Tag Archives: Acrtic Circle

Hunting the Light Continued … Part 7

Day 8 on our journey on the Midnatsol and we were still in Finnmark, in the most northeastern part of Norway. Around 10:45am we arrived at the port of Hammerfest (HAWMER-fest), one of the oldest settlements in Northern Norway, which also claims to be the northernmost city in the world, as opposed to Honningsvåg, which we visited yesterday.  Hammerfest claims this distinction because it has a population of over 5,000 as compared to Honningsvåg’s population of 2,415.  However, in 1996 Honningsvåg was officially declared a city, despite their lower population, and Honningsvåg is actually further north than Hammerfest, so the debate continues.  Barrow, Alaska is actually further north than both, but they have seemingly declined to join the fray.  Nevertheless, we are very, very far north in the land of the Polar Night and the Midnight Sun. 100_4486Both Jack and I opted for a bus tour of this interesting city, which despite it’s far northern location, has an ice-free harbor and a climate very similar to Anchorage, Alaska.  For this reason, it has always been a very busy fishing and trade center.  In 1881, Hammerfest was the first urban settlement in Europe to get electric lights. The city receives heavy snowfall in the winter, so one sees avalanche fences all along the hillsides to help protect the homes below.640px-Hauen_Chapel_in_Hammerfest Hammerfest was used as an important base for German operations in World War II.  After the war it was subjected to the German’s “scorched earth policy”, as was all of Finnmark, and was looted and burned to the ground.  The only building left standing was the chapel, pictured above.

100_4477 From up on this hillside we had a nice view of the surrounding area and the large liquified natural gas site on the adjacent island of Melkøya, which opened in 2007 and has provided an economic boom to the area.  The bus passed lots of people hiking up to this viewpoint.  Hiking is a favorite activity of many in Norway and hiking paths are lit up so people can hike in the winter, as well.100_4489Our tour continued around to the other side of the harbor where we were treated to another beautiful view of the city and our ship in the harbor.  The building you see lit up on the hillside is a restaurant and the viewpoint from where the previous photographs were taken.100_4495Here we visited the Struve Geodetic Arc, one of a series of meridian markers that were established by German-Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, between 1816 and 1855 to measure the exact size and shape of the earth.  Years later, when we had more exact measuring devices, it was found that this marker was only off by a teeny amount.  How somebody in that period of time with very primitive methods of calculating could figure this out is just mind-boggling to me!   This guy was ‘way smarter than I am, to even think something like this up.  These monuments are now included on the World Heritage List.100_4494100_4498The bus returned us to the quay, but I had one last place I wanted to visit before we left Hammerfest — The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society museum!  The Polar Bear Club is a small, historical museum featuring the hunting and trapping past, with a good collection of stuffed animals and birds that live in the area.  One can only join the Polar Bear Club in person, by paying a small fee, as proof of visiting their only location, in Hammerfest.

100_4499Leaving Hammerfest, we made brief stops in Øksfjord and Skjervøy before arriving back in Tromsø, the city where we had spent New Year’s Eve, with the fireworks.  Tonight, we were being treated to a midnight concert in the Tromsøysund Church, also known as the Arctic Cathedral.Arctic cathedral

I did not take this photograph, but it shows exactly how it looked that night.  We crossed the snowy bridge and from the bus, walked up to the brilliantly lit cathedral.

100_4501My camera did not like the cold, so this photograph is not as crisp as I would have hoped.  This church is beautiful inside, with dazzling stained glass and chandeliers that look like illuminated icicles.  The acoustics were fabulous, making for a magical evening of entertainment.  360px-Norwegen_tromso_eismeerkathedraleAfter the concert, we returned to the ship and I took up my place on deck 9, hoping for one last glimpse of the Northern Lights.  But it was not to be….the sky was overcast and still, as we cast off and silently slipped away, under the bridge and past sleeping houses, saying good-bye to Tromsø.100_4505

Hunting the Light continued … Part 3

Early on the morning of Day 3 we arrived in Trondheim, a city of 175,000 inhabitants, situated on the River Nid, which winds right through the town.

100_4356I signed up for a city tour of Trondheim and a visit to one of the most famous sights in town — Nidaros Cathedral, built over the burial site of Saint Olaf, king of Norway in the 11th century, and patron saint of Norway.  100_4365My picture of the cathedral did not turn out very well, as it was still pretty dark and the batteries in my camera were not liking the snow and cold weather.  But you can still get a sense of how gigantic this place was by looking at the size of the people walking in front.  We had a tour of the inside which was just as spectacular.

