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People say that the Soviet town of Pyramiden was abandoned overnight. In reality, however, the desertion occurred over a period of months. But a visitor arriving in Pyramiden in the fall of 1998 would be justified in reaching that conclusion. In the newly emptied town, withering plants sat on windowsills; clean dishes were stacked on the cafeteria shelves; and neatly folded sheets rested on the former residents’ beds. The equipment used for coal mining—the town’s raison d’être—sat where workers had left it, ready to rev back into action at the push of a button. It was as if several hundred people had abruptly stopped what they were doing and simply walked away.


The residents, however, never returned, and today the city seems unchanged from that the last men left. Located in the Svalbarg archipelago, Norway, Pyramiden, meaning "the pyramid" in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, was a coal mine originally founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927 in an agreement between Russia and the coal mining community. The mine's facilities are at the foot of Mount Billefjorden, on the island of Spitsbergen, which has a pyramid shape. The city already had 1000 inhabitants, and was abandoned on January 10, 1998 by its owner, the Russian state-owned Arktikugol Trust.



Pyramiden can be reached by boat from mid-May to early October, when the waters bordering the city are free of sea ice. But during the cold winter months - three of which are plunged into a 24-hour darkness - Pyramiden hosts only the wandering polar bears.

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