1 July 2014
 Kristiansund, Norway

In the Hall of the Mountain Data Farm

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Our northernmost call on this cruise is at Kristiansund.

It’s a small place, much less populated than the confusingly named Kristiansand which is one of the most southerly points of Norway.

Kristiansand was named in honor of King Christian IV, who founded that southerly city in 1641, on a spit of SAND.

As should be very obvious, Kristiansund was named after King Christian VI in 1742. It gets the second half of its name from SUND as in STRAIT. A Strait is a long body of water that connects two larger bodies: sea to sea, for example.

BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7604 BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7603

The ferry, claimed to be the oldest continually operated mechanized transportation in the world, crosses the harbor at Kristiansund to the various islands that make up the remote town. Just outside of town is a stretch of the spectacular Atlantic Road which connects many of the small communities along the western coast of Norway. Photos by Corey Sandler

So Kristiansund is where we are headed, about one-third of the way up the Norwegian coast at about 63 degrees north latitude.

That’s pretty far north, but not quite within the Arctic Circle, which is an arbitrary demarcation at 66 degrees 33 minutes and 44 seconds north, about 384 kilometers or 239 miles further north than Kristiansund.

The position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed.

It directly depends on the Earth’s axial tilt, which fluctuates within a margin of 2 degrees over a 40,000-year period, mostly due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon.

The Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards at a speed of about 15 meters or 49 feet per year.[whohit]-Kristiansund 1Jul-[/whohit]

Because it exists on small islands, Kristiansund is one of the most densely populated cities of Norway.

BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7543

Bales of hay and other food for livestock, stored for the short summer and the long winter ahead. Photo by Corey Sandler

On the day of our visit, there were almost 20 hours of daylight. Six months from now, about 20 hours of dark.

So what do they do in the winter? Sing, I guess.

The splendid Art-Nouveau Kristiansund Opera House, completed in 1914, is the oldest opera house in Norway and one of the few that survived World War II. Each year Kristiansund puts on Opera Festival Weeks in cold February: Norway’s largest opera and musical theater festivals, one of the largest in all of Scandinavia.

I’ve been to Norway and Kristiansund many times, but always have concentrated on the mountains and the fjords. This time, I dug deeper–underground to the Naas marble mine between Kristiansund and Molde.

BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7575 BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7572

The barges to the interior of the cave, and a banquet hall 500 meters below ground. Photos by Corey Sandler

The mine has been in operation for decades, a family affair. It began as a source of slabs of marble and cemetery markers. In more modern times, the marble has been used for industrial purposes: ground up for use in other products including as a principal ingredient in the high-gloss paper used in some magazines and books.

But the global consumption of paper for books and magazines has been in decline since the advent of the personal computer and especially reading tablets like the Kindle and the iPad. And so the Naas marble mine has looked for something else to do with its mountain and the 60 or so kilometers of roads and caverns within.

Ironically, it may be computers that saves the business they are threatening.

The owners of the mine are installing high-power electrical lines and fiber optic cables and hope to rent out the caverns for use as data farms, holding huge amounts of information for companies all around the world.

Why in a mine? Because it offers a controlled and stable environment with inexpensive cooling for the thousands or millions of disk drives and memory chips.

That’s the plan. In the meantime, we took a tour by raft and on foot in what I would expect Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg would call the Hall of the Mountain Data Farm.

BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7586 BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7558 BLOG Kristiansund 1July2014_DSC7580

Inside the Naas marble mine. Photos by Corey Sandler

All text and photos copyright 2014 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

 

 

 

30 June 2014
 Geiranger, Norway

Deeper into the Fjords of Norway

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We head inland from the Norwegian Sea on one of the most spectacular watery highways into the interior of coastal Norway.[whohit]-Geiranger 30Jun-[/whohit]

Silver Whisper followed a twisting and turning pathway along the big Storfjorden, then into the smaller Sunnylvsfjorden, and finally the even narrower Geirangerfjorden.

On our way in, we made a brief stop in Hellesylt to allow guests to debark for an overland shore excursion that reunited with the ship at Geiranger, at the dead end of the fjord. The fjord, which includes sheer cliffs, impressive waterfalls, and patches of green and white, is one of Norway’s most visited tourist sites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

BLOG Hellesylt June2014_DSC7505 BLOG Hellesylt June2014_DSC7501 BLOG Hellesylt June2014_DSC7499 BLOG Hellesylt June2014_DSC7498

In the fjords near Hellesylt. Photos by Corey Sandler

BLOG Hellesylt June2014_DSC7522

The Seven Sisters waterfall between Hellesylt and Geiranger. Photo by Corey Sandler

The town of Geiranger is a pleasant little place in a spectacular setting.

