Inside remote icy town where you’re not allowed to die

Dying has been banned on the island since 1950 because bodies simply freeze

(video can be accessed at source link below)

These stunning snaps from the remote Norwegian town of Longyearbyen make it look something straight out of a fairytale.

But behind the pictures lies a somewhat bizarre law which the 2,000 residents in the town have to follow - it is illegal to die there.

Longyearbyen, a tranquil town in the middle of nowhere, is so remote that residents are not allowed to die there

Dying has been banned on the island since 1950, when it was discovered that bodies in the local cemetery were not decomposing because of the chilly temperatures.

The island's climate is so arctic that in the 2000's, scientists, morbidly fascinated by the discovery, tested corpses buried there who succumbed to the 1917 influenza virus - and to their amazement, retrieved live samples of the virus.

Residents had been living among the deadly virus for decades, without even realising it.

The graveyard no longer takes any new inhabitants because of fears disease will spread throughout the island, meaning that even those who have lived their whole life on the island, cannot be buried there.

 Maria Sahai

Instead, terminally ill residents have to be shipped to the mainland to prepare for death

Around 2,000 people live in Longyearbyen...but no-one dies there

In a bleak prospect, those who are terminally ill are shipped off the island and flown hundreds of miles to the mainland of Oslo, where they will spend the remainder of their days until death.

Technically, cremation urns can be buried in the graveyard, but supposedly few people have taken up this option.

There is no old people's home on the island, or any institutions set up to care for the frail and elderly, so they must be moved ahead of their death.

Jan Christian Meyer, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said: "‘If you seem to be about to expire, every effort will be made to send you to the mainland."

The inhabitants of the small town lead a peaceful life, cut off from the outside world

Maria Sahai

The town's location means it is one of the best places to see the famous Northern Lights

But it is not only death on the island that poses a dilemma for its residents - daily life there can take its toll too.

Expectant mum's cannot give birth on the island because there is no hospital, so instead weeks before their due date have to fly to the mainland, only returning to their homes weeks after their baby is born.

Longyearbyen's is thought to be one of the world's northernmost settlements, and its location poses a unique set of challenges.

For months of the year, there is no sunlight at all - from dawn until dusk, there is just darkness.

Maria Sahai

But the town is also covered in darkness for months at a time, with no sunlight at all

Maria Sahai

The area is so cold that buried bodies simply freeze, and do not decompose

And amongst the darkness, polar bears lie in the wilderness, just outside of the town.
Although the government does try and prevent the animals wandering around the area, the snowy terrain means seeing a polar bear is not uncommon.

Banning death is not the only unusual law on the island, which doesn't see sunlight for months on end because of its northern location.

Cats are banned to protect the Arctic bird population and visitors are expected to take their shoes off in virtually every building, not just people’s homes.

Maria Sahai

There are no care homes or hospices on the island

Maria Sahai

Maria Sahai

Those who live in the town are used to living a more unusual way of life

Video can be accessed at source link below.


By Susannah Keogh / freelance journalist

Freelance journalist, has written for the Huffington Post, MTV, the Independent and currently writes for the Sun, alongside a MA in Newspaper Journalism at City University.



(Source:; March 10, 2018;
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