Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class wpdb in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 49

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/cache.php on line 35

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Object_Cache in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/cache.php on line 400

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 534

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_PageDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 553

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_CategoryDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/classes.php on line 674

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/query.php on line 15

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/theme.php on line 505
Finnmark 2007 Diary » week 5

Archive for the ‘week 5’ Category

The journey’s end

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

We’re outside Narvik on the West coast of Norway with a stiff wind blowing into our faces off the Atlantic. The dogs are being loaded onto the trailers, the wind sighs into the dwarf birches and the scattered pines, and the sun’s pushing through the clouds over the peaks behind us.

What have we just completed? We’ve reached our goal on the Skjomen fjord which slides into the North Sea and the Atlantic, from the Barents Sea approximately 1000 miles away…and this thanks to the 32 brave, gutsy dogs that pulled the five of us over some of the least hospitable tundra and taiga regions on the planet. We’ve travelled over glaciers, down frozen rivers, across mountain passes over 1000 metres high, in blizzard conditions, in blazing sunshine, invisible to each other at five meters, blasted by winds that devoured our cheeks, noses, ears, and brains. We escaped border patrols who would have impounded our dogs for six months if they’d caught us, we smashed into trees, lost our sleds racing downhill, capsized in water, dislocated limbs, broke ribs, performed involuntary somersaults when the dogs got side-tracked by a reindeer carcass, and lived sometimes painfully, mostly happily through conditions that would be perfectly normal in the life of a reindeer-herding Sami.

Why have we done this? To conduct field interviews with some of the first victims of climate change in order to understand how they, and their herds, are adapting to changing weather conditions – the nomadic reindeer-herding Flyt-Sami…and, at the same time, to collect data on temperature, wind conditions, snow and snowflakes for NASA’s world snowflake project. This is directed by Dr Peter Wasilewski and is part of the NASA History of Winter study. The whole, from our point of view, was to look at how human beings with their animals, living and working in the Arctic – indigenous to the Arctic – are developing new survival routines for dealing with change. The NASA study, thanks to Dr Nancy Maynard, is, in fact, working closely with the Ealat Reindeer project, directed by Svein Mathisen, which is studying reindeer herder vulnerability AND| resourcefulness, in relation to climate change, using the Flyt Sami’s own traditional knowledge, experience, and ground sense as well as scientific research.

It’s not obvious to have such traditional knowledge recognised as relevant, and precious, although, over the last 10,000 years the Sami have been proud of how little trace they’ve left of their passage. “Not Lords of Nature,” they say, “Just part of nature!” Yes, today, technology and mechanisation have brought walkie-talkies, GPS systems, and most of all the snowmobile to herding practices, but generally these tools are employed in a context of sustainability. Why? Because the Sami know – unlike us – how delicate, and crucial the environment is!

What have we learnt? That climate change is a reality of course – temperatures are rising, seasons are shortening for the herders, spring migration starts earlier, autumn migration later, year by year, and visibly over the last ten years. Conditions are increasingly unstable, the herders insist, and this demands from them imagination, flexibility, adaptability, on a daily basis…More important still perhaps than agreeing on the reality of climate change, is that it is neither a question or a possibility of stopping change, but more a question of learning how to live with it…

Conclusion: We can and need to learn from these indigenous Sami people, and others like them, how to live more carefully and more in tune with our environment…that climate change is a challenge, not a disaster, for us, for our children. Planet Earth is all we’ve got!

…and finally that for each of us this adventure was life-enhancing, challenging, and a privilege.

Gratitude is not such a big word, but it’s hard to express what we’ve been given…by all those we met on the journey who gave their time, their thoughts, their trust and hospitiality to us…and also by our back-up team too; by Tommy Larsen, the thoughtful encyclopedia, musher, the logistics man; by Roy Saetre, the ’Yeti’, bush-man, wilderness guide, and cameraman; and by Jan-Ivar Larsen, ’the Bear’, snowmobile driver and mechanic, all-round fixer. All, with their humour, kindness, energy and enthusiasm have helped make this expedition a success. Thank you, and until we meet again…







From Sjangeli mountain to the sea at Skjornen Fjord on the Atlantic

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

This was the hardest weather we’ve experienced on the expedition. After a great evening with Marja’s generous parents at their cabin, and the usual selfless support from Tommy, and Roy, we left from this mountain-top in a blizzard with visibility down to a few metres. Even with GPS we’re having to stop every few metres to check direction. The dogs are astonishing, looking (and finding) the best way up the inclines, through the rocks, round the spurs, over the passes – where I would certainly go wrong. The dogs’ instinct is assured and miraculous. And then quite suddenly we come out of the turmoil, the wind ceases to burn our faces, and the clouds part over our heads.

