Monday, July 14, 2008

Missed opportunities

Shouldn't global warming fix this problem?

It is forbidden to die in the Arctic town of Longyearbyen.

Should you have the misfortune to fall gravely ill, you can expect to be dispatched by aeroplane or ship to another part of Norway to end your days.

And if you are terminally unlucky and succumb to misfortune or disease, no-one will bury you here.

The town's small graveyard stopped accepting newcomers 70 years ago, after it was discovered that the bodies were failing to decompose.

Corpses preserved by permafrost have since become objects of morbid curiosity. Scientists recently removed tissue from a man who did die here. They found traces of the influenza virus which carried him and many others away in an epidemic in 1917.

Now you can understand why the Vikings put the corpses on wooden ships and burned them*. But given the big expense of cryogenics, perhaps the Svalbard islands are missing an opportunity. Instead of liquid nitrogen vats, people could be buried in cold storage for a substantial fee. Instead of cutting off Ted Williams' head, they could have buried him whole here for probably cheaper rates.

The islands have another problem: hungry polar bears. The problem is so big that every resident is taught at an early age how to shoot them before the bear has the "other white meat" to accompany his Coca-Cola.

Again, the islands are missing a golden opportunity for revenue generation. Environmentally-correct burial is a big deal right now. Well what could be better than volunteering to serve as dinner for the global warming-threatened polar bears? The polar bears don't have to worry about drowning while looking for their next meal, and the islands make a little money for being the ultimate ecotourism destination?

Ht: Owen Robinson

*Some anthropologist will probably correct me. I really don't care.