Advent City: City of Arctic Firsts

Who knows how much intent lay behind the naming of Advent City. Some say the mining town was simply the namesake of the bay in which it was built – Adventfjorden in Svalbard – while romantics quickly succumb to the notion of arrival, anticipation, expectation, hope. And the intention may well have been to reflect the pioneering spirit of the early 20th century, when mining companies ventured into the far reaches of our planet. Few succeeded.

We do not count Advent City among the successful ones. The English coal mine operated for a short time between 1904 and 1908 only and at a great loss. Nonetheless, it can boast the world’s most northerly town at the time, the first post box in Svalbard, and ringing in year-round mining among other Arctic Firsts that still have bearing on the present.

The mine has since caved in, and only foundations and earthworks remain. Most of the wooden buildings were moved to nearby Hiorthhamn, where a new coal mine opened at the end of World War One. Over a century later, they form the oldest group of upstanding houses in Svalbard. Silent witnesses of a bygone industrial era.

Advent City, "post office". Source: Norsk Folkemuseum, NF.W05521