Tom-Frode halts the line in a small valley. Herds of reindeer stop and stare before galloping into the dawning sunlight on the bluff before us. “It’s beautiful here, “ he reminds me, “and we’re back in Norway!” We celebrate with hot chocolate from the thermoses, bread and cheese, relieved to have found our way. And then we take off once again, drifting silently through the birch and then into the Taiga below with more pines, their green coats, and rusty bark giving variety to the black and white landscape. We pick up speed, and the dogs catch the urgency and that the end is near. Tom-Frode whoops from the lead sled, and I try an old joik to accompany us from the rear, and it’s like riding a helter-skelter down into the forests and the waiting truck with the dog boxes.

The road’s been cleared of snow, temperatures have risen, and it’s too dangerous to take the dogsleds to the sea. Before my judgement improves I grab my rucksack, thermos, the last dregs of cognac, unhitch my dancing leading lady Sprio from the sled, and tie her to my belt. We’ll do the last 12 kilometers or so together (in my sled boots), I tell her, and she seems fine with that. We set off down the long straight road, and I feel like an antique ad for Start-Rite shoes. Spiro and I make good time, and she’s patient with the clumsy human sled she’s pulling home.

We reach the sea with the truck and sled-dogs, Euan, Dess, Tom-Frode and the gang, who’ve caught us up. I take a dip, Euan asks me which was colder – the Barents or the Atlantic. “Somewhere between having my legs amputated and bathing in extra-chilled champagne”, I answer him, “and both as bad”.

We‘ve made it sea to sea, and the cognac dregs are carefully shared. With this brave little dog by my side I look out over the pebbled sand, the grey water, to the horizon – with exhilaration, relief, gratitude – with an odd sense of helplessness.

Leaving Sjangeli on our way down to the Atlantic.


Reaching the sea.


The AtlanticŠ


Dr Dessislav Sabev on the reindeer herders’ fight for survival

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

Here we have attempted to describe the general conditions under which Sami reindeer-herders tend to work, the difficulties that they face, and some aspects of the future which faces them. Conditions are precarious, not only for reasons of weather or climate change, but also because of government policies, competition with countries producing cheaper reindeer meat, and in-fighting amongst the Sámi themselves.

Last visited areas
In Sweden we noticed very different reindeer-herding practices from those we have seen in both the Kirkenes, Karasjok, and Kautokeino districts. We can summarize as follows:

Kirkeness District and Pasvik Valley: winter pastures in the well-protected forest areas of the Pasvik Valley, summer pastures usually on the Sea islands up in the North. Mostly domesticated reindeer, “tamed” through intensive year-round herding, feeding, given forage by herders during the winter, who move with the herd to the calving and summer areas. Low concentration of herds. ie no great competition. One herd is usually managed by several families in a “reindeer-herding district”.

Kautokeino: winter pastures usually in open or semi-open tundra, close to the Swedish border (where there are conflicts with reindeer herders from the Swedish side regarding over-use of shared pasturelands); summer pastures close to the sea. Almost year-round herding but less intense than in the Kirkeness district. Bigger concentration of herds, and owners. One herd is usually managed by one extended family, and grazing territories are organised in “reindeer-herding districts”.

Sweden: winter pastures in the woods, summer pastures up in the mountains, often on the Norwegian side of the border (conflicts with reindeer herders from Kautokeino regarding overuse of shared pasturelands). Reindeer migrate by themselves to calving areas and summer pastures in March-April, and run free (so “free grazing”) until the calf-marking corral in July. Herds and reindeer-herding territories are lined up on almost parallel grazing areas (some areas of 5 km wide and up to 150 km long) belonging to “Sámi villages” (Sameby).

Investigating the differences in reindeer-herding practices within this region, must be, to some extent, an attempt to explain the differences between peoples on our planet. What we call “culture” is a particular relationship of a human group to its environment. The three different reindeer-herding cultures outlined above are based on different types of environment where people from a similar ethnic background (i.e. the Sami), and involved in a similar economy (i.e. reindeer herding), live and work. Pasvik Valley is an almost ideal place for winter grazing, but is the least comfortable place for summer grazing because of high temperatures and abundance of mosquitoes, factors of disturbance for the reindeer. Reindeer need open and windy places with an abundance of grass during summer. Mountain or sea provide such conditions, so reindeer do a long migration from Pasvik to the islands in the Sea. Such a long migration requires strong human control as the herd has to travel across various territories, and can easily get lost. This environmental structure for the reindeer herding requires a close human-reindeer relationship, as the herder applies strong control to the herd. When the herder feeds his reindeer during the winter, he sets up this strategic close control over the whole herd: feeding reindeer is the best way to “domesticate” them, i.e. to keep them closer to the owner. Such a herd is more easily managed through long migration routes.

