As a young man, free in the world and able to choose your own path, it is often a desire to earn bit of money to your back pocket, while venturing further into the unknown world. It was these dreams, which made me to apply a job in the coalmines of Spitsbergen.
It was a long travel from home to Longyearbyen, located almost at the North Pole. Straight after landing my feet on Spitsbergen, I went to the manager’s office at Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani. I got my first working schedule and was shown to my accommodation.
Without much of rest, I stepped on to the mining buss and drove up the mountain for my first shift. Just hours after my arrival to this small community town, surrounded by vast tundra and high mountains,
I was on my way to become a “gruvebus” – a real miner.
In the mine, I faced the black, dirty and silent men. After very short safety instructions, I assigned to a team of «kuttskiftet» – the cutting team. Just like all the rookies, I had to start from the bottom of the ladder. I was a “Grønnskolting” – miner with the green helmet. Though I did not know it yet, it had a special meaning to it. The green helmet meant hard work.
The “kuttskiftet” worked mostly on their hands and knees or lying on their backs, pushed into the narrow tunnels. We worked as a team. Driller made holes into the black rock and Cutter used his machines to cut the coal into smaller pieces. The cut-helper lay on his back with a shovel and pushed the coal out from the narrow vein. Helpers could easily shovel up to 8,000 times during one shift.
The Helper was, as could be assumed, at the bottom of the social ladder and thus it became my first job in the mine. It was a rough training for a green rookie.
Those who could stand the physically hard, yet very monotonous work, was rewarded by being able to move up the social ladder. Many got homesick in the small, secluded town or got “fjellskrekk” – mountain frightened after hours and hours in the pitch-black mine. The number of workers leaving the mine after first months was large. Only the toughest could cope with this physically and mentally hard job.