HURTIGRUTEN CRUISE
HARSTAD - KIRKENES - HARSTAD
«March 2014»

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

For only the second time in my life I went on an organized tour, booked with BBI Travel (Eelde,Netherlands); it became much more adventurous, and disrupted, than I had expected.
Having flown to Evenes (in full: Narvik/Harstad, Evenes Airport - IATA: EVE, ICAO: ENEV) we had a 2.5 hour busdrive to Solvaer. We were supposed to board the Hurtgruten ship MS Finnmarken there, but stormy weather prevented the ship from entering the Lofoten. So we were again put in a bus and driven to Harstad, in 3 hours under cover of darkness.
On the return the same scenario, in reverse order, occurred. The weather became very much a factor during this trip.

The organisation reacted well under the sometimes trying circumstances (all things being relative, 'trying' for a cruise passenger!), the setting was inspirational and all was 'endured' in very pleasant company.
Hope you like my report, enjoy!

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Sailing from Harstad, with still some habitation to be seen here; the houses and dwellings would soon become sparse.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
The view from the observation desk, facing forward.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Our cabin, home away from home for 5 nights. Most time was spent in the restaurant or on the observation desk, however.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
The MS Finnmarken had a comfortable size, the observation facilities, with a 360 view, was located on deck 8, the highest deck.
Other decks also had viewing and seating facilities. The Finnmarken was also very nicely decorated.
Note how one looks down on most of the houses here, so it wasn't a small ship by any means.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Enjoying the quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Photo by Ada Leeuw.

The following specifications of the Finnmarken was found on www.cruisingtalk.com:
MS Finnmarken: built in 2002, with 643 berths.
Other facts of interest- car spaces: 55; gross tonnage:15000 tons; length:138.5m, width:21.5m.
And a speed of 18 knots.
The 2002-built, 643-passenger ship Finnmarken has 32 suites available, many with balconies and some with a Jacuzzi. All cabins are equipped with TV and telephone. An internet cafe is on deck 4.
Finnmarken has an outdoor swimming pool (deck 7), and a fitness center with a sauna and massage parlor (deck 8). Panoramic lounges, restaurants, cafes and bars are located on the top decks.
The ship is decorated by Norwegian artist in Art Nouveau style. You will find original drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, charcoal drawings, lithographs, and sculptures throughout the ship.

 

 
Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
From sea to shining sea.
 


Tromsø city is the ninth-largest urban area in Norway by population and the seventh largest city in Norway by population.
It is the largest city and the largest urban area in Northern Norway, and the 2nd largest city and urban area north of the Arctic Circle in Sápmi (following Murmansk).
Most of Tromsø, including the city centre, is located on the small island of Tromsøya in the county of Troms, 350 kilometres (217 mi) north of the Arctic Circle.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

The city centre of Tromsø contains the highest number of old wooden houses in Northern Norway, the oldest house dating from 1789.
Note that poster 'Legalize it'.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
A visit to the Polar Museum.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (b.16Jul1872 – d.ca18Jun1928) was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910-12) to become the first men to reach the South Pole in December 1911.
In 1926, he was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole.
He is also known as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage (1903–06).
He disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission. Part of his aeroplane, a fueltank, was on display in this museum.
Amundsen, Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton were key expedition leaders during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
Wikipedia

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

This very interesting museum adresses the history that by the end of the 19th century, Tromsø had become a major Arctic trade center from which many Arctic expeditions originated.
Explorers like Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile and Fridtjof Nansen made use of the know-how in Tromsø on the conditions in the Arctic, and often recruited their crews in the city.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Spitsbergen, a.k.a. Svalbard, is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also features polar bears, reindeer, and marine mammals. Seven national parks and 23 nature reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched, yet fragile, natural environment. Sixty percent of the archipelago is glacier, and the islands feature many mountains and fiords.
At this museum I learned that the reindeer species at Svalbard are smaller but fatter than found on the Scandinavian mainland. When the whaling industry was its peak these reindeers were hunted almost to extinction because of the food and fur.
I would love to visit Svalbard some day, also because the Dutch have a history there.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Willem Barentsz was born around 1550 on the island Terschelling in what would later be known as The Netherlands.
A cartographer by trade, Barentsz sailed to Spain and the Mediterranean to complete an atlas of the Mediterranean region, which he co-published with Petrus Plancius.
His career as an explorer was spent searching for the Northeast passage.