In Sweden we experienced a totally different type of environment and consequently noticed different types of reindeer management. Reindeer move from birch forest up to the mountains on much shorter distances and thus can be easily left free to migrate and to graze in Spring and Summer. This allows herders to have a “second job” in the area, related to the tourist business, community life, and the local economy. This was the case of all the reindeer owners that we met in Sweden. But problems come with the political structures, and more specifically with the border difficulties experienced by herders between Sweden and Norway. These borders cut the migration route of the herds that have winter pastures in Sweden and summer pastures in Norway. Such areas has been under dispute between reindeer owners from this part of Sweden and from Kautokeino. Kautokeino is the most reindeer-populated of the four regions we have visited throughout this expedition, and the good pastures to the Swedish border are an attractive winter place for some of the Kautokeino herds.

Kurt Magge feeding his herd (Neiden area).


Per Jun Ante, reindeer herder and manager of his Siedda’s mobile slaughter house. “The meat’s better of course, because the reindeer are not stressed,” he tells us. “We come to them.”


Ellen-Anne Siri with her aunt Karen - two generations of women herders from the Kautokeino area.


Tom Frode reflects on the journey

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

I asked Tom Frode, our guide, to write today’s diary, but he said, “it’s too hard, I work for the logistics, organising things as we move along on the journey.” “You Adam, for example, were a pain in the arse at the beginning, testing my capability to solve problems with all the things you wanted: to meet the herds, the herdsmen, the healers, the seers, the old and young generations, to pass by the traditional sites, the holy places, and stay longer often to talk with one or the other people that we met, always pushing me, and we’re travelling only with dogs, so its never easy to make kilometers, too.” “But beside complaining and giving me a guilt complex,” I asked him, “what’s been good, and what’s been bad for you?” “The most stressful,” he said, “was crossing the border at Kilpisjärvi, where I ran down and saw that the whole team would have to drive 200 meters along the main road.” “And what’s been good for you?” I asked. Tom shook his head, “many things: no conflicts in the team, the good feeling that I can’t express for the bunch of friends in Finnmark, and in Sweden who have helped us along our way. Also seeing how the herders have different solutions for their problems, the weather, the predators, and seeing how important is the geography of their districts to their migrations, and the herding, also confirming what I’ve seen as a dog musher that climate change is real, and I don’t get my two weeks in May anymore for ice fishing, travelling with dogs at nights, and sleeping in the day because the snow’s all gone, and the rivers are open. Ah yes, I also feel I’ve got more energy now than when we started the expedition, and I hope it’s not the last one we do.”

Tonight we’re with Marja’s parents who have just cooked us a delicious meal of their own smoked reindeers in a stew with mushrooms and cloudberries picked from the forest by Anna-Christine, Marja’s mother. We’re perched on top of Sjangeli Mountain with a snowstorm raging, and I’m out in it with my fingers freezing with this damn phone. But its always filthy weather on Good Friday, they’ve assured us here. Tonight we sleep in a lavvu, which is like an Indian tepee, before slipping down to the Atlantic in the morning, if the weather permits. There are more stars than I think I have ever seen in my life, and it feels as if we’re on top of the world, and the Northern Light are circling round us.

The last day in the mountains

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

The dogs before leaving on the last day in the mountains. The conditions were the worst we’d experienced during the entire expedition. Madonna, the lazy bitch, and Trouble - what a heart in the hills! Kjelling, the bravest, and Malten my tough silent guy. Spiro, my lead dog, and her son Potte.




Back from the wild

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

Yesterday we mushed 50 odd kilometres down Johan Turi’s home ground on the great lake Torneträsk to Abisko. We’re approaching civilization again, and now in Abisko the noise of snow-machines and people is disconcerting after so many days in the wild. Each of us, in his or her own way, is experiencing trepidation at the prospect of completing this journey. Someone truly said that it’s all in the travelling, and not in the arrival or reaching an end, and I wonder if that’s what pilgrimage is too.

Last night Marja, our Sami guide for this leg, brought her brother to sing for us. His CD Birrasis has been sitting on my desk in London, and listened to almost daily in the months before the expedition. Joiking (as it’s called) is not quite singing, but it’s music, rhythm, chanting, haunting and full of song, as Lars-Ánte Kuhmunen says “You sing a person, a magic place, your reindeer or the mountains, you don’t sing about such things.” He told me that the Joik of the Sami is enclosed in the palm of your hand, and that you have to shake it out. He also said that the Joik always comes back to the ground, however much it flies, because that’s how the Sami people must live, sending their hopes and prayers with the wind, but always moving for the pastures with the reindeer, from winter to spring, for the calving, for the summer grounds high in the fells, back to the autumn for the corralling, the calf marking, the separating, and into winter again.

