An email from Tromso

Siobhan Logan‘s been chasing colours again. She’s now back in Leicester and this is what she says of her latest adventure:

We’re just back from the north and still a bit dazed by the daylight here! It’s 13.10 and would be getting dark by now in Tromso

We didn’t see the northern lights — mainly because it was a week of unbroken cloud. This was a story in itself – they’ve just had record highs of 6-7 degrees — which are summer temperatures for Tromso. And they’re set to face that rare event — a green Christmas in the arctic. We had driving rain for much of the week which all but washed away November’s snow. It was actually colder in England some of the time! The reindeer were depressed, standing in puddles, and locals were disorientated by the lack of reflected light from the snow. All of this is clearly showing the effects of global warming in the arctic.

Nonetheless, as we hadn’t counted on snowsports or sleigh rides, we just donned our waterproofs and got out and had a great time. Polar night was very interesting to experience — the quality of light constantly shifting. Tromso is a lively city overlooked by stunning mountains and we were able to get out and see some of this landscape.

We also met such interesting people. Unni Lovhaug, an auroral scientist from the University, picked us up and drove us out to the EISCAT research base. She gave us a tour with lots of explanation about what they’re studying there and how they use the giant radars. She also reflected on her own experiences of the lights — and asked me to autograph a copy of my poems I gave her!

We also had a Saami reindeer herder, Johann Isaac, take us up the mountain to a camp where we sat round a fire in his laavu or tent, listening to an account of Saami culture and traditions. He was very friendly and curious about us too and spoke good English. He had brought lots of Saami handmade artefacts to show us. Later, he took us down to a small reindeer herd where we were able to get in and feed them with handfuls of their favourite moss. Very gentle, beautiful creatures.

There was much more but those were the highlights. I’ve brought back about 40 pages of notes, some poems, two cameras’ worth of photos, a 45 mins. video film, some Saami hats and music and poetry, and various books and CDs for my research. Whew! What a week that was! And we are completely hooked. Johann Isaac said if we come back in the summer, he’ll take us hiking up the mountains …

And it did snow for one day on Thursday. So there.

God Jul all till January!

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