Hurtigruten Day 8: Mehamm - Honningsvag - Hammerfest - Öksfjord - Tromsö
In the run-up of this Hurtigruten-day, the passenger has to make a difficult decision in the months from May to September. Those who are indecesive have to use a coin. Heads or tails! Either getting up early in Honningsvag in order to experience a special breakfast in the plateaus of the North Cape before getting into the bus to southern direction alongside the massive Porsanger fjord to Hammerfest. Or staying on board, get up at a reasonable time, have unhurriedly breakfast as usual and look forward to the arrival in Hammerfest while watching the coastal landscape.
Either way, it will be a beautiful and interesting day that ends by entering the harbour of Trömsö at midnight. Mehamn and Köllefjord are already left behind by the Hurtigrute when it casts off at 07.00 a.m. in Honningsvag. Nach Durchfahren des Mageröysundes bleibt Mageröy, die Nordkapinsel, am Heck des Schiffes zurück. Determinedly, the fast steamer approaches Havösund. Only a short moorage at the doch, Hammerfest is waiting!
Now, one should put one's camera or video equipment under scrutiny , as on the way to Havösund, there is to expect an encounter with the Hurtigruten in northern direction in front of a beautiful backdrop. In the summer time it is useful to reserve in time in the deck (at the portside) a little place, so that later, no one stands in front of one's lense.
After that, again with a southern course, enter into the Rolvsösund. After leaving the sound, the two islands Söröya and Kvalöya approach at the south. The northern tip of Kvalöya is circumnavigated at the portside and shortly afterwards, the Hurtigrute takes course to the winding bay of Hammerfest. The first houses appear, the fast steamer heatedly draws attention to itself and occupies its habitual place at the harbour for the noon time.
Thus, we are now in the most northern city of the world; With 70°39''48' at the same latitude as the most northern areas of Siberia, the centre of Greenland or the most northern point of Alaska. Alongside this fictive line, even during the summer time, the temperatures hardly exceed the freezing point.
But here, the natural wonder gulf stream provides a pleasant climate. The shipping routes and the harbours are free of ice throughout the year, in thew summer time, the flowers flourish in the gardens. The restaurants and bars offer seats at the open air. Also the ice cream parlours do not need to moan about lacking customers. From May 17th up to July 28th, one experiences only one unique long day of summer. The only disadvantage is that from November 21st up to January 23rd, the sun does not raise above the horizon.
Over many centuries, Hammerfest was a place for trading before obtaining in the year the municipal law. No one who settled down in this city at that time had to pay taxes, however the young city first only had 40 inhabitants. two decades later, the number of inhabitants increased to 350. The equipment of whaling and expeditions to Spitzbergen, the trade with russia, tourism and trips to the North Cape, the establishment of a trawler fleet for the growing fishing industry as also the crude oil and gas resources in the northern Arctic Sea and the Barents Sea made increase the number of inhabitants significantly in the course of the decades. Today, 8.000 people live in the city.
In the year 1891, Hammerfest obtained, as one of the first European cities and the first Norwegian city, a powerhouse and a street lighting. But one won't find any historical street lamps and buildings in Hammerfest. In October 1944, the inhabitants had to leave their city. In the night of January 15th to January 16th, the whole city of wood houses was completely destroyed by a fire.
The city was rebuilt. The most beautiful and eye-catching building of the new Hammerfest is, without doubt, the St. Michael Church. Built with the help of german volunteers, it offers space for 500 people; At the triangular-shaped back wall, a glowing glass mosaic of 10.000 pieces replaces the altarpiece. Underneath this glass mosaic with St. Michael and the dragon, there is a stone mosaic made of Norwegian natural stone. It shows pictures of the marching into Jerusalem up to the crucifixion; Glass pictures that adorn both of the side walls with further christian motifs, provide some impressive light effects. The visit of this church to which it barely takes a 10 minute walk from the dock of the Hurtigruten, is an absolute "must" for the visitor in the most northern city of the world.
A further sightseeing is the museum of the polar bear club. Each visitor is welcomed as a member of the club. When the weather is fine, the way to the view point Salen located at a height of 80 m is probably more rewarding. The restaurant located there indicates the way. A curt quarter of an hour should be sufficient for the ascent.
On the little headland Fulgenes that is located at the other side of the bay, the Meridian Stone is located. This stone reminds on the big, geodesic measurement project through Russia, Sweden and Norway from 1816 to 1852, at which the shape and the size of the globe was determined. But most of the times, a side trip to this place is omitted due to lack of time.
If it is said again "Cast Off" in Hammersfeld, the previous activities must have caused hunger. Thus, straight to the midday buffet and then again to the deck or into the panorama saloon in order not to miss anything, as the landscape up to Tromsö belongs to the best things of the whole journey.
