Day Eight of the Coastal Journey, and we find ourselves back in Hammerfest. Normally the ship would stop and offer a “Breakfast at North Cape” excursion from Honnisvag, but today is the first day of the Arctic Race of Norway, and the road will be closed (although the race doesn’t start for hours so I’m a little confused by that.) so we only had a very short time in Honnisvag.
Hammerfest is (depending on your definition of town) regarded as the northernmost town in the world – 70 degrees 39 minutes north (Honnisvag is not considered a town.) It’s the same latitude as the northernmost parts of Siberia, Point Barrow (the northernmost part of Alaska) the islands in Canada’s north, and the middle of Greenland. Its climate is curiously warm because of the Gulf Stream – the warm current in the Atlantic Ocean – and it green with some low shrubs and even a small forest outside of town. Astonishing for land so far north!
It’s also a very progressive town – the first in Norway to have electric street lighting (1891), and recently had tidal turbines installed to generate electricity.
It is also an industrial town – with natural gas from the Snohvit Field 140 km to the north piped here (to a small island offshore) for processing, and then shipped worldwide. I’m sure building the plant in the pristine Barent’s sea was plenty controversial!
We didn’t see any live Polar Bears, but there is a Polar Bear club in town, and lots of stuffed and statue bears roaming the streets. There isn’t any ice or snow, so It’s hard to believe they’d be anywhere near the town in the summer.
We did see another reindeer – grazing at the top of the hill overlooking the town. The hillside is marked by a “zigzag” path that leads up to a small hill/flat mountain – that is well worth the walk just for the views – much less the chance to see a reindeer.
There was also a Sami restaurant / building called Mikkelgammen up on top of the hill – closed that day, but with its sod roof, a really interesting structure.
Back in the town, we watched as the bike racers prepped for the start of the first stage of their race. It wasn’t quite as busy as the Giro in Italy – but some of the same teams were there (most likely their B teams) and everyone in town poured out into the streets to watch – even Santa and a bunch of Bike Race groupies, and a whole group of young kids.