At 78 degrees north, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, Longyearbyen is the world’s northernmost town with a permanent population. You can neither give birth here (too remote and risky) or die here (the permafrost would push your body back up out of the earth).
It was from this mining town that I joined a 20-person sailing expedition on the Noorderlicht, a 1910 traditional lighthouse ship. The smaller expedition vessel gave us access to untouched, remote locations, where we could catch glimpses of the Arctic wildlife and take daily hikes along glittery, melting glaciers.
It was an over worldly experience, and also a first-hand taste of the effects of rapid climate change. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and a freakishly warm February had caused fjord ice to melt, so our itinerary – exploring the North Spitsbergen archipelago – was improvised daily.