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13th July, 2016


Being a member (number 238,273) of ‘The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society’ I felt it only correct that I should wear their emblem on my uniform collar as we entered Hammerfest, the traditional home of the society.

Timing was perfect as we arrived outside this small northern ‘city’ just as the regular Hurtigruten coastal vessel was about to leave. We rounded the bay and took up her berth in the heart of ‘downtown’ and here I found, just a few steps away, the new headquarters of the ‘RAPBS’, the tourist information office. Proudly showing off my small, but discretely enamelled polar bear badge, the assistant smiled pleasantly, obviously not as impressed with my life membership as I am. Even so, my wife quickly ascertained that membership was qualification for a 5% discount of any shop purchase. Our on board tailor now has a new woven badge which must be affixed to an Arctic jacket already sufficiently covered with emblems of obscure places around the globe.

We strode off for a jaunt up to Mount Salen, at 282 feet not the highest climb in the district, but marvellous views over the harbour. We carried on round to the other side and saw much more of what must be ‘upper Hammerfest’, continuing to clamber over grey pinky granite, split by the winter ice and having a sizeable number of alpine flowers, until we must have covered several miles. From even higher there were marvellous views of islands and fjords and in the bright Arctic sunshine it somehow felt a great privilege, despite the exertion, to be just standing there.

With only 97 miles to run up to Honningsvåg, the most northerly port on this itinerary, we didn’t need to leave until late in the evening. Although much cooler than the 19 degree daytime temperature, the sun was still low on the horizon, partly hidden by encroaching cloud. An ethereal sea fog was creeping across from the west, would I have a sleepless night?

Captain Philip Rentell

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