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Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Svalbard and Jan Mayen

An Arctic Pastor On The Front Lines Of Climate Change

As head of the northernmost parish in the world, Leif Helgesen has a clear (and often chilly) view of global warming.

LONGYEARBYEN — At just over 1,000 km from the North Pole, Longyearbyen — population 2,300 — is home to more polar bears than people. For some locals like Leif Magne Helgesen, a 56-year-old Lutheran pastor who keeps his small wooden church open at all hours, that's part of the beauty of living here.

Towards the end of November, Longyearbyen is coated in snow and powerful gusts of icy wind descend on the town. "Usually, during polar nights, the moon and the stars reflect on the snow," says Helgesen. "The light is magnificent." But in 2016, things were different. The sky was pitch black save for the lights of a few houses. In the meantime, Helgesen's snowmobile gathered dust in the parking lot. "There was no snow," he says. "Not even a snowflake."

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Seed Vault Hidden In Norwegian Cave Holds Planet's Biodiversity

SVALBARD — A cave 80 meters under a mountain looks like the entrance to a war bunker. Or a secret weapons factory. It could be the stuff of fiction: We almost expect Darth Vader to emerge from a wall. Or it could be the gate to an underworld that is populated with dwarfs and trolls — creatures that animate works like theLord of the Rings.

It's minus 6 degrees Celsius in the cave in this surreal location in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. But there are no trolls running around. And there aren't many humans either. Instead, tucked inside a cool chamber, 27 meters long and 10 meters wide, vacuum-packed aluminum bags hold more than 850,000 species of crops.

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