The acquisition of the Arctic Coal Company from its United States owners formally occurred Thursday, Nov. 30, 1916. On Thursday , Dec. 1, 2016, Store Norwegian Spitsbergen Coal Company will celebrate its 100th birthday with various events in Longyearbyen.
Even before the cornerstone company for Longyearbyen throughout virtually the city's entire history reaches its milestone day, many celebrations and tributes have already occurred. Historian Thor Bjorn Arlov offered a presentation about Store Norske at The University Centre in Svalbard in January. Former Svalbardposten Edtor Birger Amundsen's exhibition "Kullfolk" debuted at Svalbard Museum and will remain there until the end of the year. The museum released a booklet focusing on the century-old company and the company was the theme of this month's Kunstpause festival. In addition, the anniversary coincides with the release of Svein Sæter's book "Kongen av Spitsbergen" ("The King of Spitsbergen") about the life of Einar Sverdrup, Store Norske's most prominent leader.
"We must also not forget Longyearbyen Culture School's performance of "En Eventyrlig Hyllest til Store Norske" ("An Adventurous Tribute to Store Norske," said Wenche Ravlo, the company's current administrative director.
During the hundred years the coal company has existed, 124 workers have lost their lives. During the worst years there was a loss of one human life for every 100,000 tons of coal produced, The most serious single accident occurred on Jan. 3, 1920, in Mine 1 when 26 miners died in a coal dust explosion.
Beneath Mine 1 a memorial has been set up for those who've lost their lives working for the company. The dedication of the memorial is the first event scheduled on the company's 100th birthday.
"It will be a subdued but, in my opinion, worthy celebration of the 100th anniversary," Ravlo said. "I am particularly pleased that we are unveiling the memorial for the victims."
The unveiling will be followed by a reception for specially invited guests at Huset. After that will be a cabaret show at the historic community center that is open to the public. As with many such events at Huset, Anne Lise Klungseth Sandvik is spearheading the performance.
"It will be an amalgamation of the city's cultural life," she said. "The men's choir, The Longyearbyen Mixed Choir, Spitsbergen Revue and others will come together to tell Store Norske's history. It has been that the cultural life and Store Norske have fit each other like a glove over the years, and I've browsed a bit for things to find that are find suitable material."
Harvest Festival and open day
The company's 100th birthday will also feature celebrations Friday and Saturday. There will be an open day for residents at Mine 3 on Saturday and the night before there will be a traditional Harvest Festival at Huset.
"Previously, Store Norske traditionally hosted a fall feast after the last boat had left the island, and peace and order had established themselves in the community," Sandvik said. "Now this tradition is long over, but we are trying our best to create an autumn feast for the anniversary year in the same vein as before."
To provide music for the night she hired the nine-person big band Slampan from inner Salten.