First voyage
On 05Jun1594 Barentsz left as part of a group of three ships, sent out in separate directions to try and enter the Kara Sea, with the hopes of finding the Northeast passage above Siberia.
On 9 July,[5] the crew encountered a polar bear for the first time. After shooting it with a musket when it tried to climb aboard the ship, the seamen decided to capture it with the hope of bringing it back to Holland. Once leashed and brought aboard the ship however, the bear rampaged and had to be killed. This occurred in Bear Creek, Williams Island.
Barentsz reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya, and followed it northward before being forced to turn back in the face of large icebergs.

Second voyage
The following year, Prince Maurice of Orange named him Chief Pilot and Conductor of a new expedition, which was accompanied by six ships loaded with merchant wares that the Dutch hoped to trade with China.
Setting out on 02Jun1595, the voyage went between the Siberian coast and Vaygach Island. 04Sep1595 saw a small crew sent to States Island to search for a type of crystal that had been noticed earlier. The party was attacked by a polar bear, and two sailors were killed.
Eventually, the expedition turned back upon discovering that unexpected weather had left the Kara Sea frozen.
More continued below...

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Willem Barentsz and the Third voyage:
In 1596, disappointed by the failure of previous expeditions, the States-General announced they would no longer subsidize similar voyages – but instead offered a high reward for anybody who successfully navigated the Northeast Passage.
The Town Council of Amsterdam purchased and outfitted two small ships, captained by Jan Rijp and Jacob van Heemskerk, to search for the elusive channel under the command of Barentsz. They set off and on 09Jun1596 and discovered Bear Island.
They discovered Spitsbergen on 17Jun1596, sighting its northwest coast.

The voyage continued and Barentsz reached Novaya Zemlya on July 17h. Anxious to avoid becoming entrapped in the surrounding ice, he intended to head for the Vaigatch Strait, but became stuck within the many icebergs and floes.
Stranded, the 16-man crew was forced to spend the winter on the ice; the crew used lumber from their ship to build a 7.8x5.5 metre lodge, which they called Het Behouden Huys (The Saved House).
When June 1597 arrived, and the ice had still not loosened its grip on the ship, the scurvy-ridden survivors took two small boats out into the sea on June 13th. Barentsz died at sea on 20Jun1597.
Wikipedia, more..

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Very wet conditions, our clothing fitted for the cold rather than rain. Others, I noticed, had come better prepared.

 

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Naval vessels of Norway

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Some cleaning done on the barrel.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
The weather kept changing rapidly.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Some of the passages were quite close to land.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

 

Hurtigruten route
The route we sailed (omitting the short stops where I did not disembark):
Harstad - Tromsø - Honningsvåg - Kirkenes - Vardø - Hammerfest - Harstad

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Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

 

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Finnmarken on the dock at Honningsvåg.
There was an excursion to the 'Nordkapp' but we decided to explore Honningsvåg instead.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Honningsvåg
Honningsvåg is the northernmost city on the mainland of Norway. It is located in Nordkapp Municipality in Finnmark county.
Honningsvåg is situated at a bay on the southeastern side of the large island of Magerøya, while the famous North Cape and its visitors center is on the northern side of the island. Honningsvåg is a port of call for cruise ships, especially in the summer months.
The ice-free ocean (southwestern part of the Barents Sea) provides rich fisheries and tourism is also important to the town.
[Source: Wikipedia]

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
No, not our hotel!

