"" Writer's Wanderings: Across The Arctic Circle, Hammerfest, Norway

Monday, May 22, 2023

Across The Arctic Circle, Hammerfest, Norway

About midnight of our sea day between Trondheim and Hammerfest, we crossed the Arctic Circle. I wasn't up for it but I assume the sun still was at two in the morning since it was still light outside when I woke for a visit to the bathroom. Our sea day was foggy and cold and full of swells that looked about eight foot or more. The captain assured everyone that the ship could handle it and more, which could happen as we traversed the North  Sea. There were times I wondered if the Deadliest Catch was filming nearby.

Our docking in Hammerfest the morning of our arrival was delicate. The dock is not very large and they had to drop anchor as well as tie up to shore to be sure the ship would not move if the wind kicked up. There was also a little tricky maneuvering to get the gangway fixed properly. The tide was up so we had to climb up and down and "mind our head" as the top of the hatchway to exit was not far above it. (Later when we returned and the tide was lower, it was much better.)

The morning had featured some showers just before our arrival so the ground was wet and the clouds were hanging around as well. Still the pretty colors of the buildings on shore looked inviting. Mountains in the distance still had plenty of snow and we noticed the snow line was a little lower here than in previous ports. There were also lots of snow fences dotting the hillside behind homes and buildings. We could only imagine how deep the snow got in winter.

Snow capped mountains and snow fences aside, the Gulf Stream flows all the way up here and keeps the seaport open with its warmth. The lake Bob found however was still frozen. No Gulf Stream there.

Again the ship offered a shuttle into town ($19.95) which was only an eight minute walk around the harbor. Well, it was a little longer for us as we took it slow with my ankle. There was no hurry anyway. The town isn't that large and we had all day.

It is said that Hammerfest is the most northern city in the world. Some of that is disputed by several other cities including what will be our next stop, Honnigsvag. It seems the dispute has to do with qualifying as a city with your population numbers. I believe Hammerfest is a little larger in that respect but Honnigsvag claims to be grandfathered in when they changed the qualifications for city status. 

As we walked into town, we began to see bear pawprints on the sidewalk. They were painted white and we assumed, correctly, that they would lead us to the Polar Bear Society. This place has nothing to do with taking a cold plunge into the Arctic waters or even local polar bears. The bears are no where near here. It has a small display of a stuffed polar bear and several other animals and information on fishing and exploration of the area. There was a sign that said by appointment only so I don't know if there was more to it or not. I don't believe so as I can't find anything else online to indicate that. 

The big deal is that for around $35 USD you can buy a membership. You get a polar bear pin in silver and enamel, a sticker of their logo and a diploma signed by the mayor all to prove that you visited the "World's Northernmost Town." The money they say goes to support the exhibition and pay for the memorabilia you get. I would have considered it if some of the money were going to protect the bears. 

With the Polar Bear Society there is also a tourist information center with, yup, a gift shop full of stuffed polar bears and pins and other souvenirs.

We could see some sunshine on the snowy mountains in the distance but there was none to be had as we walked around the harbor to find the unusually beautiful Lutheran Hammerfest Church. It was Sunday and they were preparing for service and a greeter at the door was very gracious but nicely keeping all the tourists out until after the service would be over. 

We took some pictures from the outside including including a picture of a couple in traditional costume. As we left to walk back along the boardwalk on the harbor, we passed several others in costume and those not in costume, were dressed in Sunday best. I'm not sure if the fact that they were having a confirmation service was the reason but it was nice to see. Service was to start at 11 and it was then 10:30 as we heard the bells ring out. That must have been the wakeup call because about five to 11, the bells rang again. Maybe a signal you were going to be late?

Since it was Sunday, there were very few businesses or shops open. We saw a couple of restaurants who were featuring breakfast and brunch. Gradually as we walked back toward the ship, there was a little more local traffic but it was still a very quiet morning. Quiet except for the seagulls.

Bob had mentioned a little earlier that we always see adult seagulls but never baby seagulls. A little while later, we looked up at a couple of roofs that were full of seagull nests. Oh the noise! We couldn't discern little heads but there sure was a lot of noise. I could not imagine all of that above my head as I tried to sleep.

We found what looked like a town square and sat for a few minutes. I think the place was full of tourists and more were on the way as another cruise ship was pulling into the harbor. After a short rest, we picked up and moved on. There was one more place to see and it was closer to the ship. Bob made one detour to see the frozen lake while I sat at a bus stop bench and waited/rested. 

Finally we found the monument we had heard about. The monument is to the Struve Geodetic Arc which is a chain of survey triangulations through ten countries. They are points of a survey carried out between 1816 and 1855 by Astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve. It was the first accurate measurement of a long segment of a meridian and did much to help establish the exact size and shape of the earth. 

After almost three hours of wandering, we were ready to go back, We found a little shortcut between some buildings that looked like a college. 

Oh yes, there was one significant point of interest we missed, or should I say avoided, The Salen Lookout. There was a zigzag path to the top and we could see people who had braved the climb for a view from the top. We took the elevator to the topmost deck and had our view, thank you.

There were excursions available to see the Sami tribe of indigenous people nearby in the area but we passed on that as well. It was expensive and our travel budget had stretched far enough. 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...