Home to Johan Turi

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

Date: April 4th Time: 20.30pm
Air temp: minus 4
Snow temp: minus 5
Lat: 68 degrees, 17, 24 N Long: 19 degrees, 15, 44 E

Today we travelled from beneath Cokcu (the Holy Mountain) to Lahtteluokta, where, at the beginning of the 20th century Johan Turi lived and wrote the first book ever written by a Sami. My grandfather was one of those who helped him get it published, and about one hundred years ago they made a journey together through parts of Sapmi where Turi showed the famous physician, “ real things that should be known by all people”. Here on the great lake of Torneträsk, we found his cabin, thanks to a string of neighbours who helped us locate the site. Turi was and is a hero for the Sami. As Marja, our young guide says, “ He was a great man who opened a view about Sami people, and gave their eyes to the world.” Her uncle, Ola Påve, a wily, witty herder to whom we listened half the night, and again this morning, put it as beautifully but differently; “He was the first to tell the stories properly, so we can be understood, because the Sami are a story-telling people:” Turi was a teller of tales old and new, of the Sami legends, of Sami practises on medicine, reindeer herding lore (still used by modern herders like Ola), of the spirits, and Shamen. He told and drew his stories too, and his drawings are famous now. He was also a hunter, herder, and himself a Shaman, in the tradition which still holds good today, of those who do not speak of their skills but merely use them.

Our day started in a white-out, and we had doubts as to the possibility of travelling at all. At 12.45pm Tom-Frode made his decision and we set off into a swirling maelstrom. After an hour we started our descent into the Taiga (more birch and small pine trees), the wind dropped, and patches of blue sky unfurled above us. We were grateful for the cabin Tom-Frode found us for the night, thanks to friends up for the Easter week, having been promised only a tent in the violent conditions prevailing. We then moved into the hills above Torneträsk on our search. A tipsy herder, Lars Mikel Svuoni (here he is) gave us the final clue, and the team let me run down to the old shack just above what must have been old Johan Turi’s Lavvu. (photo) I peered in through the windows to see a neat old-fashioned kitchen area, with a basket of birch wood waiting for the next fire to be lit. Without this old man, and my grandfather’s admiration for him, our journey today would not have been made…and my eldest son would never have been christened so oddly…so here this diary entry comes – with admiration and love – for an old man, and for Turi Benjamin…

Johan Turi’s cabin where he wrote Turi’s Book of Lapland.


Lars Mikel Svuoni, who gave us the last clue as to Turi’s whereabouts, and then sang us his Joik on lost and found reindeer.


A wolf’s footprint, close to our sledges, following the trail of a herd of reindeer.


Watching over the dogs

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/2/d178358563/htdocs/finnmark/diary/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 76

Temperatures descending as we move back into winter. Our local friend, Marja’s uncle, Ola Påve, said it’s the new weather instability that most concerns the herders. From Rostujauri to Cokcu (the holy mountain) we’ve had a bitter wind and a hard days mushing, the sledge creaking on the dogs’ run, and the snow creaking too beneath the runners, like a draughty door swinging.

It’s so good to see the dogs learning their rhythm for the day. Its been a heavier sledge, so harder to pull and faster on the down slopes, the dogs’ bottoms pushing outwards from the traces because they trust me for their rudder, and I’m watching carefully, after a month in harness, for a limp or stiffness. They’ve eaten voraciously every day, their fat levels are down, and they’re skinny and more fragile. But still all their personality traits are present and showing in behaviour in the way they pull. Spiro like a dancer, Madonna like a lazy cow, Kjelling clumsy and brave, Trouble like a tireless demon, and always ready for a fight, Malten and Potte like thoroughbred racers, their smooth, silky lope shows their racing skills, economy of movement, harbouring of energy while still giving their best. It’s a joy to watch them, and we’ve become good friends. When I cry “Haw” or “Gee”, Spiro, my leading lady, will take them left or right, and with a soft “Ch” from me, they’ll give a little more, as the light fades, though their strength fades too, because they feel our night stop is coming closer. Without them this journey could not have been made. They’ve been fed first, and are bedded down first every night. They get their breakfast first in the morning, and all my clothes and gloves smell of the sausages, frozen meat, and biscuits I’ve cut and mixed up for them day and night, and, on the hardest days, at noon too. Today Trouble has also worn a jacket against the cold. Some weeks ago, he managed to get part of his foreskin ripped off in either a fight or frenzied sex, so to stop his bits freezing, he wears a body-stocking, and a very sheepish expression when I put it on in the mornings. Tonight we’ve heard that the bears are already out of their winter hibernation lairs. Weeks earlier than St. Tibertius Day, April 17th. This is another sign of change, but the bears are another story.

Tonight the moon’s out, the stars are out, there’s a huge, vast, sleepy sky..

The weather experienced today…