Lat/Long: 69° 40′ 46″ N, 18° 54′ 23″ E
Weather Conditions: 54F (12C) Light Rain
VIDEO: THE FIRST DAYS OF EXPEDITION 2
A video overview of our time in Tromsø and the Lyngen Alps.
ARRIVAL IN TROMSØ
We are finally in Norway and have a moment to share our initial experiences and impressions in some detail. After months of preparation and 22 hours of travel time, we landed in Tromsø, Norway, on Wednesday, August 24. Our flights took us from Minneapolis, MN, USA, to Newark, NJ, USA, and then from Oslo, Norway, to Tromsø, Norway. We were extremely fortunate to have flights that were not interrupted as our captain enroute to Newark announced that an earthquake had hit the East Coast of the United States and that no flights were landing except in Newark!
We arrived in Tromsø early Wednesday afternoon. Tromsø is situated about 218 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and only 1242 miles (2000 kilometers) south of the North Pole. Our first impression of Tromsø was “beauty” – Tromsø has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is the largest city and urban area in Northern Norway; the seventh largest city in Norway; and the second largest city in Sápmi – the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people.
The majority of Tromsø is located on the island of Tromsøya. The island is connected by the Tromsø Bridge and the Tromsøysund Tunnel. The 3,399 foot (1,036 meters) bridge is quite impressive. When it opened in 1960 it was the longest bridge in Northern Europe.
After our arrival we rented a Skoda and quickly navigated from the airport to our hotel – basecamp for the first three nights of the expedition. The hotel was located next to Tromsø Harbor (part of the Norwegian Sea). The harbor’s beauty truly took our breath away. Buildings of bright red and yellow line the harbor, illuminating the northern days; hoards of fishing boats crowd the harbor, too.
There are many reasons why Team Earthducation chose Norway as its European focal point for this expedition. Earthducation’s mission is to document and motivate people around the world to participate in an ongoing conversation about the intersections (or disconnections) between education and sustainability.
The resources, infrastructure, and education system in Norway are in stark contrast to Burkina Faso, Africa, the site of Earthducation Expedition 1. Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest nations, whereas Norway is one of the richest. And Burkina faces a scarcity of natural resources, a lack of freshwater, and a struggling education system, with a literacy rate of just 28.7%. Yet both countries face challenges and tough decisions when it comes to education and sustainability, and both offer lessons and successes from which we can all learn.
A few first impressions. We have quickly learned that the U.S. dollar is not worth much in this country. The Norwegian krone is the currency of Norway, and at this time, 1 U.S. dollar is equivalent to 5.5 krone. For an example, it is 13 krone per liter for diesel fuel (there are almost 4 liters in a gallon), and a large pizza is 470 krone. We will leave it up to you to do that math! Thus, the team is living on energy bars we brought with us from the states.
One surprise is that we have found the majority of people speak English, which is a bonus because our Norwegian is quite limited. So, it has been much easier than Expedition 1 for us to initially navigate and communicate. Finally, Justin observed just how friendly everyone is here, “Literally from the moment we stepped off the plane, people were welcoming us to this great country!” Thank you, Norway, for welcoming us with your kindness and exquisite beauty. We are excited for our upcoming experiences in your amazing country.
CENTRE FOR SÁMI STUDIES
On our first full day in Tromsø (Thursday), we made our way to the University of Tromsø to visit the Centre for Sámi Studies. The university is one of eight universities in Norway and the largest research and educational institution in Northern Norway. Because of its location, the university has a focus on the environment that is a driving force behind many of its research projects.
One example of the university’s mission is the Centre for Sámi Studies. We were extremely fortunate and honored to meet with the co-founders of this center, Per Hætta and Else Broderstad, as well as Camilla Brattland, Sirkka Seljevold, Svanhild Andersen, and Jørn Weines, who work on an impressive project called Fávllis. The center itself focuses on strengthening Sámi and indigenous perspectives in research work established within a wide range of fields at the University of Tromsø. Stay tuned to the Earthducation website for highlights with our conversations with these talented people (several videos are now posted on the Earthducation vimeo channel).