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
An obvious landmark to walk to, but we found the church closed.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Rain and/or snow were never far away.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Nighttime at where? Could be Kjøllefjord; we sometimes docked and left within 30 minutes, loading & unloading. Sometimes a group left on an excursion and picked up at the next brief stop. This may have been a stop where a group left for a nightly trip on a snow scooter. Warm clothing required, and sometimes rainclothing was issued, as conditions shifted between snow and rain.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Library in Kirkenes. I have a fondness for local libraries and will step inside for a visit when I can, for a talk and some photos.
My personal fight for books and libraries, against e-books (though I see limited use for them).

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
A very kind librarian informed us on the large selection of Russian books available here. Many Norwegian men in the region have married a Russian wife, while also a considerable number of Russians work and/or trade here. If you have lived in Kirkenes for at least three years, the border crossing into Russia is much easier too, facilitating import/export and family visits.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
The High Street of Kirkenes. The trees must have a hard time growing here.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
The librarian advised us to check behind the hotel for the dogs resting from the 'Finnmarksløpet'.
This is a Iditarod-like race, Finnmarksløpet is the world's northernmost sled dog race. The race starts on Saturday of the 10th week of the year and goes across Finnmark in Norway. The race was first run in 1981.

When we arrived the teams still participating had gone, only three teams were still there.
We were told the storm we had experienced earlier that week had also effected this dograce; a number of teams had slept in the field, not able to make the resting stops. Also, since the temperature had been mild, the food caches for the dogs en route had not remained frozen and gone off, so dogs had developed stomach problems. These three teams were resting and recovering while a 'vet-team' kept a close watch on the condition of the dogs.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
We opted for making our own way to the Snow Hotel, as on the map available on the ship it looked like within walking distance. Aboard these ships the food is real good and available in abundance, so a little exercise seemed advisable. But while walking we found that the Snow Hotel had moved 10 kilometers! So after visiting the center of Kirkenes, with still some time available, we took a taxi. Walking on our own, without a guide, I mistook these blue doors for a shed instead of the main entrance and could not find my way in. We left it at that, having only 20 minutes for a general look around here.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Outside entrances to the rooms of the Snow Hotel. Photo by Ada Leeuw.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
These huskies are so enthusiastic when they are allowed to run. But these here look spent.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
There was also a compound with a few reindeer.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Driving back to the dock, anxious not to miss our departure, we noticed how close we were to the Russian border.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Vardø is a municipality in Finnmark county, in the extreme northeastern part of Norway.
We sailed from Kirkenes to this town, the most easterly destination of our sailing, and arrived at 17:00

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
We had only an hour here, less if you did not want to cut it too close and miss the ship's departure. Walking was difficult,
the roads all iced up and we realized we should have brought spikes. It made the going slow. I knew not better than to walk
to the fort, but later I found there was a statue of Willem Barents here and am sorry to have missed it.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
A grim place with a grim climate.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
The Old Norse form of the name was Vargøy. The first element is vargr which means 'wolf' and the last element is øy which means 'island'. The first element was later replaced (around 1500) with varða which means 'cairn'.
Historically, the name was spelled Vardöe. [Wikipedia]

 
Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

We'd given up hope to see the Northern Lights and then it promptly arrived!
At 22:15 the announcement was made over the loudspeaker system on the ship and everybody scrambled to the deck. Where quite a few, including myself, found that it was too cold to be outside without proper clothing, so there was a mad dash back inside by some, anxious to return quickly: nobody wanted to miss this!
At first it was difficult to see and as I had not brought a tripod, it was hard to record it for posterity, but there it is. Truly a phenomenon.
Considering the remark by the crew that they hadn't seen any Northern Lights for 2 weeks, we felt good indeed.
 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Over breakfast we were treated on an 'evacuation by helicopter'-exercise.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Good facilities (besides the abundance of food and friendly service) but I wasn't brave enough to try the pool nor that hot tub.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Hammerfest

Napoleonic Wars:
during the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark–Norway was attacked by Great Britain and forced into the conflict on the side of Napoleon and France. As one of the main centres of commerce and transportation in western Finnmark, Hammerfest became a natural target of the Royal Navy's blockading warships. Thus, on the request of local merchants, the town received four six-pound cannon from the central armoury in Trondheim. Subsequently, a 50-man strong coastal defence militia was formed to defend Hammerfest. A number of merchants formed the officer corps of the militia, while Sea Samis and Kvens were mobilized as gun crews and soldiers.