After leaving Trondheim we traversed a stretch of open ocean and it suddenly got very rough.  It was right when dinner was being called and I had to hurry back to the cabin — quick!  We tossed and bucked and I ended up puking my guts out into the wastebasket, which was lined with a plastic bag, thank goodness!  Then both Jack and I fell asleep and when we woke again, everything was calm.  Later, we bought an ice cream bar for dinner, as it took quite a while to feel hungry again.

It was raining when later that evening we stopped in Rorvik.  Supplies were being loaded on board and a couple cars drove onto the ship, as well.100_4367???????????????????????????????????Our sister ship Polarlys was in port at the same time we were.??????????????????????????????????This trip was made more special because we were visiting at Christmas time.  There were decorations h100_4352ere and there all over the ship, adding to the festive atmosphere.100_4350

Since we had taken naps instead of eating dinner, we were ready to stay up late.  The sky was overcast, so there would be no Northern Lights tonight.  A piano player in one of the lounges was very good, so we decided to splurge and have a drink, while enjoying the music, until everyone headed to bed.

100_4378On day 4 we crossed the Arctic Circle, an occasion which always begs for some sort of silly celebration.  Those who were game were “initiated” by having cold water and ice cubes poured down their back.

A surprising number of people, including myself, volunteered for this bit of madness.  The last guy in line got the remainder of the bucket dumped over his head, while old King Neptune reigned over all.

Our next stop was Bodø (pronounced BOW-duh), with a population of about 48,000 ~ making it the second largest city in Northern Norway.  I was very interested in exploring here, as this is where my great-grandfather was born.

One had to be pretty determined to leave the ship on this day, as a stiff wind was blowing the drenching rain sideways.  I put on long underwear, a thick sweater, a scarf, gloves, mittens, boots, a hat and a raincoat.  Within one block I was soaked through to my underwear.  Luckily, it wasn’t that cold.  I would guess that it was about 39 degrees or so.  It was a good thing that I had my spikes on my boots because there was still ice and snow on the ground and the rain on top of that made it quite treacherous.  I wanted to visit the Bodø domkirke, or Cathedral, while getting a chance to walk through the center of town.

100_4381 100_4382

Again, being here at Christmas time and getting to see the decorations and nativity scenes in the churches, made it a very special time to visit.  At the rear of the church was a huge pipe organ illuminated by a beautiful rose window.100_4384

By the time I got back to the ship, I was ready for the sauna and the hot tub.  They had separate saunas for men and women.  Now, I had never been in a sauna before, so I wasn’t quite sure of sauna etiquette.  Luckily, someone was coming out of the sauna just as I was entering the changing room, so she clued me in.   You go in naked and sit on a towel.  When you can’t stand it anymore, you come out and take a cold shower!


So… I tip-toed into this beautiful room and luckily I was the only one in there!  I relaxed and warmed up and gazed out the floor-to-ceiling windows, totally stress-free.  When I was as hot and sweaty as I could stand, I walked into the shower room, but just couldn’t bring myself to stand under the cold water.  Instead, I pulled on my swimsuit and walked outside, which WAS cold, and made my way across the deck to the hot tubs.  ????????????????????????????

There were two outdoor showers, with colored lights on them that made them look like the Northern Lights.  The domed building was a changing cabana, and then there were two jetted hot tubs.  I thought for about three seconds about using the outdoor shower, but permanently changed my mind and quickly made my way to the hot, steaming hot tub and slipped beneath the water.  Ahhhh, it felt so good!  ?????????????????????????????????

The rain had stopped and the sky had cleared and a bright moon was out.  As I was lying back, staring up at the sky, I thought I saw a stripe of pale green and gasped to myself, wondering if that was the Northern Lights.  It lasted for about a minute or so and then was gone.  Nobody else was around that I could ask, so I couldn’t be sure…but I was pretty sure that that was what it was.  Later, after seeing the Northern Lights, I knew for sure that that was what I had seen.

My fingers were turning into prunes and my cheeks felt like they were getting frostbite, so it was time to reluctantly get up out of the tub and quickly make my way back across the deck and inside the ship.TrollfjordLater that night we entered a very narrow fjord, shown above.  It was dark, so my photo did not turn out.  I did want you to see where we were, though.

The sky had mostly cleared and the moon was illuminating the snow on the mountains,  towering on either side of us.  They were serving hot fishcakes out on deck and music was playing and they were searching for the entrance to Trollfjord.  Suddenly there was a collective gasp, as a band of clouds above us began to shimmer and glow and undulate and there they were, the Northern Lights, dancing in the sky above our heads.  The show went on for about half-an-hour.  As soon as one band would begin to fade, another wispy cloud would suddenly start to glow and ripple and unfold across the sky, leaving one speechless.100_4562100_4561

I just have a point and shoot camera, so of course my photos are really lame, but when I look at them, I remember how it really looked, and I am still amazed.

That was a magical night that will be forever in my memory.  And more magical nights were yet to come.