Arctic Norway 2007

Recent horrific events in Norway brought to mind a wonderful trip that Chris and I took a few years ago to see the land of the Midnight Sun so I thought that I would sort out a few photographs to show how lovely a country it can be. The city of Tromso lies at a latitude of 70 degrees North: that is considerably closer to the pole than Fairbanks in Alaska, Reykjavik in Iceland, Archangel in Russia or even Ushuaia in Chile (if you turn the world upside down). Yet the warm waters of the Gulf Stream have allowed it to be settled for more than a thousand years and to grow into an attractive centre of population with a University, Art Gallery, two cathedrals and several museums.

I was very disappointed that the broadcaster Michael Palin could only find a couple of drunken football supporters to interview when he passed through Tromso in his Pole to Pole television series. Shame. I’ve included a picture of some university students picnicking in the grounds of the “other cathedral” on Midsummers day in an attempt to redress the balance. This is also a popular cruise ship destination and Chris and I had our tranquility invaded for a few moments when a flock of visitors descended upon the Arctic Cathedral for some serious shutter action. It was even more lovely when they left.

You can see that the whale watching trip was a great success although our photography was not really up to it, especially as I was still in my pre-digital age. Mind you, most of the other passengers were Norwegian or Swedish youngsters and several of them were making do with the cameras on their mobile phones. It was wonderful to join the Cetacea and find that it had almost all Scandinavian passenger complement because I’m sure that conservation can only really work if it has the support of the inhabitants of the region concerned. The whaling industry is very much part of the history of North Norway and this is reflected in the museums which also fill out the story of polar exploration and complement those in Oslo.

Chris and I enjoyed Oslo, which we visited later in our trip, even though it had recently overtaken Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world. Some of the galleries and museums are free and it is possible to buy a combined ticket to visit all the attractions on the Bygdoy peninsular, a short bus ride from the city centre. For a Roald Amundsen devotee like myself (yes, I’m one of those people who believe that Scott was a bit of a plonker) this was a real treat. So too were the gorgeously coloured costumes in the Folk Museum; it is hardly possible to believe that a few miles separation could have brought about so much regional variation. I do regret not having been able to take photographs because the only illustrations available are in specialist books at prohibitive prices.

Earlier this year I happen to have been in Thanet, at the extreme eastern end of Kent (for my foreign readers that’s in England) when a sperm whale was beached in Pegwell Bay, something which had not happened in living memory. The animal was a juvenile, washed up already dead and, by the time I made it down to the beach with a few other local dog walkers, essential organs had already been removed for post postmortem examination. It has since been determined that the cause of death was starvation; at about 15 meters it was approximately half the size of the ones that Chris and I had seen flourishing in the Arctic waters off of Norway. The Viking ship at Pegwell is in fact Danish not Norwegian but it is seaworthy or at least it was in 1949 when some intrepid Danes rowed it across the English Channel to celebrate what they had calculated was the fifteen hundredth anniversary of the first Nordic landing. I’m not sure where they got their information from but I hope that they enjoyed our beer.

Anyone enjoying my post and the pictures could do worse than to see the recent Norwegian film, Troll Hunter. Between the bits of nonsense, all delivered with a characteristic deadpan style, the views of the Norwegian landscape are simply breathtaking.

I am so sorry about the dreadful events of the 22nd of July in Oslo and Utoya, my thoughts are with the families of all concerned. I wish that there was more that I could say.


Categories: Arctic, Europe


  • Chris says:

    ….. but how old is the LIGHTHOUSE?

  • Chris, I remember you were very embarrassed when I asked Thor that question and tried to shush me “he’s a naturalist, not a historian” but the consensus was that its base at least was about a thousand years old. Well, we have a date to go back to Tromso sometime, so I can do some more research.

  • Miranda says:

    i have done this set as well. Molly definately steals the show, but I must say there is a lovely photo of you too. But not the one where there is a smelly whale.
    M 🙂

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