirement that any individuals venturing outside carry a rifle for protection against polar bears.

The deal on cats:

Svalbard is home to abundant Arctic bird populations and cats pose a problem for the bird life. So Svalbard has prohibited them.

A hard life, perhaps, but one adapts, I guess.

(Via Fark.)


  1. McGehee »

    11 March 2018 · 7:27 pm

    Some bards are more sval than others, I suppose.

  2. fillyjonk »

    11 March 2018 · 9:01 pm

    I mainly know Svalbard from a population ecology thing, where reindeer got dropped off on one of the islands in the chain, spiked up sharply (no predators and lots of food) on a geometric-growth curve, and then, after depleting a lot of food and suffering a severe bout of extended ice covering what food remained, died off.

    So I’m guessing those reindeer corpses are still lying there, undecomposed? Creepy.

  3. CGHill »

    11 March 2018 · 9:44 pm

    Polar bears might have finished off the bodies. But reindeer are apparently plentiful again, and still have no predators.

  4. Holly H »

    12 March 2018 · 8:15 am

    I guess one tiny silver lining to losing all the polar bears is, they can cancel the rule about shotguns.

    And maybe there will be enough frozen polar bear corpses to allow scientists to recover the species in a hundred years.

  5. McGehee »

    12 March 2018 · 11:34 am

    The polar bears are in better shape than all the climate change propaganda put together.

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