Arctic Post Offices in Norway
A big part of Norway exists above the Arctic circle. I once asked someone from Norway Post for some addresses of Norwegian post offices above the Arctic Circle. I was sent a few suggestions but the simple answer was that there were too many to list. To locate a post office in Norway, use the tool on their website. It has a nice little map and will give you the post office address. Most of the post offices are located in stores and banks and other places of business. Something it won't give you is the location of post offices outside of mainland Noway, except for Longyearbyen in Svalbard.
On this page I've listed some of the places in Norway above the Arctic Circle I've received mail from. The most popular Arctic post offices in Norway are in Svalbard. Ny-Ålesund is the Northern most post office in Norway (and in the world I think). The volcanic island of Jan Mayen, halfway between Norway and Greenland, is part of Norway. And the little radio and meteorological station there has a post office. Despite being so far north, Norway's infrastructure is highly developed. Mail gets to and from its furthest corners in record time. And the post masters are all pretty good with a hand stamp.
Svalbard is a rather large archipelago in the Arctic ocean 400 km north of mainland Norway. The Svalbard treaty signed in 1925 which gave Norway sovereign rights over the islands. For much of its history it has been exploited for its resources and coal mining still goes on there to this day but not on the scale it did in the early part of the last century. These days, Svalbard is an import research center for nations wishing to carry out Arctic related research activities. And lately, in a limited way, Tourism is starting to become a bigger part of the Svalbard economy.
The main island is known as Spitsbergen and this is where pretty much everything happens in Svalbard. The main settlements of Longyearbyen, Ny-Ålesund and Barentsberg are here. The only other islands that could be considered inhabited are Bjørnøya (Bear Island) and Hopen.
The town of Longyearbyen (78°13'N 15°33'E) with a population just over 2000, is the administrative capital of the Svalbard region. At one time it was a mining town known as Advent Bay but now it's a busy hub providing support for research stations and a growing tourism industry. The nearby airport allows mainland flights to reach the archipelago. Museums, hotels, shopping, university campus... even a car dealership. The only bank machine in Svalbard is in Longyearbyen. And of course, there is a post office there too.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is not too far from Longyearbyen. Tunneled into the side of a mountain, the cool, dry, isolated location is ideal for preserving seeds. Ironically though, the arctic temperatures alone are not enough to cool the vault to the ideal storage temperature so electric refrigeration is used, powered by locally mined coal.
Mail comes and goes year round. The Longyearbyen postal code is 9170 and its postmark has an image of a reindeer on it.
The worlds most northern post office is in Ny-Ålesund (78°55'N 11°56'E). The town lies on the island of Spitsbergen, 100km north-west of Longyearbyen. It is strictly a research center and several nations have research bases here. About 35 people inhabitant Ny-Ålesund year round and there are basic services to support the 100+ research personnel who take up residence in the town during the summer months. A store, a hotel and of course, a post office. Ny-Ålesund has a tiny airport and only a few flights a week from Longyearbyen land here. It is a private airport, strictly controller by Kings Bay AS.
Kings Bay AS, owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, is the company that runs Ny-Ålesund. When Ny-Ålesund was a mining settlement it was run by the Kings Bay Coal Mining Company. A mining accident in 1962 claimed the lives of 21 people and this was the catalyst that resulted in what was known as the Kings Bay Affair. It forced a government resignation which resulted in a fairly significant political shift in the Norwegian politics. After that, the mine was closed and Ny-Ålesund became a research town.
All mail to and from Ny-Ålesund goes through Longyearbyen. The mail can take a while to get through in the winter. And many of the research bases shutdown during the non-summer months. The Ny-Ålesund postmark, which was recently replaced (March 2012), features a seal. Ny-Ålesund's postal code is 9173.
Hopen (76°33'N 25°7'E) is a Small island in the south-east of the Svalbard archipelago. A small weather station exists on the island that is manned by a staff or four for six months at a time. They are assisted by a team of dogs who warn them when polar bears are near by. Despite its size and isolation, there has been postal service at the station since 1986. The post office here was closed between 2002 and 2005. The old postmark had a walrus on it but now it's just the usually round-style Norwegian postmark. Hopen's postal code is 9174.
Bjørnøya (74°31'N 19°01'E) is the southernmost island of the Svalbard archipelago. It was declared a nature reserve in 2002 and is only inhabitied by the year-round staff of the Herwighamna weather station. (there are links on their webpage to some interesting Bjørnøya related blogs). The station post office was closed in 2002 but reopened in 2005. At one time they used a pictorial postmark with an artic loon on it. But a recent cover that came to me from the island had the usual circular cancellation. Their postal code is 9176.
Sveagruva (77°54'N 16°43'E) is a mining settlement on Spitsbergen island, 60km south of Longyearbyen. It is the largest coal mine on the island and employs over 300 people who all live in Longyearbyen. Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani owns and operates the mine. Nobody permanently lives in Svea and yet for some reason, they have a post office there. The animal on the Svea postmark is a muskox and the postal code is 9175.
Barentsburg (78°04'N 14°13'E) is a Russian coal mining settlement 50km from Longyearbyen. The Soviet Union purchased the town and mining rights from the Dutch in 1932 and have been mining coal here ever since. About 500 people call Barentsburg home. The mine and community are managed by the Arktikugol (Arctic Coal) Trust which is (Russian) state owned and heavily subsidized. The settlement has a Norwegian post office with postal code 9178. Mail can be sent from Barentsburg using Norwegian postage. I have seen covers from Barentsburg with Russian postage sent via the Russian Post. Russian supply ships keep the community supplied with food and fuel, and I guess they occasionally take mail back with them also.
