In Longyearbyen, Norway it’s illegal to die.
Longyearbyen is just so interesting and it’s so cold in there. Longyearbyen is so insanely far north that by going over the North Pole, it’s closer to Barrow, Alaska than Milan, Italy. It’s so insanely far north that the sun does not rise for four months in the winter and it stays up for four months in the summer. It’s so insanely far north that the average winter temperature has warmed six degrees in the past 30 years.
For how far north it is, Longyearbyen is a surprisingly large town, over 2000 people live there. In fact, there is no larger town further north than Longyearbyen. Because of this, Longyearbyen has the northernmost university, cell tower, circus, art gallery, bowling alley, swimming pool, bus station, gas station, commercial airport, department store, bank, fire station, ATM, Toyota dealership, bar, and kebab restaurant in the world.
It’s a legitimate town, but it’s still 1,200 miles north of Oslo so there are some quirks. For one, polar bears live there too and they occasionally eat people, which is bad, so it’s actually illegal to leave the Longyearbyen area without a gun. Possibly for related reasons, there’s also a monthly limit to how much alcohol one can buy at 24 cans of beer, 2 bottles of liquor, and half a bottle of the fortified wine. While local residents carry an “alcohol card” to track their quota, visitors have to present their airline boarding pass from their arriving flight at the liquor store. Longyearbyen even bans cats to save the local population of arctic birds. They just love baning things, but now for the clickbait dying is illegal in Longyearbyen.
As you can probably tell, Longyearbyen is no beach resort. The average temperature in February is one degree Fahrenheit so things tend to freeze and to sty frozen. In places as cold as Longyearbyen, there is what’s known as permafrost. By splitting this word into two, you can get a sense of what it means. “Perma” means permit me to show you how to put thi]s word into Google so you can find out that permafrost is where the ground stays below freezing permanently. While it may rise above freezing above ground, places with permafrost, such as Longyearbyen, will always be below freezing below ground, which happens to be where you put dead bodies. The same principle that keeps your chicken nuggets edible for years on end in the freezer does the same to bodies not to keep them edible. While it may seem pretty great for bodies to not rot away, it’s not. You see, in 1918 a few people got the flu – about half a billion to be exact – in what came to be known as the Spanish Flu Pandemic. Of the up to 100 million individuals who died, 11 were in Longyearbyen so they established a graveyard that looks like this. When you put a corse into a giant underground freezer it turns out that you don’t just preserve the body, you also preserve the viruses inside the body and so lurking below Longyearbyen are some of the only active samples of a flu strain that killed 5% of the world’ population, which is actually quite useful. Researchers still don’t fully understand why the 1918 flu was so deadly and they don’t just have samples lying around, so these bodies buried in the arctic permafrost potentially hold some of the clues that could stop a future global pandemic, but in the meantime, you really don’t want diseases that could obliterate future civilizations just laying a few feet underground preserved for eternity, and Longyearbyen agrees so that’s why death is now illegal in this small Norwegian town. If you’re near death, you’re flown down to the mainland to live out your final days and if you die unexpectedly, there’s no space for you here.