In the fantastic Kongsfjord of Svalbard, with mountains tracing back the geological history as well as several mining attempts lies two out of several marks in the cultural landscape, New Ålesund and London.
The fjord tells a history of failed mineral exploitation, stories of families who have lived these fjords, children who have lived in mining towns, feeling freedom of happiness as well as sorrow. It tells stories of whaling, overwintering trappers, trapping of Russians as well as Norwegians and it tells stories of traces left by World War II.
It has traces of Roald Amundsen beginning his seaplane and airship expeditions to the North Pole in the beginning of 1900, traces of polar history and exploration in one of the most far ends of the world.
New Ålesund today lies in the fjord serving as a research station as well as being one of the worlds northern year round communities. It has all year visitors of both humans and animals. And right across the fjord from it lies London, sharing some of the same history of mining, but not for coal but marble.
This mine was established in 1911 after being discovered in 1906 being;
“No less than an island of pure marbel”
Machines were sent in, railways were built. Wagons, cranes and winches were set on land.
But once more, as many other stories of mining and extraction embedded in the cultural landscapes of Svalbard, this was a hopeless dream. The marble dissolved when being transported back to Europe together with the dream of a gold rush.
But Kongsfjorden presented another history, the history of glaciers and ice.
A history that had carved its way through the fjords, molding the steep mountains on each side of the shores.
Birds roamed the ice, and the northern fulmare glided with its immovable wings tracing the edge of the glacier “Kongsbreen”.
“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”
― Robert Lynd
And silence there was, between these majestic surroundings, both being beautiful but as the same time hostile and with its history difficult to tame, there was silence….and there was birds.