And…Kjollefjord-Mehamn-Berlevag! The MS Midnatsol would dock at Hammerfest, the most northern town in the world at 5:15a, and I didn’t want to miss it. Still wired from the Northern Lights and dog sledding, I was wide awake at 4:00a, dressed and went out on deck for the sail into Hammerfest with what looked like a refinery on port side as we pulled into the harbor. The municipality encompasses parts of three islands in this area of Norway known as Finnmark. This location was once an important fishing and Arctic hunting settlement, and grave sites dating back to the Stone Age have been found. Germans fortified Hammerfest during World War II and used it as a major base for U-boats in Finnmark. Obviously, there was no shore excursion here at 5:15a.
Breakfast (what else is new), and a bulletin posted by the dining room changing times for lunch. Lunch will be served from 10:30-1:30p. Breakfast at 7:30a, followed by lunch at 10:30a sure throws off my eating schedule. A little too much even for us.
Two shore excursions were offered for today; a visit to the North Cape Plateau (short version below), and I’ll tell you about the other tomorrow:
– “The journey takes you across the 71st parallel towards the North Cape, the northernmost point in continental Europe. The tour includes a visit to the North Cape Hall, a modern interpretive center, buy souvenirs, etc. The North Cape plateau itself rises over 1,000 ft. almost vertically from the ice cold Arctic Ocean. The winter draw is basically to see the scenery and be able to stand on the northernmost point in continental Europe.” Summer would look entirely different with camps belonging to the Sami people and grazing reindeer.
Four packed, tour buses set off on the North Cape Excursion. A couple we met on board ship told us that it was very worthwhile with beautiful scenery, when you could actually see the scenery. Snowplows led the way into a raging snowstorm with incredible amounts of blowing snow that made it almost impossible to see anything. The entire excursion came close to being canceled because of weather. Come on… Let’s get real. Do tour organizers ever cancel anything when money is involved? I remember a glass-bottom excursion over a bleached out reef with scarcely any fish.
We wandered inside and outside between decks, watching the Nordlys, another Hurtigruten sister ship sailing by on her southbound journey. (“Nordlys” translated into “Northern Lights” in English), strange rock formations, and marveling at the sun just below the horizon.
Honnigsvag was the next “major” port, capital of the North Cape. In port from 11:45a-3:15p, our intentions were good. Jump off, walk through town, and return for lunch until a crew member told us there was literally nothing to see or buy. The one-street town lay before us as the MS Midnatsol docked. We took one look, stayed on board, read and actually ate a light lunch (by our standards). Gasp! Be still my heart…
Also on the schedule today was a 3:50p presentation on Sami history, and then MS Midnatsol will sail past the Finnjerka (Finn-church) which is said to be the most elegant sea-cliff in Norway. This cliff looks like a church, and has special significance not only to the Sami, but also to sailors. They know that once past that point, they are again in safe waters. The Finnjerka lit up when the ship sailed by (probably controlled by the ship) while dramatic music played in the background.
The ship now headed east toward the pretty fishing villages of Kjollefjord, Mehamn, and Berlevag (not that you could see anything in the dark). Tonight was the last night on board the Midnatsol. Time to begin repacking with still more ahead of us…