We were up and off again by 7am,
the taxi passed an enormous paper factory and through its unpleasant
smell. We found an internet terminal we could use in the planning
room at the eerily empty Sundsvall airport. The high pressure
was in its death throes and warm and cold fronts were near the
west coast of Norway. There was a window of opportunity for us
to make the dash up north before we would be kept at bay for at
least a couple of days. We took off and pressed North.
The scenery had not changed considerably,
the bright greens were less obvious, but the pines were still
abundant. The terrain rose in fits and starts and after a couple
of hours the hills below us were up to two thousand feet. Our
route had been chosen to join the dots of any usable airfields
on the way up: Kramfors, Lycksele, Arvidsjaur, Jokkmokk and Gallivare.
The idea being that we would only ever be a short flight from
a diversion point if things went pear-shaped. At Jokkmokk we allowed
ourselves a little cheer and a very British handshake, we were
in the Arctic! The ground seemed to know this and soon after the
scenery and the weather began to change more noticeably. Signs
of civilisation became rare, the odd isolated house in miles of
wild hills. Visibility began to deteriorate and the cloud base
forced us down: six, then five and finally three thousand feet.
We got constant weather updates for our destination, Kiruna, from
the controllers - they didn't seem too busy in this part of the
world, in fact we went hours without seeing another aircraft.
The forecasts remained just good enough for us to continue.
Half an hour from our destination we noticed the big snow covered
mountains to the north and west going up to seven thousand feet.
An approach to Kiruna from the west would have been inadvisable
in the conditions we found ourselves.
It began to rain, a warning that perhaps the front was arriving
ahead of schedule.
We landed at Kiruna just ahead of a big military transport plane
that appeared on the scene from nowhere. We climbed out with big
smiles and took some photos. We were in north Sweden, better than
that we were in Lappland and to cap them both we were in the Arctic.
We knew within seconds of arriving in the town
of Kiruna that it was a strange place, we would have been disappointed
if it wasn't. The buildings were drab, but in an unusual way.
They were all designed with heat creation and preservation in
mind. Large industrial-looking chimneys poked out of the top of
tall apartment buildings and they were all surrounded by thick
insulation cladding. This made the town very ugly in the middle
of summer, but it was easy to forgive in a town that goes months
without a proper day and has seen temperatures hit minus fifty
degrees. In keeping with the general design criteria our hotel
was basic and fairly grim on the outside and very warm inside.
The receptionist gave us a key to a room. We walked to the building
down the road and unlocked the room. We walked back up the street
and exchanged the key for a different one: this one unlocked the
door to a room with twin beds instead of one double one. The receptionist
We celebrated our arrival in the Arctic with a
pint at the upmarket Skandic hotel. The concentrations of the
past few days caught up with us and after meeting an eclectic
selection of the local residents we were fighting to stay awake
long enough to finish supper (rather good reindeer steak). We
headed back to our room knowing that we were still three hours
short of seeing the midnight sun. The weather had improved and
I left the the curtain open to let the bright light in. This was
just enough to keep me going long enough to struggle back out
to witness the midnight sun. It was great to have experienced
the midnight sun although if I'm being honest the prospect of
a good night's sleep was perhaps even more exciting.
The sun gives way to **** weather
Time to rely on all those dials
Ross grins, understandably happy to be in Kiruna
Kiruna in The Midnight Sun! This picture makes
it look almost dark, but...
... this is looking the other way at midnight,
towards the iron ore mine.