Mørketid

Sunrise/sunset: Down all day.

So here I am in my second Polar Night. Mørketid is the Norwegian name, which I love. A direct translation would be Darkness Time and the word “mørke” must have a common ancestry with the English word “murky” which seems appropriate. Not that it’s dark all day, of course. You can start to see twilight by half past eight in the morning, but by two in the afternoon, the light is fading again. In between, if it isn’t cloudy, there is this wonderful clear blue light that makes for very unusual photographs.

Icy road on the way home from Storslett

Coronavirus seems to be closing in again, with omicron making appearances all over Europe. Norway seems to be sticking to the plan of keeping everything as open as possible for those inside the country, though the rules for entry have been strengthened again. Our Mattilsynet Troms og Svalbard departmental gathering was this week on Thursday and Friday, and I was delighted when it went ahead. I guess when I say “department” most people might be thinking of a traditional business department, probably made up of lots of people who use the same building, but our “department” is diverse, and also very spread out.

We cover the whole of Troms and Svalbard, although there are no permanent staff on Svalbard. Troms is a county that is round twenty percent larger than Wales (a bit bigger than New Jersey for anyone checking in from the US, or Nova Scotia if you’re in Canada). We cover everything from animal welfare to drinking water, from three separate offices in Finnsnes, Tromsø and Storslett and this year’s gathering was in Storslett, which is the furthest north.

There was some discussion a couple of weeks ago about cars. We have three lease-hire cars available, and Øivind and Ronny quickly signed up two of them. Marit, who works with fish health and welfare then signed up the third, with another colleague, Eva, and designated it the “kvinnebil” or women’s car. So that was the one I signed up for, and despite Thomas’ suggestion that he too should travel in the kvinnebil, Eva, Marit and I drove up together. It was lovely getting to know them better.

Marit and Eva on the journey home

I’m not all that fond of meetings, and meetings in Norwegian are even more of a challenge, especially when those from the upper echelons begin to introduce buzzwords, like “sustainability” (bærekraft). But one thing Norwegians do very well is social events, and this meeting was no exception. We had received a cryptic message a few days earlier, telling us to bring warm clothes for sitting outside: clothes that, in addition, could stand some wood smoke. Though this sounded appealing to me, I was slightly concerned. Such an instruction could mean anything from sitting round a campfire roasting hot dogs to a five kilometre hike in the snow. I could handle either of those things, but they do require slightly different outfits.

In the event, it was a five minute walk along the road to a Sami lavvo (a wigwam type tent) where there was locally produced gløg, along with traditional dried meats, cheeses and flatbread, all served in candle-light around a huge wood fire. I’m not sure how local the grapes and olives are, but it was really very tasty indeed.

I’ve already included a couple of pictures of the return journey. Marit drove, so I was able to take a few photographs along the way, before the darkness descended again.

We took a short detour onto the Spåkenes Peninsula, where we found a very chilly bench as well as some glass igloos with an amazing view, which you can stay in overnight. Obviously I immediately added doing so onto my “to do” list.

There will be another advent update tomorrow, with more pictures from the trip, so goodbye for now. I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

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