We arrived in Tromso at 2.30pm and it was twilight and wet. The light however was magical.
Our friends had recommended we visit the Arctic cathedral and take the cable car, however as it was dark, we elected to wander the streets of the city with our own guide, Nele and visited the Polaris aquarium where we saw bearded seals being fed.
Tromso is reputed to be the best area to view the Aurora Borealis but we learned from our astronomy group on the ship that there needed to be a perfect set of conditions: solar storm activity and clear skies. We downloaded the app which was supposed to tell us when and where to look and there were regular announcements from the bridge, which sent us racing for our down jackets and cameras, as we headed north. Finally on the last night we did see the wavy grey to green curtains of magnetised particles that create the Aurora but it was too faint for our cameras to pick up reliably. So unfortunately no photos worth posting.
Our second last morning however dawned clear and we tried out the outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, while the sliver of new moon was visible in the morning sky – and before breakfast. We docked at Havøysund and the early golden light playing over the Arctic tundra landscape was beautiful.
A significant fishing village, Havøysund displayed its huge crab nets on the dock and the gulls wheeled overhead in the harbour. As we pulled out a shower of rain over distant wind turbines created a fledgling rainbow.
The sky continued to be clear as we docked in our next berth, Honningsvåg, close to the northern tip of Europe. Our destination was the Nord Cap or North Cape.
It is difficult to imagine living in such barren and rugged terrain but there were little villages along the bus route to the Cape. There are no trees this far north. The tundra is made up of dwarf shrubs, such as the crow berry and bear berry, grasses and sedges, mosses and lichens. The subsoil is almost permanently frozen. Animals are scarce but include the Arctic Fox, lemmings and the snowy owl.
A monument to peace is right where the buses disgorge us tourists. Named Barnen av Norden or Children of the Earth (or North literally) it was created by Simon Flem Devold, in 1988. He selected seven children at random from Tanzania, Russia, Brazil, USA, Japan, Thailand and Italy.
Each child was flown to the North Cape where each one made a clay relief to show they could work together and understand each other. These were made into bronze and a statue of Mother and Child by Eva Rybakken placed beside them. It’s a very calm place to stand and look to the edge of the European continent.
The sea across from the North Cape saw a dreadful battle on Christmas Day, 1943 between German and Allied battleships fought over arms supply lines to the Russian Front. Inside the visitors centre there is a photo exhibition of these battles and a chapel. Over 6000 seaman lost their lives during the 2nd World War in these seas, so seeing the peace memorial again as we exited, reminded us of the futility of war.
Our last night on the Finnmarken was slightly rough as the ship ploughed on across the Arctic Sea rounding the corner to Kirkenes, where we disembarked to an icy dock.