Up to Öksfjord, the next harbour, the course is flanked by the islands Söröya, Seiland and Stjernöya. The long extended Söröya at the starboard side is the fouth biggest island of Norway. During the last war, 1.000 people hid in rock caves in order not to be found by the german occupying power. Despite an ordered mass evacuation, they refused to leave the island. But the living conditions in the caves got continuously more calamitous. In January 1945, it is possible to bring, under dangerous circumstances, with Norwegian and English ships, to bring the people into the already liberated part of Norway and to England. The islands was already populated in the stone age. Today, most of the colonies are located at the southern side. The three biggest fishing villages have together approximately 1.500 inhabitants.
At the portside, Seiland appears with the two frozen peaks of the Nordmannsjökulen (1.075 m) and Seilandsjökulen (981 m). In this island, Kautokeino-Sami peole live here with their rentiers. Further into the south, divided from Seiland by a sound, there is Stjernöya. With Nephelinsyenit, there is a very special raw material. Approximately 230.000 tons are exlpoited per year. Among other things, nephelinsyenit also serves as a raw material for the glass production.
In the course, the peninsula Loppa and at the portside, the inlet into the Öksfjord are continuously approaching. In the fore side of the fjord, there is the same named localty. With its 800 inhabitants, this place is marked by the fishing and the fish processing industry. At the other side of the fjord, the Öksfjordjökulen is visible, with a height of 1204 m it is Norways fifth biggest glacier.
Here in Öksfjord, the authoress Marie Corelli was inspired to write the novel "Thelma" or the "Norwegian princess". The novel is based on the true story of the girl Philippa from Öksfjord. When Philippa was 17 years old, a young english naval officer visited the Finnmark with his yacht. Both learned to know each other, fell in love and became engaged. But shortly afterwards, the young man had to leave his bride. Both of the young people held out and kept being faithful to each other. After five years, the fiancee came back, married Philippa and took her to London, were both found their hapiness.
The further navigation of the fast steamer is now flanked on the portside by the massive peaks of the wildly fissured peninsula Loppa. it its northern tip is circumnavigated, the same named open sea stretch has to be handled. The name Loppa (flea), comes from a little island that is soon passed at the starboardside. Up to the year 1890, this island was for 30 years an English property. Due to a linguistic missundertanding, the island was sold to an Englsih huntsman, who in reality just wanted to rent the shooting rights.
By passing the western point of the island Loppa, the Hurtigrute leaves the province Finnmark and takes course to Skjervöy. The mainland behind offers, with its gorgeous mountain backdrop, a view that is second to none. Today, the fishing localty Skjervöy has 2.000 inhabitants. It is located conveniently at the waterway between Tromsö and the Finnmark and has a long tradition as a trading place. In the 17th century, the merchant Christen Michelsen resided here in Heggelund. His not very squeamish methods of doing business helped him to be eternalized in a poem of Peter Dass.
In August 1896, banner headlines were written. A week after the arrival of Nansen and Johansen in Vardö (see also day 7), also the polar ship that was expected with fear, the "Fram", returned after three years north pole expedition back to the home land.
During the further trip to Trömsö, a wonderful coastal landscape accompanies us. The waterway is surrounded by numeruous islands and at the east, one looks to the impressive mountain world of the Lyngen mountains (see also day 5). Either on a summer or a winter journey, no one should go to bed this night before arriving at Tromsö.
During the summer months, provided there is nice weather, the midnight sun puts the mountains to the left and to the right of the waterway into a warm light. But also in the winter time, one can also get one's money worth, as nowhere else, a winter night has so much light as under the starry sky as in the far north. A strange atmosphere is over the clear dark of the white landscape and sometimes one gets the feeling that not the orbs are the creators of this light, but that the glow comes form the mountains themselves. As a moved silhouette, the islands and mountains move in front of the background of the sky passing the fast steamer, until a sea of lights of the suburbs of Tromsö receives one. Shortly before midnight, the harbour is reached.
And now imagine it is December 31st; New year's eve! It seemes that whole Tromsö is on its feet in order to greet the new year. The Hurtigrute is received by a colourful display of fireworks. The noise of the exploding fireworks resounds over the water and is echoed by the surrounding mountains. Also the fast steamer greets the new year, its ear-battering tooting admixes to the noise that is caused by the ships at the harbour. What a new year's experience.
But also a "normal" night is attractive. Many a member of the crew "tog themselves" and rush into the nightlife of Tromsö. Thus, head after them, as there are enough bars and nightclubs. Tromsö is not called "Paris of the north" for nothing. But there is to be careful and not to go over the top, as the Hurtigrute takes his way again already at 1.30 a.m.
But those who do not like the nightlife can probably have fun doing a midnight excursion that is offered from June 1st up to July 31st. During this period of time, there is in the Arctic Sea Cathedral a unique, natural mignight concert with Norwegian folklore and classic pieces; Either way, have fun and good night!
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Author: Manfred Hofmann; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz