National Geographic : 1978 Aug
surround it imparted a grandeur that I had not envisioned in winter darkness (below). Now the town was even more isolated from the other settlements. The constant sun had thawed the top few feet of tundra, turning the island into an impassable combi nation of creviced glaciers and bogs. No longer could off-duty miners roam about on their snowmobiles. Ships and helicopters offered the only transportation, for there are no roads outside the settlements. By special arrangement, Leif Eldring, the Norwegian sysselmann, or governor, had offered me his helicopter for a trip to the main Soviet settlement of Barentsburg, 35 kilometers away. Next morning photogra pher Martin Rogers and I landed in the sol idly built Soviet community (pages 270-71). Miners here, too, could attend movies, Winter's blue-white icing coats the land, as well as the harbor that stretches between craggy mountains and huddled buildings of Longyearbyen. The light, though faint, heralds the coming of sum mer; then the pack ice melts, allowing ships to enter and carry away coal mined and stockpiled during the dark months. The return of the sun also brings exultant Svalbard residents outdoors. Longyear byen policeman Alf Kolbu and his wife, Bj0rg (facing page), beam after his victo ry in a cross-country ski race between the Norwegians and Soviets.