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"Awen yn codi o'r cudd ac yn cydio'r cwbl"
- Waldo Williams
(Awen arising from hiding and everything binding)

Impressions of the Arctic

The Sun at Midnight just north of the Arctic Circle

There had been storms in Britain on the day before the sea crossing from Newcastle to Bergen but the crossing was calm and we saw orca half way across the North Sea. But the storms caught up with us when we got there. Walking to the summit of Mount Fløyen we emerged from the trees near the summit to thunder and lightning and a rain-swept view of Bergen and the fjord below. In spite of this on our way up we passed a large group of young children gathered around a large pond, some of them paddling in it in their wellies. It seems that early-age schooling in Norway consists of taking the children out all day regardless of the weather.

From Bergen we ferried up the coast northward through the fjords, outlying islands and skerries. As we proceeded northwards sunrise and sunset times grew closer together until at 66° 33’ 44” N we reached the Arctic Circle. On the way the coastline became increasingly more barren and rocky with mountains flung out to the sea-side of the sound as we went along.

Some delights on the way:

At Brønøysund we climbed Torghatten a ‘Top Hat’ shaped hill with a hole through it framing a sea view. We were told sea eagles nested here. None were seen but the one possibly heard.

We crossed the Arctic Circle at about 9.30 pm on a bright sunny day so were able to get a clear view, later, of the midnight sun which would now not set until after we returned to this point.

At the ferry terminal at Sortland a flock of Arctic terns swooped over our heads, their scimitar wings and swallow-like tails providing a graceful spectacle which was a real delight.

Sperm whale sighting far off against the backdrop of looming mountains in the farther distance.

At Ålta we went to see the prehistoric rock art: reindeer, elk and fish among other things carved into the rock by the first settlers of these parts after the Ice Age about 6000 years ago. They seem to depict hunting scenes. Some have the incisions in the rock coloured in red ochre to make them more visible, though others have been left for the visitor to discern. The practice of colouring is debatable and probably won’t be done again, though the uncoloured ones can only be seen close-up.

Honigsvåg was our most northerly ferry terminal. By now it was noticeably colder and in spite of 24 hour daylight the sun was hidden by cloud. From here our way up to North Cape, the most northerly point on the European mainland, was by coach over the tundra. We passed a Sámi village with grazing reindeer on the way. North Cape is a headland jutting out into the Arctic Ocean with a visitor centre and a large globe at the northern-most point. Here mist formed strange shapes on the sea and snow flurries drifted across the bare ground.

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