During the brief, intense tundra summer, life scrambles to make the most of months with 24-hour daylight before the long months of 24-hour night return. The moss carpet blooms here, squishy and fragile, encircling tiny Lake Solvatnet. Barnacle geese make the most of its shore. The lake sits just off the main street, actually more of a path, in Ny Alesund, the world’s northernmost public settlement, where fewer than three dozen people reside. In summer, scientists, like the geese, flock there to research stations and the population swells to over a hundred. As I walked around, taking care to stay on the path to protect fragile terrain, I looked more closely at purple patches in the rocks and snow, finding miniature flowers, purple saxifrage, in bloom. I saw the short arctic reindeer that roam through town and took note of “Beware of the Polar Bear Danger” signs where the pathways end.
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