Friday, 2 September 2011

The Abandoned Pyramiden Mining Town

On Thursday we went to the abandoned mining town called Pyramiden. It used to be a thriving Russian colony with hundreds of miners and a fully working community with a school and a clinic and all that stuff.

The Russians left in January of 1998, they left almost everything behind including lots of personal stuff - I think there was a tight limit on the amount of stuff that they could take with them, they had only a weeks notice of the decision to move them out. They left all of the mining gear and the buildings have been empty since then. Our guide Victor told us that many buildings were now locked up because too many people had taken souvenirs away with them.
We got there in a small Arctic Circle boat that Victor drove, that meant back into full exposure suits and a very cold and windy hour out on the Fjord.
The mine is a beautiful location with a view of a huge glacier just across the water but the mine itself must have been big, ugly, noisy complex when it was working, now it looks a bit forlorn.
You can see here it was quite a big complex - with its own farm for pigs and chickens and cows, a school and a swimming pool, there are still a few people staying there to look after visitors and they run a small bar....
The walk into town from the old dock took about 5 minutes.

Victor told us that this was a dangerous place because bears could sometimes be in between the buildings or around the mine and you could not see them coming in the same way that you can in open country. He carried his gun all the time. We did not see a bear, just lots of seagulls who seemed to have taken over some of the buildings.
The mine was once the pride of the Soviet system and a very popular place to work because the pay was good and the people were well looked after.

In the main square there was a children's area next to the school and an area of grass that had been shipped in from Siberia and planted here - this grass does not normally grow here (at least thats what Victor told us)
The square had a number of monuments with a kind of arctic, communist feel.

And was overlooked at the top by this bust of Lenin - looking out to the east over his Polar domain.
The sports hall was huge and impressive given the size of the community and also housed a big cultural / performance space as well.
There was also an impressive swimming pool.
Some of the buildings still had lost of stuff left inside, these are pictures of the some of the mine staff, there we also shift books and all sorts of papers in this machine room.
My favourite were the safety posters in the access walkway, some had been stolen but there were still lots left - maybe some one out there can translate this one for me?

We made it back to Longyearbyen by about 4pm. The way back was much harder in the small boat as the weather was getting worse and the wind made the weaves much bigger. Winter is coming very soon to Svalbard. Victor told us to come back in March or April to see the frozen sea and the snow.

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