Polar bears and reindeer

For me, the highlight of our stay in the remote most northern Norwegian town of Hammerfest was becoming a member of the venerable Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society (member number 267,715).

Sure was a long way to the remote town of Hammerfest
Made it to Hammerfest!
It is a pretty little town

To become a member of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society (established in 1963!) you have to have travelled to this isolated town and visit the exhibition at the coastal steamer pier. I had to pay a one time (and rather pricey) membership fee which supports the exhibition and paid for my (very tiny) silver and enamel Polar Bear pin, my membership card and a “diploma” with my name on signed by the mayor of Hammerfest.

Proof of membership of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society

Despite the fact that you will not ever see a wild polar bear in Hammerfest, this magnificent animal adorns the town’s coat of arms and statues of polar bears guard various public buildings. Apparently it was chosen to symbolise Hammerfest’s tradition as a centre of polar exploration and for hunting and fishing expeditions.

The Hammerfest coat of arms

Hammerfest is located on the northwestern coast of the island of Kvaløya and is described as the northernmost town in Norway although there are settlements further north (in Norway settlements must have a population above 5,000 to be called a town.)

Hammerfest Church
The town of Hammerfest

The picturesque town has a small airport and has a busy little port which is a popular stop for the small cruise ships that ply the coast of Norway.

Model of a Colin Archer designed sail boat in Hammerfest museum

Another high spot of our Hammerfest visit was seeing deer grazing along the roadside leading into town and even in the town itself. In fact the drive in to Hammerfest from Alta was really amazing as in addition to the many deer, the landscape was really dramatic.

The landscape en route to Hammerfest was dramatic

I loved deer spotting along the way!
This was just outside the town of Hammerfest. Deer that come into the town are considered a pest

We saw this magnificent specimen grazing on the grass verge in the centre of town

There wasn’t anywhere suitable to stay the night in Hammerfest so we kept driving further north along a wild and treeless road and spent the night in a rain and windswept spot overlooking the water. It felt like we were on the edge of the universe!

The road north out of Hammerfest is wild and lonely

There was a small settlement a few kilometres north of Hammerfest where we spent the night
Northern lights? No just a rainbow mostly obscured by clouds

Originally we had decided to stop travelling on after visiting Hammerfest but then while we were there we came across an interesting brochure which encouraged us to keep driving eastwards across this most northerly and amazing part of the world.

Getting ideas from a travel brochure

So we were on the road again – this time driving east heading for Kautokeino, one of two cultural centers of Northern Sapmi (the native land of the Sami people), the other being Karasjok.

On the road again!
The town of Kautokeino

In 1852, Kautokeino was the site of a Sami uprising against the Norwegian authorities. This was one of the few violent clashes involving the Sami against the exploitational policies of the Norwegian government and was the only known confrontation between Samis and Norwegians with loss of human lives.

There was very little sign of habitation between Kautokeino and Karasjok

From Kautokeino we drove on to the other Sami centre, Karasjok. There was a great museum there with a lot of information and artefacts illustrating Sami life including an impressive collection of costumes over the ages, sleds, skis and hunting implements. In the grounds there were a collection of typical Sami homes.

We were intrigued to see tartan fabric in the museum. I later found out that tartan existed centuries earlier before it became identified as Scottish – in Central Europe, China and Scandinavia.
All the costumes were very colourful and the headgear came in many different shapes and sizes

Sleds are still frequently used in winter
The exhibition of dwellings was very interesting

This one looked like a hobbit house!

Close to the museum was a more commercial venture, the Sampi Park that had a great gift shop. As we were drawing to the end of our Norwegian adventure, we enjoyed stocking up on a few gifts to take back to Australia.

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Polar bears and reindeer”

  1. How amazing to be a member of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society!! It sounded a fascinating journey into such remote northerly areas. Very hard lives for the tribes who settled there – they must have been incredibly tough. What an adventure for you!

    On Sun, Jan 27, 2019 at 9:15 AM Salty tales from Bali Hai wrote:

    > Salty tales from Bali Hai posted: “For me, the highlight of our stay in > the remote most northern Norwegian town of Hammerfest was becoming a member > of the venerable Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society (member number > 267,715). To become a member of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear S” >

    Liked by 1 person

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