Svalbard is a cold, dark and isolated island in the Arctic Ocean, situated midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. Norway and Russia are the only two nations with settlements there. Large-scale coal mining established communities in Svalbard during the 1920s, and it remains the main industry to this day.

The mines on the Svalbard archipelago are the northernmost in the world. Its location means that the mine’s operators have to deal with some unusual weather conditions; the summer months bring 24-hour daylight, while the winter months are in total darkness and temperatures can plummet below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is a place trapped in the past — not much has changed since it was built. Being a community traditionally based on mining, Svalbard is a male-dominated society. Nowadays, most of Svalbard residents are transient. After all, Svalbard is more or less a workplace.

Anna Filipova, a researcher and photojournalist who specializes in the polar environment, visited the mines in Svalbard during the polar summer. While there, she had to carry a gun at all times when she was outside of the settlements because of the ubiquitous presence of polar bears (Around 3,500 polar bears live in the area according to the Norwegian Polar Institute).

Filipova explained to In Sight in an email the draw of this particular part of the world for her:

“For me, the High Arctic is one of the most fascinating places of the earth, but also one of the most endangered. The Arctic is constantly moving and shifting, melting, reforming, appearing and disappearing. The weather changes, erases, creates or simply hides the land.”

To see more of Anna’s work, go to her website, here.

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