Crossing the Arctic Circle and meeting the Vikings at Lofotr

Sailing over the Arctic CirclOn our 4th day, we crossed the Arctic Circle at 7:19:31 am, at daybreak. This time is important because it is 20 seconds later than the time I had guessed we would cross the Circle. For someone who rarely wins anything or gets mathematical questions correct, this was my day to win the crossing prize. But I didn’t know that as we stood by the rail of the ship watching the small globe marking the spot sail past.

Jurd, king of the sea

We were told to gather on the deck later that morning for the Arctic crossing ceremony. High above on the prow of the ship came Jurd, dressed as the king of the sea, with his crown and sceptre. Lined up behind us was a large metal bucket filled with ice cubes, a ladle and small cups filled with apple schnapps. There was a countdown. Who would be the winner? It had to be close but I thought, oh no, it won’t be me. But sure enough, it was!

Hurtigruten flag winnerReceiving the Arctic blessing

And out I went to be presented with the Hurtigruten flag by Captain Knut Narvik – the flag that had fluttered from the mast as we crossed the Circle earlier that day and more importantly a ladle of ice down my back! The reward was a slug of schnapps, which only partly made up for the ice down my undies!

Salztraumen, Knaplund

Later that day we visited Salztraumen, a small strait with one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. Situated in the county of Bodo, in Nordland, the strait flushes 400,000,000 cubic metres of water over a distance of 3km between Saltfjorden and Skjerstad Fjord. Maelströms of water swirl around under the bridge up to 5 metres deep. The current is formed when the tidal sea water tries to fill Skjerstad Fjord. The difference in height between high and low tide can be one metre. It’s possible to traverse the maelstrom at turn of the tide.

Rib boat on Salztraumen

We arrived at sunset around 2.30pm. Our tour friends were doing a rib boat tour, which ran through the maelstrom on zodiac boats. It was quite a sight as they tried to reverse back through the current.

In the evening, we visited a Viking House on the Lofoten Islands at Lofotr. The site of the Viking House, Borg, had been uncovered accidentally by a farmer in 1983. Excavations showed that the original wooden building dated from 500’s and was 67 metres long. It has now been reconstructed to represent life as lived by the Vikings, who ventured no further north than Lofoten. Here we were to participate in a Viking feast, to celebrate Yule or Jule, December 25th.

Viking Chieftain, LofotrViking craftwork

Our guide named Christian explained that the chieftain of the Viking House had to make a sacrifice to Odin and would chant to him, while the chieftain’s wife would beat a drum made from reindeer hide. We could join in. So once seated, we began singing ‘Hum-a-dum’, while we waited for Odin to bless our gathering and not let the winter drag on for three years. By which time we would be cast into a type of hell called Ragnarok!

Viking meal, Lofotr

Having dutifully chanted away, we were then served roast lamb, rutabaga, carrots, a type of flatbread, barley grain, berries and sour cream, all washed down by refilled goblets of mead. It made for a very merry evening.

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