Arctic Coal

Svalbard | Expedition | July 2015

  • DateJuly 2015
  • LocationSvalbard
  • CategoryExpedition
  • TeamAlexander Pyka & Jonathan Danko Kielkowski
  • Text & ImagesJonathan Danko Kielkowski

Arctic Coal Episode 1

Halfway between mainland Europe (600km south) and the North Pole (1000km north) lays a archipelago called Svalbard. One of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas. Formed by over 400 islands, shaped by glaciers and surrounded by the Arctic Ocean which penetrates uncountable fjords it is home to more polar bears then humans. The need to carry a rifle is necessary as soon as one leaves town into the wild where no streets nor trails, no cars or trees can to be found. Today mostly known for its its rugged terrain and wild nature, it has also a rich coal mining past. In the summer of 2015 and 2016 Delve went on an adventure trip to Svalbard to explore and document the remains and traces of of its once glory mining industry.

Svalbard has some quite unique places to offer. Massive glaciers, a prehistoric landscape, total wilderness and some really interesting untouched abandoned places. We were especially interested in the remains of Svalbards once glory coal mining industry. In the last century countless sappers tried to make a living out of this inhospitable land in the arctic. In search for natural resources settlements were founded, factories build and countless mining sites started operations. Some of them lasted for over 80 years and reached striking sizes on their peak in development. Even if there are a lot of different resources  that could be found on Svalbard only coal was mined on a large scale. Today only two out of the countless mining sites remain active and in operation. One coal mine inside the Russian town of Barentsburg and the other inside the Norwegian town Longyearbyen. And both will be probably closed in the near future. Longyearbyen as well Barentsburg are currently inside a major transformation and are trying to transform from small mining settlements into tourist destinations.

In the three weeks we stayed on Svalbard we focused on five main areas: Pyramiden, Barentsburg, Grumantbyen, Colesbutka and Longyearbyen. They are all located at the Isfjorden and had been hot spots for coal mining in the past. We wanted to explore and document what was left of the mines, the settlements and what traces had been left behind by the men who worked here in this remote part of the world. Some of the places we had visited had never been documented before and we were the first to explore them since they had been abandoned.

For images and detailed reports we created during this trip check the link list down below.

While staying in Pyramiden we worked together with the guys from MotionBakery on a short film about the inside of the coal mine there. Take a look at our first teaser for this project down below.

This whole trip was a part of a two months journey in which we had traveled from our hometown Nurenberg in south of Germany up to Tromsø in the north of Norway. Along the way we explored and documented a lot of different mining sites and mines in Norway. We drove over 7000 km in this time and lived for five weeks in an old Volkswagen T3. Pictures and reports created during this trip will be published in the series Up North here on Delve.


  • Up North Episode Index
  • Intro Up North
  • Røros District*
  • Skorovatn*
  • Sulitjelma*
  • Hidden Giant*
  • Franks Mine*
Veröffentlicht am 15.04.2017 von Jonathan Danko


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