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Hunting the Aurora Borealis VI: Below the Polarsirkel


Just south of the Polar Circle, the Andersons stop at two lovey villages on Norway's coast.

Photography by the authors


Polar Circle

We are indeed now below the . And pray where is that? Well, without being patronizing about the Germanic languages, one has to say they all seem to look and sound a bit like the Queen’s English but spelled phonetically. So we are now south of the — and showing off our Norwegian.

But of course American visitors don’t need to struggle with the Swedish or Norwegian languages. Everyone here seems to be fluent in English.

Our ship hastens past two of the loveliest villages on the coast: Sandnessjoen and, just 42 miles south of it, Bronnoysund. We have a full hour in the first so it’s worth getting out, but it’s foggy and overcast three hours later in Bronnoysund so we’ll stay on deck

Hurtigruten has now brought us to an absorbing area of coastal Norway, the Vega Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the islanders keep eider ducks as domestic pets. That must be cozy in winter — and raises the question: How come Disney hasn’t made the movie yet?

The relationship between the villagers and their pets is actually what first drew the attention of UNESCO to this beautiful area. In summer, tours take passengers to the E-House, the museum and documentation center.

Our time is limited and passengers who have been in Sandnessjoen before are saying something about statues so we head off down the main street. The wintry sun breaks through and, aha! We see a statue. We poke around and ask a couple of locals who are shopping, what is this statue where someone seems to be holding a big bowl of bread? But we are told, this is nothing special; it is simply a sign from medieval days to show where the baker’s shop is.

We move on and discover a statue that reminds us of the Monk’s Tale “A lord ful fat and in good poynt,” but the figure turns out to be a Norwegian poet and priest Petter Dass not a character from Chaucer.

We hurry back to the ship and, on the way, find the statue we were looking for: our Viking! It represents, we believe, Torolv Kvedulvsson, a Viking chief who collected taxes from the Sami people for King Harald Harfagre and also traded widely with the English exchanging fish for clothing around 875 to 900. He developed trade so elaborately he became a threat to the king and was, therefore, terminated. Those were the good old days.

MS. Trollfjord

When we get back to the we find local schoolchildren aboard enjoying the novelty of being Hurtigruten guests.

This is a mystical place. We sail past the Seven Sisters peaks. They were the wild beautiful daughters of the King of Sulitjelma who were turned into mountains. In Helgeland folklore, the King of Bronnoy Island blocked an arrow shot at them for not coming home on time, and they were turned into stone.

The homes around Bronnoysund appear to be simple houses with million dollar views. What hardy people must live and thrive here. No wonder Norwegians have such a reputation for strength and endurance.

We are now approaching our last major daytime stop before Bergen: the one-time capital of the country: Trondheim.

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