Who was Longyear?
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Who was Longyear?

One may think that Longyearbyen is named after a " Long Year" - a long year - but the origins stem from a wealthy businessman from the United States who saw an economical opportunity at 78 degrees north.

Visiting Svalbard

The year is 1901. The ship "S / S Augusta Victoria" is on its way to Svalbard. On board is John Munroe Longyear (1850 - 1922) with his wife Mary and their five children. Longyear is a wealthy business man from the United States, with interests in mining, railways, forestry, timber trade, real estate and banking. He is a knowledgeable man, both well travelled and well-read, and engaged in politics and history. Although he is on vacation in the land of the ice covered coasts, he has an eye for opportunities.


John Munro Longyear
John Munro Longyear - Founder of Longyearbyen

15th of July Longyear goes ashore on Advent Point, or Hotellneset as it was called then. The Longyear family’s visit to the Arctic was as tourists this time, but the interest was awakened for Svalbard.


Longyear City i Advent Bay
Longyear City in Advent Bay in 1906

Two years later Longyear returns to Norway and he is considering partnership with the iron mines in Kirkenes. But Longyear is bitten by the "Svalbard bug", and can not forget the Arctic archipelago. There were opportunities, and he goes back to Svalbard where he spends 36 hours in Adventfjorden. Here he collects coal samples from Trondheim-Spitsbergen Kullkompagnis fixture in Blomsterdalen and mountainsides. Back in the United States the coal shows promising results.


Longyear establishes the companie Ayer & Longyear, starting negotiations on acquisition of the Trondheim based company. In 1905 they entered into an agreement, and the American business men John Munro Longyear and Frederick Ayer establishes The Arctic Coal Company (ACC) that develop mining in the area, which eventually was called Longyear City, later “Norwegianised” to Longyearbyen. The adventure is on it’s way, and thus is the basis for establishing one of the northernmost cities and towns started. A city that today has developed into the major gateway for expeditions and tours in the Arctic.

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