This isolated little town is the third-busiest cruise ship port in Norway. As many as 180 ships visit during the four-month tourist season, depositing as many as 300,000 passengers—not all at once—in Geiranger, which has a permanent population of about 250.

As I said, it’s a beautiful set of fjords and a handsome, peaceful place.

Except: it is under constant threat of severe damage or even total extinction. Scientists worry that a big piece of a mountain called Åkerneset could one day collapse into the fjord.

And, they say, this would cause a tsunami that could destroy downtown Geiranger. Studies indicate as much as 100 million cubic meters or 130 million cubic yards of rock and earth could collapse. They estimate the tsunami would be about 30 meters or 98 feet high.

We hope the people of the fjord (and those of us aboard ship) are spared that particular bit of excitement.

BLOG Gerianger June2014_DSC7526 BLOG Gerianger June2014_DSC7529 BLOG Gerianger June2014_DSC7532

Silver Whisper at anchor in Geiranger. We climbed up the hill for a better viewpoint, stopping at the picture-perfect Geiranger Church, built in 1842. Photos by Corey Sandler

All text and photos copyright 2014 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)

 

29 June 2014
 Flåm and Gudvangen, Norway

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Our epic journey leads us from Copenhagen in the Baltic Sea through the Kattegat and into the North Sea, and beyond to the Norwegian Sea.[whohit]-Flam 29Jun-[/whohit]

Silver Whisper swung out to sea and then into one of Norway’s most spectacular waterways, the Sognefjord, to visit Flåm and Gudvangen.

About the name of our first call: if you call it Flam as in ham, they’ll know what you mean.

But the Norwegian and Danish letter Å, with the little diacritical overring at it top, is not “a” but more similar to “o” in most other languages.

So, FLOME, or something like that.

The village of Flåm is at the end of the Aurlandsfjord, a small arm of the spectacular Sognefjord which extends in from the Norwegian Sea.

The 204-kilometer or 125-mile-long Sognefjord is said to be the longest and deepest fjord in the world.

Flåm is on one leg of a horseshoe-shaped fjord; at the end of the other leg is Gudvangen, where our ship repositioned in the afternoon.

The sail-in on the Aurlandsfjorden in the early morning is always spectacular; so, too, the sail-out in the still-bright evening.

Not far from the open sea is the statue of Fridtjof at Vangsnes on the Sognefjorden.

Fridtjof was the hero of an Icelandic Viking saga. The original version dates from the 8th century, updated and continued about the year 1300.

German Kaiser Wilhelm II was a regular visitor to this part of Norway, and in 1913 he gave the statue as a gift to the Norwegian people.

Flam has been a tourist attraction since the late 19th century.

Truth be told, though: few people come to see the port.

It’s basically a train station and a few gift shops. The 20-kilometer (12-mile) Flåmsbana railway rises from the town at sea level to the high village of Myrdal on the steepest standard gauge railway in Europe. The trip takes about an hour in each direction.

BLOG Flam Norway 29June2014_DSC7446 BLOG Flam Norway 29June2014_DSC7438 BLOG Flam Norway 29June2014_DSC7410 BLOG Flam Norway 29June2014_DSC7427 BLOG Flam Norway 29June2014_DSC7430

A sunny morning in Flåm, a spectacular setting with a gravity-defying railroad. Photos by Corey Sandler 

About lunchtime, Silver Whisper departed Flåm to sail around the corner to God’s Place by the Water.

I’m not attempting to make a religious commentary here.

Gudvangen means just that: “God’s Place by the Water.”

BLOG Naeroyfjord Gudvangen June2014_DSC7487 BLOG Naeroyfjord Gudvangen June2014_DSC7479 BLOG Naeroyfjord Gudvangen June2014_DSC7456 BLOG Naeroyfjord Gudvangen June2014_DSC7496

Scenes along the way from Flåm to Gudvangen, ending with the hoisting of the “black ball” to tell other ships we were at anchor. Photos by Corey Sandler

BLOG Naeroyfjord Gudvangen June2014_DSC7448

Approaching Gudvangen. Photo by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

All text and photos copyright 2014 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a photo, please contact me.