The remote archipelago of Svalbard is classed as part of Norway and has some very unusual rules about death and burials because of the harsh climate
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In Europe, somewhere between the North Pole and Norway, lies an archipelago where there’s no sun for four months during the winter.
This is just one of many things people across the world may not understand but it's the norm for Svalbard.
The island, which is around 650 miles from the North Pole and 500 miles from the Norwegian mainland, lays claim to Earth's northernmost town – Longyearbyen.
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Being on the edge of the earth, the typical weather in winter can drop to around minus 30 degrees Celsius but in the winter, people can see dizzying highs of 7C.
According to statistics from DataReportal from this year, it is home to an estimated 2,552 people from over 40 different countries including Thailand, Russia and Sweden.
Svalbard, which is classed as part of Norway, is a popular destination for tourists due to its broad range of attractions such as the ice caves, dogsledding and of course, it’s the perfect place to see the northern lights.
The archipelago has one of the world’s largest untouched wilderness areas and animals such as polar bears and reindeer roam around freely.
While every region has its own way of doing things, Svalbard is no exception and they have laws that may baffle those not accustomed to the way of life there, ranging from alcohol limits to even 'a ban on dying'.
Let's start with the strict animal rules – cats are banned in Svalbard to protect the rich bird life so while you’re on the archipelago don’t be surprised at the lack of felines.
While there are bars, restaurants, schools and a university, there isn’t a maternity ward in Svalbard meaning pregnant women have to go to the mainland in Norway around a month before giving birth.
Perhaps the most interesting and unusual aspect of life on Longyearbyen is what happens at the end of it. It has long been claimed – and perpetuated by tour guides – that it is illegal to die. And while it is partly correct, the situation is more complicated than that.
Because of the harsh climate and permafrost, people are not allowed to be buried in Longyearbyen as the dead bodies will never decay.
In some very special cases, people can be cremated and put in urns in the town.
There is a small burial ground including those that date back to 1918 following the deaths of seven Norwegian men. Their bodies were dug up in 1998 and they were so well-preserved that traces of flu were still present in their systems 80 years later.
So what does this mean for residents you ask? Those who have medical conditions or are considered terminally ill are moved to the mainland as Longyearbyen's hospital isn't big enough to meet their needs. All of that means that deaths actually taking place in the town are exceptionally rare.
Another law people may not know is that residents must only buy alcohol within a strict quota each month – for tourists, they must show their boarding pass when they’re doing so.
Lastly, people travelling outside the settlements on their own must carry firearms to scare off any potential polar bear attacks.
Since 1970 it is reported there have been at least five attacks there. This includes a woman who was left injured after she was mauled by a bear at a camp across a fjord from Longyearbyen.
In a separate incident, Dutchman Johan Jacobus Kootte, who was also camping near Longyearbyen in Svalbard, died of his injuries after a bear attack.
The polar bear was shot by locals in a car park near the airport.
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