Through a haze of violet and pink, the frozen edge of the island comes into view. Clouds, once thick fluffy bands obscuring the dark sea below, disintegrate into scattered cotton balls before disappearing entirely. Only a few twinkling lights of Barentsburg, the Russian coal settlement, remain.


This is Svalbard, home to the northernmost  human settlement on Earth. A scant 650 miles from the North Pole. I'd arrived in January, in the dead of winter when the sun never rose above the horizon. The best I could hope for was the deep hues of navy and purple that marked civil twilight for about an hour each morning, before we plunged back into darkness.


I'd come for the polar bears, but stayed for the jazz. In winter, Longyearbyen is home to the northernmost jazz festival in the world. Everything in Svalbard, I would soon learn, is Northernmost.