Fávllis focuses on resource management, rights issues, and the economic and cultural situations in the Sámi settlement areas (view an example of their work). Specifically, the team described to us the many changes the Sámi are confronted with due to the changing climate, fish patterns, and the recent arrival of king crab from the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. Furthermore, there is a great deal of discussion around the decreasing cod population as it relates to the increasing seal population and the arrival of the king crabs.
After a formal meeting in the conference room at the center, we were invited to a stunning meeting location where we gathered around a fire and asked our hosts about their perspectives on the intersections between education and sustainability in Norway. For over three hours, we enjoyed engaging, enlightening, and motivating conversation. We were honored to spend this time with the talented group from the Centre for Sámi Studies. Thank you for your insights and for contributing to the mission of Earthducation.
NORWEGIAN POLAR INSTITUTE
After our visit to the Centre for Sámi Studies, we quickly made our way to the Fram Center where we visited the Norwegian Polar Institute. After almost a decade of dogsledding throughout the entire circumpolar Arctic (see www.polarhusky.com), Aaron was thrilled to visit this institute dedicated to scientific research, mapping, and environmental monitoring in the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. The institute is conducting important research and projects that range from the environmental monitoring of Svalbard – an archipelago (chain of islands) halfway between the mainland of Norway and the North Pole that is the farthest point of Norway – to the dissemination of knowledge on Fridtjof Nansen (who was born 100 years ago) and Roald Amundsen (who along with his four-man team were the first to reach the South Pole 150 years ago). The institute is also sponsoring a special anniversary expedition to the South Pole, during which time four explorers will follow in Amundsen’s footsteps.
We met with Communications Director Gunn Sissel Jaklin, who shared the institute’s outreach projects, and Research Director Dr. Kim Holmen, who shared his perspectives on the research the institute is producing, as well as his perspective on education and sustainability. Once again, the Earthducation team was humbled and honored for the opportunity to meet and talk with people dedicated to important issues related to the environment and education. A respectful thank you to the Norwegian Polar Institute, and a special thanks to Marte Lundberg there, who helped coordinate the team’s meetings.
EXPLORING THE CITY AND ITS SURROUNDING NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS
To top off our first day in Norway, we decided to spend some time outdoors. So, as the sun began to set, we hauled nearly 70 pounds of camera gear with us and rode a gondola up to the top of Storsteinen Mountain (“the big rock mountain,” in English) to experience an arial perspective of the city of Tromsø. As the sun set, the clouds rolled in, providing us with stunning views of the city which we captured and are excited to share!
Friday’s agenda included exploring Lyngsalpene, the Lyngen Alps. These alpine mountains are located on the Lyngen peninsula and stretch for 55 miles (90 km) with the highest peak, Jiekkevarre, at 6013 feet (1833 m). We traveled north from Tromsø, taking a ferry across the Norwegian Sea from the communities of Breivikeidet to Svensby and making a loop east and south back to Tromsø. The adventure lent itself to many impromptu interviews for Earthducation, ranging from local university students on the ferry to our new friends we made when we were looking for a place to eat in Lyngseidet.
After we stopped at a gas station in search of a restaurant, we were directed 50 meters up the road to the Magic Mountain Lodge, which overlooks the beautiful Lyngen Fjord. We were honored to meet the new owners, Patrik Jonson and Hinreka Lonngren. Patrick, from Sweden, and Hinreka, from Finland, shared a beautiful story of their first meeting, falling in love, and literally biking for nine months from the Italian Alps to China! After deciding that they were getting older and should probably settle down a bit, they visited the Lyngen Alps area to go skiing, fell in love again, and opened up a lodge.
Hinreka cooked for us the most scrumptious food we have experienced thus far, Red King Fish that was purchased from the fisherman at the dock that morning. After sharing perspectives on education, sustainability, and the environment, Patrick offered for us to take his boat on the fjord! So, in Earthducation-style we loaded up the small boat and headed out fishing. Although Charlie would tell you he is the best fisherman from Minnesota, there were no fish caught – only some fun photos.
We quickly lost track of our time and realized we had to make our way back to Tromsø as the local newspaper, iTromsø, requested an interview on Earthducation. The article should be published soon and we will make sure to share it with you. In the meantime, you can view the newspaper online.
In the morning we are working our way to Andenes in the Vesterålen islands, and then on to the Lofotens! We hope you are enjoying the adventure. There is much more to look forward to – stay tuned!