town in Norway

It’s illegal to die in this town in Norway, Here’s why!

There has been a long list of ludicrous rules that Kings and dictators alike, have thrust on its people for centuries. That being said, very few can contend the absurd law that is followed in this Norwegian town known as Longyearbyen.

Located in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, only halfway from the mainland and the North Pole, this arctic town has made it illegal for its 2000 inhabitants to die here, or more specifically, to be buried in its soil.

As ludicrous as the ban sounds, there actually is a quite rational, albeit creepy reason behind it.

Being so close to the North Pole, the climate here is arctic, which means that the temperature drops down as low as 1.4°F (-17°C) on an average during the winters. We know the cold preserves dead bodies and slows down decomposition. The exact same thing happens with the dead bodies that have been buried in the cemetery in Longyearbyen.

The dead are buried in layers of soil which is known as permafrost, type of soil that is permanently frozen due to the extreme cold temperature. This preserves not only the dead bodies, but also viruses within the dead bodies like H1N1 virus that killed approximately 5 percent of the world population in one of the most infamous pandemic, now known as the Spanish flu of 1918.

Scientists believed that if the soil was ever thawed due to a rise in temperature, it could lead to a fresh outbreak of the epidemics. Evidence for this concern was unearthed when in 1998, researchers found live strain of H1N1 Spanish flu virus buried in the permafrost soil, ready to infect its new victims.

These concerns culminated in the law that was passed in 1950 which made dying and consequently being buried in the soils of Longyearbyen illegal. People who are on their deathbeds are flown to the mainland where they can spend out their last days in peace and be buried there when they die. Alternatively, bodies are also cremated (usually at a temperature of 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit) that kills the viruses and the urns are then buried. Interesting very few of the local population choose this option, rather choosing to fly to the mainland city of Oslo, to live out the rest of their lives there.

Although an unconventional and grim law, it protects the citizens and the nearby population from the spread of deadly diseases that can claim not only thousands, but millions of lives in its wake. And to the travelers visiting Longyearbyen, enjoy the mysteries of this land, where the nights are indistinguishable from the days in winter, where the soil is frozen into hard ice and the sky is lit with the Northern Lights. But just one warning, Do not die!

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