British attack:
on 22 July 1809, the expected British attack came when the brigs Snake and Fancy approached the town. Before reaching Hammerfest, the British vessels had looted the village of Hasvik, laying waste to the small fishing community. The following battle between Hammerfest's two two-cannon batteries and the British warships with a total of 32 cannon was surprisingly intense and did not end before the Norwegian cannons had run out of gunpowder after about 90 minutes of combat. Both attacking warships had suffered a number of cannonball hits and had at least one fatal casualty; a sailor who was buried at the local cemetery. During the battle, the local populace had been able to escape with most of the town's goods, but the raiding warships still stayed in the good port of Hammerfest for eight days. During their stay the Royal Navy sailors looted all they could get their hands on, including the church donation box and some of the church's silver.

Fire of 1890:
Hammerfest was struck by a fire in 1890 which started in the bakery and wiped out almost half the town's houses. After the fire Hammerfest received donations and humanitarian assistance from across the world; the biggest single donor being Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The Kaiser had personally visited the town several times on his yacht and had great affection for the small northern settlement.
[Wikipedia]

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Snackfood, polar style

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
A Hammerfest resident quite comfortable with the cold.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014 - Hammerfest
Hammerfest, with the MS Finnmarken on the dock.
Only after I had taken this photo I found out that the icy path we had climbed was even harder to get down.
Next time we definitely should bring something with spikes.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Near the dock we came across another library!

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
After a quick explanation why I took these photo, I was allowed to take my pictures.
There was a brilliant exhibiton of photos by Kåre Kivijärvi. Must get that book!
Thanks to Ada for spotting this library!

Kåre Kivijärvi (born 1938 in Hammerfest - 1991) was a Norwegian photographer known for his photojournalistic work in Northern Norway.
He was born into a Kven family and always professed a connection to his ethnic heritage and to Finland. After working as a photographer's apprentice in Finnmark Dagblad, he was in 1959 accepted at Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in Essen, Germany, where he studied with Otto Steinert.
After having served in the Norwegian air force as an aerial photographer, he accepted a position as staff photographer for Helsingin Sanomat's weekly newsmagazine Viikkosanomat, which brought him on assignment to Greenland, the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, India, and Nepal.

Kivijärvi's work was the first to be accepted by the main annual art exhibition in Norway, the Autumn Exhibition (Høstutstillingen). In this respect it can be said that he contributed to establish photography as a distinct art form in Norway.
Kivijärvi's photographic style is noted for its stark, sparse imagery. His photo essay on Laestadians in Northern Norway in 1962 is a noted example of this style, as are his depiction of desolate landscapes and harsh climates.
Source: Wikipedia

 

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Leaving Hammerfest.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Soon the fog would envellope us.

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Blizzard conditions, fierce and impressive.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Visit to the Bridge, as an exception to the strict rulees, to console us from more delay and cancelled sailings.
Thanks to Kier Bijl for the initiative and persistence!

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Very much like the cockpit of an aeroplane. But weather put restrictions to all this technology all the same.

 

Hurtigruten Cruise 2014
Harstad. The weather turned against us again. It kept snowing but it was the stormy winds that cancelled the
sailing through the Lofoten again. The ship kept to the dock for five hours, then at 14:00 we boarded the bus.
Before that time roads had been closed after a bus had been blown from the road.
But our bustrip would meet some problems too...

 

SVOLVAER AND LOFOTEN (2014)