Day 4: On this, the shortest day, the heavy weather shifted to the west and the skies to the north became less threatening:
In the morning, two hours behind schedule, Finnmarken sounded three long blasts on the ships horn as she eased into the Arctic Circle at 66°34′. A few miles on, she broke the silence again as a sister ship headed south into the light and we headed further north into the dark. In this part of the world, the winter solstice was actually timed at 12:03 am on 22nd December i.e. when the Sun was exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn.
It was no coincidence that I was reading George Mackay Brown’s A Time to Keep – short stories set in the Orkneys, they describe a culture that had strong parallels with remote Norwegian fishing communities. The Orkney bars were populated with the crews of Norwegian whalers and the older stories speak of Viking raiders.
The tale of Check Harra, a man who could not resist gambling with the fifty two cards, contains this short passage which describes his time living among the Indians of North America:
He was lord of an area as big as Britain, a white wilderness with here and there a reindeer herd on the move and at night the splendour of the Merry Dancers, swathes of heavy yellow silk swirling and rustling in the Arctic sky.
That night the Merry Dancers were wearing green:
The images were taken with a hand-held Fuji X100s pushed to ISO 25600 – better results could be achieved at lower ISO settings and a longer exposure on a tripod but, not from a moving ship – the stars streak (and don’t forget to remove the UV filter). There will be more to come.