Ny Ålesund's proximity to the pole has made it the point of departure for many North Pole expeditions. In 1926 the airship Norge with captain Roald Amundsen and captain Umberto Nobile flew over the Noth Pole to Alaska, departing from Ny-Ålesund.
In 1928 Umberto Nobile, disapointed by the fact that the Norwegians had gotten all the credit for the previous flight over the pole, came back with an all Italian expedition to repeat the task. The airship crashed in the ice to the north of Spitsbergen.
Seven of the sixteen crew members were rescued after a major search and rescue operation. Roald Amundsen was taking part in the operation with his seaplane plane Latham. On his way from Tromsø to New Ålesund the plane disapeared in the Atlantic ocean.
The Coal Catastrophe
In 1610 the English whaler Jonas Poole first found coal in the Kongsfjord, where Ny Ålesund is situated. It wasn't until the interwar period that coal was once again in demand. In 1916 Norwegian fishermen and other coal-reliant investors started the Kings Bay Kull Company in Ålesund, hence the name, and started mining the deposits at Ny-Ålesund.
The coal industry here was not a lucurative business and in 1929 the mining stopped. The Norwegian state took over the company and continued until the settlement was evacuated during the Second World War. After the war the state-owned company restarted the operation, however, a series of accidents in the following years caused mining in the area to cease for good in 1962.
The last accident had political consequences in Norway and the government had to resign after a report pointed out negligence on their part.
The settlement of Ny-Ålesund is now populated by scientists who come from all over the globe with a Chinese research base having been there the longest. There are also researchers from 15 other nations here.
The distance to the North Pole is half of the distance to Oslo from Ny Ålesund.