is a land of both extremes and in-betweens. The
archipelago is situated between 74 and 81 degrees north, a thousand
miles from the Norwegian mainland and at the very end of the earth.
From April to August it is bleached in eternal daylight and from
the close of October until February it plunges into perpetual
darkness. Centuries of explorers, hunters and miners have variously
tried (and sometimes failed) to conquer its soaring shores, and
both blood and blubber mingle in their tales of dominion and
Yet there is nuance hidden between Svalbard’s theatrical
landscapes and legends. Humanity is a relatively recent
intervention here and consequently there is no framework of
culture, art or ancient history from which to hang my impressions.
It is a place of passage rather than of permanence – it is
literally forbidden by law to be born or to die here, as there are
no hospitals or burial grounds – and its monochromatic vistas with
their slate-grey seas, powdery mountains and smudges of cloud
suggest a withholding, as well as perhaps an invitation. It’s a
place that can make or break you, and consequently an intoxicating
challenge to the pioneer spirit.