Ny-Ålesund

Ny-Ålesund ("New Ålesund") is a small town in Oscar II Land on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. It is situated on the Brøgger peninsula (Brøggerhalvøya) and on the shore of the bay of Kongsfjorden. The company town is owned and operated by Kings Bay, which provides facilities for permanent research activities by 19 institutions from 11 countries. The town is ultimately owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment and is not incorporated (i.e. is not recognised as a town by the Norwegian government). Ny-Ålesund has an all-year permanent population of 30 to 35, with the summer population reaching 114. Its facilities include Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben, Svalbard Rocket Range, a port and Ny-Ålesund Town and Mine Museum, as well as a number of buildings dedicated to research and environmental monitoring activities. It is the northernmost functional civilian settlement in the world.

The town was founded in 1917 by Peter Brandal and his mining company, K...Read more

Ny-Ålesund ("New Ålesund") is a small town in Oscar II Land on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. It is situated on the Brøgger peninsula (Brøggerhalvøya) and on the shore of the bay of Kongsfjorden. The company town is owned and operated by Kings Bay, which provides facilities for permanent research activities by 19 institutions from 11 countries. The town is ultimately owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment and is not incorporated (i.e. is not recognised as a town by the Norwegian government). Ny-Ålesund has an all-year permanent population of 30 to 35, with the summer population reaching 114. Its facilities include Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben, Svalbard Rocket Range, a port and Ny-Ålesund Town and Mine Museum, as well as a number of buildings dedicated to research and environmental monitoring activities. It is the northernmost functional civilian settlement in the world.

The town was founded in 1917 by Peter Brandal and his mining company, Kings Bay Kull Comp. Initially mining was carried out until 1929, but it was unprofitable for most of the 1920s. There were a series of air expeditions launched from Ny-Ålesund towards the North Pole. The company was nationalized in 1933 and the town was used for tourism and as a fishing port. Mining resumed for some months in 1941 and then from 1945. After several fatal incidents occurred including a mining accident on 5 November 1962 that killed 21 miners in what became known as the Kings Bay Affair, mining activity was terminated and Gerhardsen's Third Cabinet resigned. Kongsfjord Telemetry Station opened in 1967 and the town gradually transformed into a research settlement, with the Norwegian Polar Institute having had a year-round presence since 1968. As of 2021, 18 institutions from 11 countries have a more or less permanent presence in Ny-Ålesund – five of them with year-round activity, the remaining primarily present during the spring-summer-autumn field season.

The coal deposits at Kongsfjorden were first discovered by Jonas Poole during a whaling expedition in the area in 1610. They did not receive more careful analysis until 1861, when Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand carried out surveys. A Swedish expedition looked into the coal in 1870 and in 1901 Bergen–Spitsbergen Kulgrubekompani laid claims to the deposits. Failing to follow up, Ernest Mansfield occupied claims in 1905 and 1906, which were sold to The Northern Exploration Co. Ltd. in 1910. The first test shaft was built in 1909,[1]: 9  followed by a hut in 1912.[1]: 10  The claims were sold to Peter Brandal of Ålesund in 1916, who dispatched two ships and sixty men to Kings Bay for the summer of 1916. Arriving on 21 July, they immediately started breaking surface coal. Kings Bay Kull Comp. was founded on 14 December 1916.[1]: 16  Thirty people were sent to Kings Bay for the 1917 season, and started construction of a town. By winter buildings, mines, a port and a railway were completed.[1]: 15 

 The town in the late 1910s

Sixty-four people stayed the first winter. They were supplemented from May 1918, bringing the summer population to 300. In the following years the town was gradually expanded with additional housing and work buildings.[1]: 18  During the first years several names were in use for the settlement, including Kings Bay, Kingsbay and Brandal City. Ny-Ålesund came into use in the early 1920s and was soon the official name of the settlement.[1]: 19  The mining was hit by two strikes in 1919, the first lasting from the summer to October, and the second from November to January 1920. Because of the ice, each year the shipping was limited from May through October.[1]: 21  By 1919 the company had fallen into severe financial difficulties. A British take-over was waved off and instead state coal purchasing agreement, effectively subsidies, were enforced.[1]: 22  By 1921 the men had started bringing their families, raising the female population to twenty-two and the child population to twenty-three.[1]: 23  An improvised school was therefore taken into use.[1]: 125 

The Geophysical Institute of Tromsø established a geophysical station at Kvadehuken in 1920,[1]: 44  although it only remained in operation until 1924.[1]: 45  Production rose through the 1920, reaching a peak 99,000 tonnes per year.[1]: 28  Coal liquefaction was attempted from 1924 to 1927, but proved unprofitable.[1]: 38  The labor union, Kings Bay Arbeiderforening, was founded in 1925, although many of the workers had previously ad hoc organized themselves.[1]: 134  In 1919 Northern Exploration Company laid pressed that they had claims on Blomstrandhalvøya.[1]: 31  The case ended with the Government of Norway buying their claims in 1925, parts of which were sold to Kings Bay.[1]: 33 

 Norge in Ny-Ålesund on 7 May 1926

Between 1925 and 1928, four attempts were made to reach the North Pole by air from Ny-Ålesund. One involved flying boats led by Roald Amundsen.[2]: 102  Floyd Bennett and Richard E. Byrd made an attempt. Amundsen and Umberto Nobile's airship Norge left Ny-Ålesund and traveled via the North Pole to Alaska. Because of controversies over previous efforts, this is regarded by some as the first successful expedition to the North Pole.[2]: 103  After two short skirmishes, Nobile's airship Italia left Ny-Ålesund on 23 May 1928 to reach the North Pole, but crashed on the return.[2]: 49 

