National Geographic : 1948 Jul
114 I'ix Coal Mines Hum the Year Round, but Reach Their Peak During Spitsbergen's Four Months of Sunshine Here the shadow of a mountain falls upon its neighbor across a narrow valley. The photograph was made at 1 a. m . The cable railway climbing the steep slope to a mine mouth (left) hauls coal to a loading dock in Advent Fjord. The town of Sverdrupbyen (foreground) belongs to the Great Norwegian Spitsbergen Coal Company and was named for Einar Sverdrup, mining engineer. All life in such settlements is dedicated to wresting black treasure from the earth. The short summer is the busy season in Spitsbergen. Steady streams of ships disgorge machinery and piles of winter stores before loading coal for Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. Toward the end of October the sun disappears below the horizon and the polar night closes down. The last collier sails, severing the island's bond with the outside world. Temperatures plunge as low as 60 degrees below zero. Work continues in the mines, but the coal must be stored until spring unlocks the ice barrier. Apart from the miners, Spitsbergen's population consists mainly of hunters, who live in remote huts scattered along the coasts. Their chief quarry is the Arctic fox. Whales and seals once were abundant, but uncontrolled killing reduced their numbers.