14 June 2013
For several hours, the fragrance of land was already in the air. Onboard, a big cleanup, all clocks re-set to Norwegian time, more and more boats were appearing in the vicinity, and since last night the first snow-capped peaks were standing out on the horizon. After several hours of sailing, Tara arrived this Friday afternoon in Tromsø, northern Norway.
In the bright, late morning sun, Tara finally enters the Norwegian fjords. On either side of the schooner, green hills plunge into the sea, and snowy peaks tower in the distance. Over the hours, the inlet closes in on us, and we see the first wooden houses just barely visible in this magnificent setting. Rounding a small island, the legendary Hurtigruten, the famous Norwegian coastal ferry passes us. Of course we’re all on deck to enjoy our first Norwegian hours at our own pace. Shortly before four o’clock, we finally dock in the port of Tromsø.
After our brief visit to the Faroe Islands, two weeks ago, Norway is the first major stopover for our expedition. We’ll have a full week in port, time to bring on more supplies, and especially to rotate the crew. During the week, 11 sailors and scientists will be replaced – almost all of the crew. This is an important stopover not only logistically but symbolically. Tromsø, with its status and history, was a necessary stopover for this Arctic expedition.
The city had its heyday in the great era of polar exploration. Tromsø was then the gateway to the Arctic, the starting point for the legendary explorers, Amundsen and others, whose exploits appear in the city’s great Polar Museum. Today, Tromsø still holds a central place in the Arctic, notably a scientific one. The university, one of the northernmost in the world, receives thousands of researchers and students interested in the polar regions. In addition, Tromsø is the seat of the Norwegian Polar Institute, which serves as authority for all matters relating to scientific research in the Arctic: biodiversity of marine ecosystems, climate change, oceanography, etc.
From a political point of view, Tromsø also hosts a permanent office of the Arctic Council. This intergovernmental organization, involving all the states bordering the Arctic Ocean, is a leading authority in the development and protection of indigenous peoples, preservation of the environment and management policy for the region. With such importance for the Arctic, it was inevitable that this city of 65,000 inhabitants, located only 300 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, be an essential stopover for our expedition.