Is It Illegal to Die in Longyearbyen, Norway?
Located on the archipelago of Svalbard just 800 miles from the North Pole, the Norwegian village of Longyearbyen is reputed to be the worldâs most northerly town. Deep within the Arctic Circle, the old coal-mining hub doesnât see sunlight for about four months out of the year and is riddled with polar bearsâ"and yet itâs home to approximately 2000 residents and sees upwards of 65,000 visitors each year.
According to the BBC, The Guardian, WIRED, Bustle, Menâs Health, The Sun, New York Post, IFL Science, Stuff, Ripleyâs Believe it or Not, and a handful of other publications, a quirky law in Longyearbyen makes it illegal for any of those people to die. This colorful factoid is apparently even parroted by tour guides who live in the region.
But itâs not true.
There is no law in Longyearbyen making it illegal to die. âIt is not forbid den to die in Longyearbyen,â Jovna Z. Dunfjell of the Svalbard Church tells Mental Floss in an email. âIf that had been the case, how would you punish the act?â
The myth of a âforbidden to dieâ law appears to have emerged from the townâs unusual geography. Since Longyearbyen is so far off the beaten path, there are no elder care homes. The town has a small local hospital, but itâs not equipped to handle most serious medical cases.
âIt is not forbidden to die in Longyearbyen ...â Svalbardâs Information Adviser Liv Asta Ãdegaard wrote in an email to the editors of Wikipedia (yep, even Wikipedia was skeptical of this story). âAll inhabitants in Longyearbyen have to keep an address on the main land, and when they get old and need help and nursing from the society, they have to move back to the main land.â
In other words, dying isnât bannedâ"itâs just uncommon. If youâre in danger of dying, the local hospital will send you to a souther n hospital. (Though itâs obviously not something people can always prepare for: In 2015, an avalanche there killed two people.)
However, for Longyearbyen's unlucky dead, it is forbidden to be buried in a coffin. Itâs so chilly in Longyearbyen that bodies barely decompose. (Urns are allowed, however.)
In fact, some century-old bodies in the local cemetery still contain rare remnants of the 1918 influenza virus that killed around 40 million people. In 1998, researchers visited the graveyard to gather samples of the virusâs genetic material. The findings were extremely valuable and have helped scientists better understand how to combat similar cases in the future. The research could save millions of lives.
(And if you're planning a trip, don't believe the rumors that this virus could spread to visitors. In an email, Svalbardâs Communication Adviser Terje Carlsen writes: âThis is not an active virus and is not considered a threat.â Watch o ut for those polar bears, though!)Subscribe to our Newsletter! SIGN UP NOWSource: Google News Norway | Netizen 24 Norway