1619 is a long time ago - 400 years indeed. Boston was founded the following year. 600,000 people live in Boston now [just the city; if you include the 'burbs it's nearer 4,000,000] but the population of Smeerenburg is zero. Pretty much everyone [total is a tad over 2,000 souls] in Svalbard now lives further South in Longyearbyen. Dutch whalers had been coming North since Willem Barentsz had passed by looking for a North-East passage to Cathay and untold wealth in 1596. His reports of sleepy lardy bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus waiting to be de-oiled caused a bit of a gold-rush to the North. In 1614 a consortium of Dutch cities formed the Noordsche Compagnie and started to send ships to SpitsbergenThe hard chaws arrived as soon as the ice broke up in the Spring and stayed all Summer killing, flensing and trying down the white gold. The technology of the time required that the rendering [=trying] was carried out on land, and so the flensing process naturally followed ashore. The Effectives lived ashore in tents. The dead whales were hauled in to the beach. Each year the whalers had to travel further and profits started to fall. In 1619, the shareholders in their comfy offices in Hoorn and Enkhuizen decided to build permanent housing in Smeerenburg, so that the work could commence three weeks earlier and finish three weeks later.
Subsequent writers tended to extrapolate from the very few contemporary reports, so that village became town; solitary wankers became a gaudy brothel; and reek of rancid fats competed with the smell of fresh bread from numerous bakeries. Recent archaeology indicates that at its height, Smeerenburg mustered only 19 dwelling! A permanent village turned out to be only a stop-gap. The whole enterprise closed down about 45 years after the foundations were laid. Whalers found it was more economical to process the dead whales close to the killing grounds. Readers of Moby Dick will remember the massive try-pots on the deck fed with fresh strips of blubber and fuelled by the crispers that remained when most of the fat had been boiled out of the tissue. Nothing went to waste in a massive jolt to the carbon footprint of the Western world.