Crossing the Arctic Circle

We got up at 07:45 this morning; we were originally going to get up at seven o’clock and go for our breakfast before being out on deck for 8.00am.  However, we decided to go out on deck for our sightseeing first, the have our breakfast afterwards, thereby earning a lie-in.  This is because our daily programmes told us we would be passing the famous Torghatten around 08:15 hours.

Torgatten is a granite mountain and the most remarkable thing about it is that it has a hole running right through it, through which you can see daylight.  Visitors to the mountain on land can actually climb up some carefully hewn steps to the hole and walk through it.  The natural tunnel is 520 feet long, 66 feet wide, 115 feet high. It was formed during the Scandinavian ice age. Ice and water eroded the looser rocks, while the harder ones in the mountain top have resisted erosion.

According to legend, the hole was made by the troll Hestmannen while he was chasing a beautiful girl called Lekamøya. As the troll realised he would not get the girl, he shot an arrow from his bow to kill her, but the troll-king of Sømna threw his hat into the arrow’s path to save her. The hat turned into the mountain with a hole in the middle.  It is for this reason that you may hear Torgatten referred to as Hat Mountain.  😊

We decided to go into the Observatory and watch the Borealis approach the mountain and wait until it was alongside so we could get some good photos.  This is because it was very cold out on deck and my hands, when trying to manipulate my phone camera, soon became painfully cold and stiff; it only took seconds.  While the air temperature was ‘only’ about -3 ºC, the wind-chill factor made it feel more like -10 ºC, it took no time at all from going onto deck with warm hands, for them to become so cold.  But this is Norway in the winter – what else could we expect?  😊

As the Borealis came alongside Torgatten mountain, she slowed right down until she was barely moving, allowing us to get some amazing photos; not just of the mountain itself but of the smaller, rocky little islets we could see all around.  A pale, Arctic moon hung low in a watercolour washed sky as the immovable mountains reared their rugged peaks towards the heavens.  There was nothing soft or comforting to look at in the scenery around us, yet the whole effect was utterly captivating nonetheless; a palette of blues, greys and whites.

Once the mountain was out of sight, we thankfully returned to the warmth of the ship’s interior and went up to the Lido restaurant to enjoy our breakfasts and have a hot cup of coffee.

At 10 o’clock we attended a very interesting lecture in the Neptune Theatre about the sun and the aurora borealis (and the aurora australis) by our guest astronomer Martin Lunn.  He explained how flares from the sun are attracted to the magnetic polar regions of the earth and form the Northern and Southern lights.  Beautiful though the aurora are, solar flares can damage the earth’s protective layer (called the Van Allen Belt) and the interference from the aurora can affect the sensitive electronic equipment we rely on so much today in our daily lives.  A fascinating (if slightly disconcerting!) talk!

This then brought us nicely up to the time when we’d be passing our next interesting landmark, so we returned to our cabin and donned all our warm clothing; sturdy trainers and socks, thick lined walking trousers, fleece tops, coats, hat, scarves, gloves etc.  I had so many layers I looked almost as wide as I was tall, which isn’t so difficult when I am only 151cm tall anyway!  😊

The Borealis was now approaching the Seven Sisters; a range of seven distinctive mountain peaks.  We went outside to brave the cold again and looked on, entranced, at the beautiful scenery.  The jagged mountain tops were swathed in a white morning mist, as a watery sun had, by now, joined the cold moon in the sky.  The mountains formed a backdrop to the snow-covered land we could see, the whitescape only broken here and there the odd fir tree, its branches glittering with frost.  This was amazing; many of our friends and family had questioned our sanity at leaving cold and damp Britain to go on holiday somewhere even colder; well, all I can say is that they must never have been to Norway.  😊

Beautiful though it was, we were soon frozen to the marrow so we went into the Observatory to continue looking out of the big wraparound windows, and we enjoyed a pre-luncheon drink while we were there.  Then we went along to the Lido buffet and enjoyed our lunch and exchanged pleasantries with the couple on the next table before the main event of the day – crossing the Arctic Circle.

We have crossed this famous line of latitude at 66º 33’ N lots of times before, and received our “Blue Nose” certificates from King Neptune.  By tradition, any sailors crossing major lines of latitude and longitude must undergo a line-crossing ceremony, and on previous cruises these have been a lot of fun, but due to the Covid-19 restrictions which were still very much in evidence on board the Borealis, there was no ceremony today.  It’s a pity for the first-time Blue Nosers who would be missing this event.

Back in our cabin we once again wrapped up well in many layers, and ventured outside into the gelid atmosphere.  The position of the Arctic Circle is marked by a globe sculpture on a tiny, conveniently placed island, which we’d been advised we should be passing around 12.45pm.

Outside, we came across Mark, Jan, Andy and Kal from table #126.  Mark and Jan each held a glass of champagne in their gloved hands to celebrate their crossing of the line.  As I couldn’t manipulate my camera with gloved hands, my fingers were freezing and my face stung with the biting wind.  I could only hold the camera up for a few seconds, grab a few shots, then hurriedly pull my hands into the sleeves of my coat to help them thaw out.  😊

GPS stats on the phone – the Arctic Circle

Nonetheless, we did manage to get some great pics, them it was thankfully back into the Observatory where we bagged some big comfortable reclining seats right at the front of the room so we could continue to watch the Borealis making her way slowly further north.  As ever, the scenery was spectacular.

At 1.15pm Trevor and I took part in the “Name That Tune” music quiz, with Hubert Greaves asking the questions in his amusing manner.  Every question was “easy-peasy” and “You’ll aaaallllll know this one!” he would say.  Trevor and I scored 22/30; the winning team got 24.  So a win eluded us yet again.

We then decided to go back and have a power nap before just passing the time pleasantly in our cabin; reading, watching TV and (in my case) doing some of this blog.

Then it was time to get showered, shampooed and changed for dinner at 6.15pm.  I wore a pair of royal blue trousers with a white broderie Anglaise top, and there were only one pair of footwear for tonight; my gorgeous Irregular Choice ankle boots, which feature arctic animals such a a polar bear, seal and fish, and are finished off with a glittering Polar Bear with her cub as the heel. Totally unique, and totally IC!

Trevor and I were the only ones at table #126 tonight as the other couples were dining in the Vasco’s, the excellent Goan restaurant where we’d been the other night.

The entertainment tonight was a comedy magician called Dain Cordean.  We realised we’d seen him before; in fact it was on the Balmoral in June 2016.  He was excellent; he did traditional magic with scarves and ropes and cards, but it was all accompanied by hilarious banter as well.  We really enjoyed his show a lot, and hoped to see him again later in the cruise.  😊

Then we did what we usually do; off to the Observatory to do the trivia (nope, we didn’t win!) and to listen to the music and pass the time with our new friends from table #126 who agreed with us that the food in Vasco’s was excellent.

The time winged by and once again it was well after midnight before Trevor and I returned to cabin 3326 and settled down for the night.  Once again we’d had a great day, and we looked forward to our arrival in our next port of call tomorrow morning – the beautiful Tromsø.

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