Mark Sabbatini first noticed the cracks in his apartment's concrete walls in 2014. It had been six years since he moved to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago far out in the Barents Sea, about halfway between Norway's northern tip and the North Pole. He was an itinerant American writer drawn by promises of an open, international society—and jazz music. Every winter the community of Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost town at 78 degrees North latitude, holds a jazz festival to liven up the perpetual darkness. Residents, university students, tourists and visiting scientists mingle in music halls, clinking champagne glasses to melodious tones as winds howl through the surrounding mountains. On his first visit Sabbatini had arrived just in time for the festivities. Svalbard, he says, instantly felt like home. “It was like when you look across the room and spot somebody and fall in love.”