By Corey Sandler
Hammerfest is very Norwegian, with the same sort of end-of-the-world feeling as most of the other places we visit in northern Norway, inside the Arctic Circle.
And yet it also feels different.
500 kilometers or 312 miles inside the Arctic Circle, this is a place of very severe weather.
Hammerfest is an old settlement with evidence of inhabitation going back 10,000 years, the ancestral home of the Nordic Sea Sami people, and beginning in the early 19th century a settlement of European and then North American traders attracted to the ice-free harbor that is tempered by a finger of the Gulf Stream.
This is not a town of old clapboard houses and time-worn storefronts. You’ll find contemporary office and apartment building, state-of-the-art oil and gas terminals, and a church on Kirkegata shaped like a space rocket.
All right, not really a rocket ship: it is supposed to pay homage to the traditional triangular drying racks for stockfish or bacalao.
It is also home to the famed Struve Geodetic Arc Monument, a point of measurement along a meridian line from the 19th century, one of the first scientific efforts to determine the size and shape of the globe.
But why is Hammerfest so relatively modern?
The first reason is that old Hammerfest has had a very hard time over the years. The town has been knocked down, burned down, and bombed and rebuilt many times.
The second is that it is the recent beneficiary of massive investment by oil and gas producers working even farther north, in the Arctic.
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