Midnight Sun
 

Monday 21st June 2005

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 had blushed.

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 and intact

 

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.

 

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