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6th March, 2013



The day dawned bright and sunny on the port of Tromso but still cold at -5 deg C. After manoeuvering the ship and fastening the mooring lines to the shore, having first fought with the current for a short while to bring the ship alongside, another day of excursions and experiences was ready to begin.

Tromso is located 200 miles into the Artic Circle and is known as the ‘Gateway to the Artic’ because it was used as a starting pointing for hunting artic wildlife and it was also used as a base for explorer’s on artic expeditions in the 19th century which is remembered by the city’s polar museum, just one of the excursions which was on offer to our passengers. The main centre is situated on an island, which is connected to the main land by a long legged bridges on each side, one of which we passed underneath in the early hours of the morning in order to reach our berth.

There is a lot of history in the city of Tromso in relation to WWII and it was the site that the British Lancaster’s finally sunk Hitler’s Tirpitz (sister ship to the Bismark) in November 1944. It also served as the seat of Norwegian government during this time. Nowadays its economy is driven by Norway’s extensive fishing and oil industries, and is also known as the world’s most northern University City.

Another historic fact, which is commemorated here, is to do with Norway’s and Lapland’s indigenous people, the Sami. Lapland covers the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia and there is thought to be approximately eighty thousand Sami, of which half now reside in the Finnmark region of Norway.

Their culture is very traditional and their isolated way of life is a distinctive characteristic of the nomadic lifestyle. At the turn of the last century, the Sami people where forced to speak Norwegian and conform to a Norwegian lifestyle however this was met with extensive resistance. Norway’s philosophy towards the Sami has of course now dramatically changed and consequently they now have their own government which looks after keeping the traditional Sami lifestyle alive.

The Sami also have their own language which can be learnt in certain schools and likewise some schools in the region of Finnmark, teach all subjects in the Sami language so as to incorporate all members of the community together. Furthermore, in and around the suburbs of Tromso, these Sami communities can be spotted by their traditional Lavvu tents and reindeers, which usually surround them. The Lavvu looks like a wigwam and in many respects the Sami have other similarities with the Native American Indians. Even their song or “joik” would not sound out of place in an old western movie.


Today, I was lucky enough to hop onboard the dogsledding tour, which took us to Tromso’s Wilderness Centre, located approximately 12 miles from the city centre amid beautiful arctic scenery. Here we were greeted by roughly 100 Alaskan huskies who are all trained to pull sledges through the harshest of winter conditions for hundreds of miles. The owners here have also competed in the toughest of Europe’s dog sledging races, the Finmmark 1000. This is a roundabout race of about 1000 Km (600 miles) from Alta, our last port of call. This takes approximately 6 days and tests the endurance of both the dogs and Musher alike. The dogs at the Wilderness Centre were incredibly friendly and loved the attention lavished upon them. Once tethered up to the sledge, approximately 12 per sledge, most were eager to get going and give us a wonderful experience overlooking the fjords and snow covered landscape, albeit a slightly bumpy one!

They are very powerful dogs and pulled us along quite happily, with their tongues lolling to one side and a smile on their faces. We were also treated to meeting a few of the puppies, just 10 weeks old, who in a few months will begin sledge training with an older counterpart to show them what to do. In the mean time they were quite content to maraud our passengers and try to relieve them of scarves, gloves, hats and anything else they could get their paws on to play with.

After a quick refreshment of tea/coffee and homemade chocolate cake, we were then back on the bus back towards the port where the weather decided to change quite considerably and offered us a heavy downfall of snow for most of the remaining afternoon until our departure.

The passage to our next port of call, Narvik, would once again see Saga Sapphire making her way under low bridges and squeezing through narrows with just the occasional shore light and moonlight reflecting off of the snow clad landscape to light our way.

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.