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7th March, 2013


Polar zoo

At 98 degrees north, Narvik lies 140 miles within the Arctic Circle, near the head of Ofotfjorden in the county of Nordland Fylke. Its heritage dates back to the Stone Age and Vikings were also known to have settled in the area. However, the modern town of Narvik came into being in the 1870’s in order to serve as a major trans-shipment point for iron ore from the Kiruna-Gallivare mines in northern Sweden. This was mainly due to Narvik’s status as an ice-free seaport.

In 1883, a co-owned British-Swedish company was given permission to build a railway connecting the mines in Sweden to the port of Narvik. This line was completed in 1902 but was then under the direction of the Norwegian government as the original developers had gone bankrupt.

During World War II, most of Narvik was destroyed, as it was seized by the German forces in April 1940. Allied Forces successfully retook it on 28th May but the forces were evacuated on the 9th June owing to the collapse of the front in France and hence Narvik was under German occupation once again. A tour laid on for our passengers allowed them to visit the local war museum in the heart of the town, in which Narvik’s story is told in chronological history.

Polar zoo

Today, Narvik is still functioning as an ore port, with this export along with fishing as its economical foundations. This was clearly obvious due to the number of cargo ships anchored in the surrounding area, waiting for their assignment of iron ore. They are also currently building a new railway line into northern Sweden which could be seen from the ship and whilst exiting the port. This is expected to double the amount of trade and export dramatically.

The weather once again was a pretty chilly -5 degrees c, but the sun was out to greet us, as was the wind chill. Once again there were many tours on offer for our passengers as well as the shuttle bus in order to explore independently.

The Ofotbanen Railway, gave our passenger the chance to travel the route in which the ore is transported in reverse from Narvik to Riksgransen, which lies half-a-mile inside the Swedish border with some spectacular scenery on display of the southern cliffs of Rombaksfjord.


Reindeer sledging

The polar zoo was to offer something a bit different and after an approximate journey of 45 miles, the world’s most northern wildlife park for predatory animals was open for our passengers to explore. The park is home to wolf, lynx, deer, moose, arctic fox, wolverine (a Nordic species and the largest of the weasel family) and brown bear.

Most of the animals were used to human contact, almost to the point of domestication, as many have been breed and raised in captivity. The only animals that would likely shy away from the camera were the brown bears who would be currently still in hibernation.

With the weather changing in the afternoon, an arctic storm (a local phenomenon) soon encircled the region, pinning us to the berth with wind speeds of 25 knots plus, and much more than predicted from our earlier forecasts. This ended up delaying our sailing time by a couple of hours until the wind dropped at around 10 pm.

Saga Sapphire then took advantage of the lull in the weather and maneuvered off of the berth with the assistance of the port’s tug, slaloming around the bulk carriers at anchor before leaving the confines of the harbour.

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.