Unknown stories

When you work as a guide for a longer period in the same area, you learn more and more stories. When I started I only knew biological stories, as that was my background. But the longer I work here, the more stories I learn. Some from my colleagues, some from books others from even other sources. Some of these stories are well known, others very little known. The story of the white rectangular shape on this concrete building in Ny Ålesund is one of those.

20170629_Arjen_Drost_47244It originates from when Ny Ålesund was a booming mining town. When mining was restarted after the second world war, the town was growing to give home to 158 men, 53 women and 38 children in 1959/1960. However, mining conditions weren’t very safe. Several accidents had already costed many lives and injured more. And apparently not much was done to improve security.

When halfway the 1950’s the King of Norway was going to visit the small community the miners decided to make a protest. A big white cross was painted on a big concrete building facing the water with the number of people killed (or injured) underneath. Of course the board of the mining company didn’t agree with his protest (it was the King after all) and ordered the cross to be removed… But, how does one remove white paint from a concrete building? The only option was to paint into another shape. Hence the rectangular shape that still can be seen on the building for people who visit Ny Ålesund by ship. But if one looks closely, one can see it isn’t exactly rectangular… It’s more the shape of a coffin… As a less obvious and more silent protest. And there are parts that are painted twice, so are a little whiter as the others, who still shine through.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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