At 07:45 we docked in Tromsø for the day, after refuelling out of port, and docked east of the bridge which was a first for us. Here we are 400km north of the Arctic Circle and are surrounded by fjords and mountains displaying autumnal colours across the forested slopes. In earlier times the city was a centre for seal, whale and fish industries, as well as a base for the launching of Arctic expeditions, especially those led by Roald Amundsen.
The M/S Polsterna was a working seal hunting ship between 1949 and 1981 and is described as having ‘brought home’ nearly 100,000 seals.
Off the city centre and its magnificent library is the Polar Museum.
The building is packed with everything from western people hunting in the Arctic to the expeditions of Nansen and Amundsen. The building itself served as Tromsø‘s customs house from 1833 to 1970. Outside are the exploding harpoons that were used for hunting whales, which led us to a new exhibition in the reconstructed bryggen. Inside one of the buildings are two exhibitions about the Sami people and their relationship with the sea and the Norwegian people and their relationship with cod, whales, seals and other fish.
The Arctic cathedral consists of eleven concrete and aluminium covered triangles. Built in 1965 it is also known as ‘The Tromsdalen Church’ and its structure suggests glacial crevasses and in the windows the Aurora Borealis. We were lucky today, because at the third attempt, we gained access and saw the stained glass window at the east end, depicting Christ descending to Earth. In the west end is the futuristic organ and a view over Tromsø and the Bruvegen bridge.
Later in the afternoon we collected our special boots for landing on Svalbard and along with a briefing about sanitisation when entering and these last great wildernesses.