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22nd March, 2013



The cloud base was low as we entered the bay of Narvik, giving this iron ore town a rather grey and gloomy atmosphere. To me it felt as though we were in a scene from a Second World War movie and indeed, the area has a great history from that period. A huge empty iron ore ship lay in the middle of the bay, waiting its turn to dock and load at the terminal which has been exporting the ore railed in from Sweden for over a century.

Our berth was adjacent to a new one being built and its construction made our manoeuvre even more ‘interesting’, the bridge wing finally ending up just a meter or so away from the huge container crane moved to the end of the pier to accommodate our gangway and the tour coaches.

During the afternoon my wife and I took the last two seats available on the tour that first went by coach up to a hotel over the border in Sweden. The drive took us past many frozen waterfalls as it climbed higher and higher past vertical rock faces on a road originally built by the Germans with POW labour. Slopes were covered by bent and broken silver birch trees, hammered by the freezing winter snows. By the time we crossed the border there were no trees left, snow had begun to fall and the pale grey horizon merged with the overcast sky.

Train transporting ore

We took refreshment in the hotel before following the RJ’s and carefully making our way through the snow to a rather exposed station of the Ofotbanen Railway, the line that comes from Stockholm and brings the iron ore across the border and down to Narvik. Every 2 hours, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year a fully loaded ore train takes this route to fill the never ending supply of ore ships that come in to take the mineral all over the world. The ore takes priority over passengers, so the train was not late, despite the snow that was now blowing almost horizontally.

Our return journey followed the steep sides of the fjord, at times the drop was precipitous and the views down to the black waters below were almost obscured by the whirling snow and the darkening sky. To the minute the train arrived on schedule and we all trooped out to the waiting coach, my eyebrows covered in the white stuff by the time I boarded causing some degree of amusement to those already seated.

And so we sailed into the darkness, the anchored bulk carrier just a shadowy blur as we slowly past her massive bulk. At the ore terminal thousands of tons were still pouring into yet another cavernous hold.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.