The first fatal mining accident took place in the Ester Mine on 16 December 1926, killing two miners. Gradually a series of smaller accidents took place.[1]: 34  The company's lack of profitability caused the government to cease subsidies from 1929.[1]: 40  A small guard and maintenance crew was kept in Ny-Ålesund in the following years.[1]: 61 

As of 1929 Kings Bay owed NOK 18.6 million to the state and Aalesunds Kreditbank. Thus the state nationalized the company, taking effect on 23 December 1933.[1]: 61  A fisheries station opened in 1935, which sold supplies to fishing vessels and carried out steaming of cod liver oil and salting of the cod.[1]: 65  As the station was in need of subsidies, it was closed after two years.[1]: 66  From 1936 a hotel service targeting tourists opened. Its most elaborate building, Nordpolhotellet, opened on 3 September 1939, although the town was abandoned just days later because of the outbreak of the Second World War.[1]: 70  However, this spurred a Norwegian demand for coal, and the town was resettled on 7 May 1941.[1]: 73  However, the entire island was evacuated on 29 August, with critical infrastructure blown up.[1]: 74 

 Miners in the Agnes Mine

Kings Bay dispatched a crew after the war ended, with the first 90 workers arriving at Ny-Ålesund on 13 August 1945. They started reconstruction and mining commenced in November.[1]: 78  Production reached 61,000 tonnes in 1947.[1]: 80  A 4 December 1948 explosion killed fifteen miners.[1]: 82  A trial postal air drop took place in 1946, and regular services were provided from 1949.[1]: 159  Weather observations were carried out in 1950 to 1953, and again after 1961.[1]: 149  The mine flooded on 26 April 1949 and it took half a year to empty it.[1]: 83  On 7 January 1951 there was an explosion in the Ester V Mine, killing nine men.[1]: 85  On 19 March 1952, yet another explosion took place in the Ester Mine, this time killing nineteen men.[1]: 86  These caused several investigations and inquiries, leading to improvements to mining safety.[1]: 87 

In 1956 Parliament approved a major upgrade to the mining facilities, which would cost NOK 20 million,[1]: 96  in the hope that production could reach 200,000 tonnes.[1]: 98  In 1956 two brothers, Einar Sverre and Gunnar Sverre Pedersen, through their company Norsk Polar Navigasjon, proposed that an airport be built at Kvadehussletta, on the outer-most point of Brøggerhalvøya.[3]: 15  It was met by opposition from both Norwegian and Soviet authorities and no permits were granted,[3]: 23  even though they pursued the case for a decade.[3]: 45  By 1959 Ester I was depleted and the railway was closed—transport having been taken over by trucks, and production remained low during the late 1950s.[1]: 105 

An explosion on 5 November 1962 killed 21 miners. Two investigations were carried out and the issue became a heated political debate.[1]: 167  In what became the Kings Bay Affair, Gerhardsen's Third Cabinet was ultimately forced to resign in August 1963,[1]: 171  and all mining in Ny-Ålesund was terminated from 5 November 1963. For the meanwhile, Kings Bay was to retain the equipment and facilities in case later technological development would allow for safer mining operations.[1]: 171  The first research establishment came in 1967, when Kongsfjord Telemetry Station was opened to communicate with the European Space Research Organization's satellites. The Royal Norwegian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research took over daily management of Ny-Ålesund until the telemetry station was closed in 1974.[1]: 183  The station resulted in the construction of Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben,[1]: 185  and resulted in about thirty employees.[1]: 178 

 Pipelines and cables are located in utilidors to avoid permafrost

The Norwegian Polar Institute established a scientific station in Ny-Ålesund in 1966, moving their ionosphere measurement station from Isfjord Radio.[1]: 177  An early scientific agent was the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, which has conducted air research in Ny-Ålesund since the mid-1970s.[1]: 211  Gradually there was increased interest in research in Ny-Ålesund. In the first years a series of universities sent summer expeditions.[1]: 202  Kings Bay also generated revenue from selling fuel, supplies and air transport to shrimp fishers.[1]: 206  By 1977 Kings Bay stuck a deal by the then state-owned Store Norske to sell all its claims, although it kept the property rights around Ny-Ålesund.[1]: 181  During the early 1980s a plan for cultural heritage management was developed, which included the renovation of several older houses. In 1992 nearly the entire town was listed.[1]: 210 

Construction of the Zeppelin Station commenced in 1988[1]: 211  and in 1990 Kings Bay moved its administration from Oslo to Ny-Ålesund. From 1992 the government allowed international research institutions to establish stations in Ny-Ålesund,[4]: 171  and thus several institutes built stations the early 1990s.[1]: 214  This was matched by Kings Bay, who invested in increased capacity, including dorms, a new dock and better communications.[4]: 173  By 1996 there were over one hundred research projects in Ny-Ålesund.[4]: 183 

^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az Hanoa, Rolf (1993). Kings Bay Kull Comp. A/S 1917–1992 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Schibsted. ISBN 978-82-516-1448-1. ^ a b c Hisdal, Vidar (1998). Svalbard: nature and history. Oslo: Norwegian Polar Institute. ISBN 978-82-7666-152-1. ^ a b c Tamnes, Rolf (1992). Svalbard og den politiske avmakt (in Norwegian). Oslo: Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. ^ a b c Thusesen, Nils Petter (2005). Svalbards historie i årstall (in Norwegian). Oslo: Orion. ISBN 978-82-458-0742-4.
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