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For some people, Day 8 started at 01.20. They had left the boat at Mehamn and rejoined at at Kjøllefjord at 03.25, having travelled some of the distance between the two by snow-scooter. I was not among them. The first announcement most of us heard was to explain a delay – we had taken on 130 tons of fish during the night at one of the stops! (Some reckoned that they could see the boat listing, but given the overall tonnage of the boat, I couldn’t – and didn’t – see that it made any difference.)

We were still at the very ‘top’ of Norway. This was taken just before 11.00.

The only lengthy stop that day was at Hammerfest, around 11.15. This claims to be the northernmost town – or was it city? – in the world. So does Honningsvåg. It seems that both can be true since one is technically a city and the other a town. This I found out when, cussedly, I said privately to ‘Onchel’ (pronounced ‘Onkle’) Heinz that I had visited the town of Longyearbyen on Svalbard, way, way to the north of mainland Norway. Ah, but that, being very small, was neither a town nor a city. OK.

The options here were: – to take a very short walk from the boat,

in order to see this;

or to take a bus to see it, then visit the town and its surroundings, including the Museum of Reconstruction of Finnmark and the Northern Troms regions;

or to go on a mountain hike.

Or of course to stay on the boat, which the majority did. I had booked on the second.

The monument was to mark the Struve Geodetic Arc, which started at Hammerfest and ended at the Black Sea. This was a chain of triangulations carried out between 1816 and 1855, which helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet.

We were taken to a high viewpoint of the harbour, passing a much enlarged former Sami dwelling.

As we were taken back to the town centre, I grabbed a few photos from the bus.

Our whistle-stop tour of the museum provided a very natural and just as sobering sequel to the visit to the bomb shelter in Kirkenes the day before. It picked up from the scorched earth policy of the retreating Germans in 1944, and covered the plight of refugees in their own country, and subsequent reconstruction of their homes and other buildings. Much of it was text and most of the rest was old photos. With little time to read and study I just hastily grabbed images to read later. Here are some.

Simulation of a cave dwelling
‘Life as a refugee’
Life in the fallow period’
Mock-up of a brand new home for returning refugees, reminding me of my childhood
A brand new home for a Sami family

And we were rushed on, back to the boat.

I reflected on the words of the Norwegian boatowner over breakfast a couple of days earlier, who had said that Norwegians remembered the war. And I also noted the different approaches of our local guides: the passion of that of the previous day in Kirkenes, for whom the period had been lived experience, compared with the matter-of-factness of this day’s guide, half his age, for whom all this was history. (That Norwegian referendum on whether to join what became the EU had been back in 1972, with 53.5% against membership and 46.5% in favour. They had another, I have just read, in 1994. On an 88.6% turnout, 52% were against, 48% for – no, I’ve not got my referendum results muddled. The Wikipedia article suggests that it’s fishing which for many Norwegians is a great obstacle to EU membership.)

Not UFOs but reflections from inside the coach

At 15.45 we had a talk on:

with its painful reminder that the British expedition under Scott had been ill-equipped and very under-experienced compared with the Norwegian Amundsen. Indeed it’s amazing just how much Scott achieved in the circumstances.

Later in the afternoon was the English-language briefing for the next day, but how the next day panned out is a completely different story.

We would be pulling in to Tromsø at 23.45 that evening , for a nearly two-hour stay. A concert in the ‘Arctic Cathedral’ I had walked to on the way ‘up’ had originally been scheduled, to which I had much looked forward. But there was to be no concert there that night, instead another being scheduled at a theatre/cultural centre. A little bird indicated to me that the music would not be up to much. I would have coped with this just to see the inside of the church at midnight, but I decided against in the circumstances. I was tucked up in bed and fast asleep as those who went left and came back. Feedback the next day was that my choice had been a good one.