High tundra

I’m writing from home, in France, and even though temperatures have been very high here, I still don’t remember fondly the weather I faced when I drove accross the mountains of Varanger, going from Berlevåg and Kongsfjord to the Varangerfjord. Hail, wind and two degrees, that’s not how I had envisioned my vacation.

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Arctic ocean, windswept shores

From Høyholmen, I hoped over the high grounds of Gednje to reach the shore of the ocean. I would have liked to search for birds up there, but heavy showers made me change my mind. Fortunately, the weather improved and I was able to get out of the car in Kongsfjord.

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Force of Will

This was not the trip I had imagined.

For these two weeks in Lapland and Varanger, at the top of the world, I thought I would sleep during the day and enjoy the midnight sun to take pictures and watch the abundant bird life. Alas, the weather was not on my side, and I mostly saw clouds above. That’s not necessarily bad per se, for an overcast day brings soft and even light on my subjects. The problem is that, two weeks of cloudy weather, that’s long. And frustrating. Alone in a cold land, it would have been easy to give up.

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Varanger: a wrap-up

I have finished telling the tale of our Arctic expedition. Before we move on, I wanted to share some practical tips about traveling in the region.
First, though, here are the links to all the previous posts, in case you’ve missed some 🙂

En rød dørHornøya, cliffside havenSoil, Varanger edition | Vardø | Vadsø | VarangerfjordWhatever floats your boat | Advanced course in eiderology | Båtsfjord | On the high road | Clear skies | Here are the birds | Varanger, Day White | Castles in the Air | Prince of the woods

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En rød dør

A red door, in Danish. That’s with this expression that our teacher introduced us to both the “ø” sound (a bit like “ö” in Finnish or “eu” or “œ” in French) and the soft “d”, which is for me pretty much like a “l”, except the tongue goes to the bottom of the mouth and not the top. At first, it sounded complicated… after a few months, it still felt complicated, but I also found the whole pronounciation very funny, and I learnt to appreciate it.

Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

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Hornøya, cliffside haven

There are some birds that spend almost all year at sea, and come to shore only to breed. Those species, like albatrosses or penguins, often gather in large and spectacular colonies, and since they barely see humans, they are fairly easy to approach. I have fond memories of the Sept-Îles in Brittany, or Låtrabjarg in Iceland.

Hornøya is also one of those magical places where pelagic birds gather.

Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)

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Vardø

We arrived in Vardø in the middle of the afternoon, and soon found our accommodation before heading out again for sunset. At that moment, we were at the very end of Norway, still far North but also further East than Saint-Petersburg or Istanbul (it’s easy at this latitude ;)). The small town lies on a island linked to the continent by a tunnel; Marci was really impressed to see such infrastructure in a remote location like this one.

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Vadsø

In the evening of our fourth day in Varanger, we slept in Vadsø, the administrative center of the county of Finnmark, home to some five thousand souls. In the morning, before driving to Ekkerøy, we visited the little town. Marci looked for a souvenir shop, but there didn’t seem to be anything of interest in the citycenter. What I noticed, in Vadsø but also in other towns, was a lamp store. I guess that, in places where the sun disappears for several weeks every year, inhabitants are particularly mindful about lighting in their houses, and so this kind of business thrives. I also liked the colourful houses.

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