SOLDAGEN, THE DAY THE SUN RETURNS TO TROMSØ, N.NORWAY
As you all know by now, up here at 70*N, way above the Arctic Circle, the
sun does not rise above the horizon for two months, the period we call
Mørketiden, the dark time. Although less sinister than this term implies,
mørketiden still is a time of stress for many people, and everybody yearns
for the sun to be back. Today, 21 January, is Soldagen, The Sun-day (Normal
Sundays are called Søndag in Norwegian), but in fact I was so lucky to see
the upper thirs of the sun already yesterday, visible for a few minutes
among the mountains of Balsfjorden on the southern horizon (One of those
mountains is appropriately called Middagsfjell, the Noon Mountain).
Soldagen is widely celebrated and at the museum too all will come together
later today to praise the return of the sun.
The year 2002 started here with another prolonged period of mild weather
and lots of rain (One place in Nordland got 665 mm in 2 weeks!! Still good
maybe it did not come as snow!), causing much havoc and closing many roads
and the one railway. But in the last week the weather here in the north has
gradually changed; first we got a little snow (maybe 1 ft, very little by
our standards), and then the wind veered to the north east and cold air
from the Barents Sea and its pack ice has penetrated, so that now we have
what I have called steely winter, with temperatures here in town (as you
recall on an island, surrounded by open water) around -10*C, and in the
inland ca -30*C. Not too much wind, so in fact quite pleasant weather.
Because of the cold, the snow is hard-packed and the ice not quite so
slippery, so with prudence one can walk virtually all the paths again, and
I walk to work through Folkeparken, now even already in the first
shimmering of twilight in the mornings. The forest is silent and still,
though, and most mornings the only sounds are the Hooded Crows, and maybe
the conversation of Ravens overhead; the magpies seem to wake late; I
rarely hear them in the morning, but there are plenty of them around. I
have heard nor seen Waxwings this year, and no Fieldfares for the last ten
In my garden the feeders have become more popular again, and during the
daylight hours (now again in the plural!) it is a constant va et vient of
Great and Willow Tits, with now and then a visit by the neighbourhood gang
of mostly immature Greenfinches. To my great pleasure, also the Bullfinches
are back suddenly, and I have seen up to six together; as always they come
in pairs. I love these quietly beautiful large calm finches!
During the storms of the first January week several Little Auks (Dovekies)
blew ashore and had to be rescued; these birds have so short wings that
they seem often unable to get airborn once they are stranded in the snow.
They may now and then blow far inland, and one people phoned about was 130
km from the nearest fjord. I fear quite a number will perish during these
And my yearlist? At a standstill since 5 January, and still not past 10!
Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
9037 Tromsø, Norway
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