Prior to 1925, Svalbard was somewhat lawless and several nearby nations exploited its resources. This resulted in several conflicts. The Svalbard treaty of 1925 gave Norway sovereignty over the Svalbard archipelago. However the treaty also gives the other signatories of the treaty the right to engage in commercial actives in Svalbard. There are now 40+ signatory nations but so far, the only nation other than Norway to carry out commercial activities in Svalbard under the treaty is Russia.
Jan Mayen (70°59'N 8°32'W) is a small volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean between Norway and Greenland and north of Iceland. The entire island is a Nature preserve but is also home to a LORAN-C transmitter base (pre-GPS way to provide navigation assistance) and a Meteorological station. Less than 20 people from the Armed Forces and Meteorological Institute live on the island year round, on rotation. They all live in the only settlement on the island: Olonkinbyen. There are no harbors for ships to dock. And the island airstrip is gravel with no instrument landing assistance - if you can't see it, you can't land on it.
Despite the isolation and sparse population there is a post office on Jan Mayen. In fact Olonkinbyen provides quite a few comforts for its residents. The Jan Mayen postal code is 8099 and its postmark features the Beerenberg volcano, the highest point on the island.
The town of Hammerfest (70°39'N 23°41'E) sits on the island of Kvaløya in northern Norway. There is an open dispute between Hammerfest and Honningsvåg over which is the northernmost city. Honningsvåg is further north but has a smaller population. In Norway, a town with a population of more than 5000 is considered a city. Hammerfest has a population of just under 10000 whereas the population of Honningsvåg is less than 5000. The title of most northern city would appear to go to Hammerfest.
Like many towns and cities on the coast of northern Norway, Hammerfest was burned to the ground during the Nazi retreat at the end of the Second World War. Only a small chapel was spared.
Honningsvåg is the capital of the Nordkapp municipality. Like Hammerfest, it claims to be the northern most city in the world, even though its population of under 2400 does not qualify it for city status. Even so, Longyearbyen is much further north. Many cruise ships sailing around the coast of Norway making a stop over at Honningsvåg making it a busy tourist destination for it size.
Tromsø is a city of 70000 that sits 350 km north of the arctic circle. It is the largest city in northern Norway and it is the cultural center of the region. Being so large and so far north gives it several "most northerly" designations. It is home to the most northern university: University of Tromsø; the most northern botanical garden: Tromsø Botaniske Hage; the worlds northern most certified marathon: the Midnight Sun Marathon; and the most northern cathedral. And of course, there are also lots of post offices in Tromsø.
It was from Tromsø on 18 June 1928 that polar explorer Roald Amundsen made his last journey into the Arctic. He was flying with five others on a rescue mission to Spitsbergen to rescue the crew of the airship Italia. It is not known exactly where they crashed but wreckage from their plane was discovered on the coast not far from Tromsø.
Kirkenes (69°43'N 30°03'E) is the most eastern town in Norway. Directly south is Russia and to the west is Finland. It is only 100km from the spot where the borders of all three countries meet. This coastal town with a population of 3000 is the end point for the Norwegian Coastal Express: a cruise line that sails along most of the Norwegian coast. It takes 11 days to make a round trip voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes.
The name Nordkapp is actually a Norwegian derivative of the English name "North Cape" and has been in use since 1950. Nordkapp (70°58'N 25°58'E) is a municipality in the extreme north of Noway, governed by the city of Honningsvåg. But the name also refers to the 1000ft rocky cliff over the Barents Sea, famous with tourists and commonly referred to as the northern most point in Europe. Although it isn't really the northern most point in Europe. In fact, it's not even the northern most point in Norway.
At Nordkapp (the cliff) there is a year round visitor center known as Nordkapphallen. This is where the post office is. Outside is the globe monument which is the symbol for Nordkapp, providing another photo opportunity for the thousands of tourists that travel through the region.
In the extreme north-eastern tip of Norway on the island of Vardöhuus sits the town of Vardø (70°22'N 31°6'E). It is home to the Globus II radar station, a joint US/Norwegian project. Originally it was said to be for tracking space debris but a storm blew the dome off the thing and everyone noticed it was pointed at Russia. The site is in a prime location for gathering intelligence on Russian missile installations.
In 1769, Hungarian astronomer Maximilian Hell observed the transit of Venus from Vardø. This is the passage of Venus between the sun and Earth. In Europe at that time, the transit was taking place at night so to be able to witness the event it was necessary to travel north of the arctic circle were the sun was still visible at night. Hell's observations allowed him to make an incredibly accurate estimate of the distance between the Earth and Sun; more accurate than anyone else had made at the time. The transit occurs twice, 8 years apart, every 122 years. It happened in 2004 and again on June 6, 2012.
Arctic Circle Center
The Arctic Circle Center (Polarsirkelsenteret) is a gift shop, restaurant and tourist attraction in the south-east corner of the Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park, located where the arctic circle cuts across highway E6. The center houses a exhibition hall dedicated to the Arctic Circle. It is only open from May to September and is buried in snow during the winter months. All mail sent from here receives a special Arctic Circle Center postmark,
Return to my Blog