I had never heard of the Svalbard Islands of Norway– although they sound like something out of The Golden Compass, amiright? But according to the BBC, there are two really insane things about them.
Insane thing 1: The Constant Deadly Polar Bear Threat
We all know that polar bears are (understandably) a little testy about this whole global warming thing we brought upon them. But apparently on these islands near the North Pole, where it’s already cold all the damn time, polar bears are a constant threat just walking down the street. The schoolteachers carry guns when they take the kids out to recess.
“Every student at the university spends their first day learning how to shoot bears. Aim toward the chest, runs the advice, rather than the head which is easy to miss.”
This picture is of a bear they killed after it mauled to death a 17 year old camper from England last year. As a note to tourists: the local teachers aren’t carrying guns as a fashion accessory. Those bears aren’t playing with you, son.
Insane thing 2: You’re Not Allowed to Die Here
Seriously, it’s illegal. They’ll fly you (ideally pre death) to mainland Norway to die and be buried instead. The cemetery in the island completely stopped accepting bodies 70 years ago after they figured out that… wait for it… the bodies weren’t decomposing. They are permafrost corpses.
The islands corpses are so perfectly intact, that they were used to study the influenza outbreak of 1918 that swept the globe. They didn’t have the science to properly study it at the time. Now that they do there are no influenza victims bodies left. Except, of course, those intact, permafrozen ones in the Svalbard islands.
I would love to visit the frozen corpses (and polar bears), as long as I could hire one of those elementary school teachers with a gun to stay with me at all times.
Original article + thanks to my old roommate Gray Chu for sending me down this rabbit hole.