Arctic Circle, Ørnes, Bodø, Bodo, Første Juledag, Hurtigruten, MS Trollfjord, Ornes, Saltstrømmen Maelstrom, Svolvaer, Svolvær
Happily this was, in all respects, a quieter day than the previous one. Indeed, you would scarcely have known it was Christmas Day, except that the female members of staff were again in glitterised versions of national costume (which had slightly diminished the effect of bad cop’s reprimand the day before).
Around 07.35 we were invited to the top deck to observe the crossing of the Arctic Circle. Given that it was dark, and that we were on a moving boat, this was the best I could do for a picture of the monument, despite the fact that a bright beam from the ship was directed at it.
The vast self-service breakfast counter catered for all nationalities, and more I suspect. I had settled by now to a daily bowl of muesli with fresh fruit salad, and a boiled egg. Two tanks of eggs bubbled away in hot water, hard-boiled kept, according to its thermometer, at 54 degrees C, and soft-boiled at 48 degrees. As they say, you learn something every day. Egg cooking temperatures is not something I would have expected to learn on a Norwegian cruise.
I shared a table for that breakfast with a long-retired Norwegian. He told me, in his very broken English, that he owned 18 ships, that his two sons ran the business in Bergen, that he had lost his wife to dementia eight years previously, and that he did this cruise every Christmas. Why on a Hurtigruten boat, I asked, not on one of his own? Because his boats did not cater for passengers. I think I believe him on all details. He wasn’t the only person I met who who repeated the experience every year at this time. We talked a little about Norway being a rule-taker in the EU without being a rule-maker, but his English was not up to a deep conversation on the matter. I just got from him that the Norwegians had difficulty in forgetting the war. (And my goodness was I going to learn in the following days how much they had suffered.)
When the boat stopped at Ørnes for 10 minutes, I walked round deck 6.
And took a couple of short videos as we moved off.
At 10.30 it was time for the Arctic Circle ceremony, but only after a prize-giving. During the previous day’s briefing, Heinz had invited us to estimate the exact time we would cross the Arctic Circle, entries to be in by 22.00. (My guess was way out.) The winner was presented by the captain with a flag that had been flying on the boat. (There were too many people in the way for me to get a decent picture of it when it was unfurled.) He had been just 18 seconds off. When asked how he was able to be so accurate, he replied that he felt he was a bit of a cheat as he was an experienced mariner.
There was no way I was going to take part in the Arctic Circle ceremony, despite the small glass of spirits which would be given to participants as a reward afterwards. Before I had set off, a Norwegian-English friend had told me what it was: an ice cube down the back. Here’s J’s instinctive reaction after he had undergone it.
I had another fascinating conversation at lunch, with H, the Indian doctor from ‘our’ table. He had a wonderful tale to tell of his ambition to learn English from a very young age, bribing his older brother to take him to a library in a town some was miles from his village so that he could go to a library, in due course refusing to follow his family’s business ambition for him, but training to be a doctor, making a wonderful marriage, arranged by his parents because he had been unable to find a wife for himself, (a condition of his family’s support to emigrate to the US), then practising all his life as a doctor in New York, where he still lived. His wife had not been well enough to accompany him on the cruise. His sole ambition was to see the Northern Lights and once that had happened he was happy.
At 14.00 the ship stopped at Bodø – minus 2° C. Because it was Christmas, there were only two excursions happening – normally there would have been perhaps half a dozen. These two were a hike with the expedition team, and a sightseeing tour of the town including the nearby Saltstrømmen Maelstrom . I had not booked for either, and I was even a little nervous, after the previous day, of stepping of the boat during the two-hour stay, so I contented myself with another stroll around deck 6 in the Arctic twilight.
At 16.00 local time I was able to listen in my cabin to our new King’s Christmas message, live on BBC Radio 4.
The English-language briefing at 17.00 told us something about…
… where we would be the following day for four hours, and the single excursion which would be available this Boxing Day, a husky tour. There was then a presentation on the ‘Northern Lights, Myths and Legends’, plus some tips about seeing and photographing them. Apparently if you are not sure as to whether what you can see is just a cloud or the Lights, point your camera at it and they will show green if they are the latter. So all those wonderfully coloured pictures you see are only best photographically. The tip was to be useful the next day.
We had a stop for one hour at Svolvær at 21.15. I overcame my reluctance to leave the security of the ship, and was so glad I did. My short walk in the snow was magical.
I have managed in the previous pictures to remove the most of the yellowness that my camera added to the snow, but have been unable to do so for this brief video.