Where am I?

I am at 71° 10′ 21″ N deep in the Arctic Circle among the Sami people. Here in the Land of the Mid-night Sun I have just sailed by the North Cape, (Nordkapp), the northern most point in Europe. The North Cape is a captivating large stone mountain that rises 1,000 feet above the North Sea.

At this season of the year the earth is tilted on its axis providing the Summer Solstice. Sunset: 12:00 PM and sunrise: 12:00 AM allowing twenty-four hour days with no nights. The people who live here maintain their same schedules all year long without considering if there are 24 hours of daylight or dark.

Nearby is Hammingsvag, Norway, the northern most city in Europe. Here only the Svalbard Islands are between you and the North Pole. As a chaplain for Holland America Cruise Lines I sailed here on the Ryadam. The journey involved 4,000 miles of sailing from Dover, England along the coast of Norway through open seas and beautiful narrow fjords. Along the way of this fourteen day journey were intermittent stops at lovely Norwegian cities and small ports tucked away at the end of narrow fjords.

First mention of the Sami people was in AD 98 by the Roman senator, orator, and historian Tactius. The Sami are indigenous to Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and part of Russia. Years ago as immigrants began to move into their region in order to change them the interlopers found the Sami lifestyle so appealing they adapted to it. For years they have been know as “the reindeer people” because of being reindeer herdsmen. By invitation they introduced reindeer ranching to Alaska. They have their own language and parliament that presides over them in the parts of the four nations they inhabit. On a broad scale the Sami have embraced Christianity.

Because of the northern location of Samiland, also known as Lappland, at certain seasons they enjoy the beautiful spectacle of the northern lights known as the aurora borealis. It is nature’s best light show.

The region is also known for having what is called fata morgana. As used by the people of the region the term describes a strange phenomena caused by the pure cool rarified air of the region. It results in objects appearing to be much closer than they are. It gives a two dimensional view with no depth, thus a flat appearance distorting distances. It is a mirage effect.

Norway was for years considered one of Europe’s poorest countries. In the early 1960s oil exploration was begun which resulted in the first strike in 1996. Production began in 1998, transforming the country into one of the most prosperous in Europe. We sailed through vast areas of the North Sea that was dotted with oil rigs. Vast oil and gas refineries are located along the countries long seacoast. They are using the latest technology to insure safety and avoid disasters such as the Alexander Kielland disaster in 1980, that killed 123 people.

Large artistic roadways cross the country. Numerous tunnels along the way can be seen that make villages formerly inaccessible by land open to the interior. Many of these are more than a mile long.

Norway can serve as an example to America as to what indigenous oil and gas can do for a nation’s economy without a threat to the environment and people.