Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Bit Chilly

In the last 24 hours we finally got a bit of a taste of winter, with very cold winds making the -11C feel more like -19C (12F and 0F). We know there is lower to come, but it was a bit of a shock after the relatively balmy -1 or -2 we have had recently.

This Sunday marks the start of Advent – the beginning of the church year which serves both as a count down to Christmas and a remind to (as the boy scouts would say) be prepared for the return of Christ which will be altogether different from Christmas. This is what Luke wrote in the book of Acts, as Jesus prepares to leave His disciples:

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The first Sunday of Advent is marked across Norway by Lysmesse, a special ‘service of light’, led by the confirmands. A bit like the English service of lessons and carols, there are readings for the old and new testaments foretelling and telling of the birth of Jesus, the Christ.  The service begins in darkness with a single candle on the communion table symbolising the light of Christ from which the flame is spread around the confirmands, sitting in a circle around the congregation, and culminating in the confirmands leaving the church, to go to be light in the world. Below is the poster for the service – initially it was meant as a joke, but the idea caught on!

The rest of the pictures were taken last night when we had a very ‘icy’ ring around the moon, and at dawn today (about 9.30am). The sky was pink and blue almost all day today. I’m still trying to get the hang of exposure settings in these darker days, so there are some duplicates.

Pond Life

Over the last few days Finnsnes Vann (the pond / lake in the middle of town) has been attracting new life. Now that it is well frozen, and in the absence of snow, it has become home for many skating activities, with children from perhaps 2 or 3 years old, through to more ‘senior’ adults taking to the ice. It is also being used by the schools for ‘PE’ lessons, and as a short cut by many children on the way to school.

If you have a library card it’s also possible to borrow a set of skates from the library for a few hours. The library is in the council offices next to church so hopefully we will have a go soon. If we don’t manage upright skating, some ‘enterprising’ locals have put a park bench on the ice which people can sit on whilst being pushed . . .

And finally, whilst we are feeling a little undated with all that happens here before in Advent and the encroaching darkness (and have not got so many good photos to share), our colleague Christopher Briggs, is promising at least one good photo a day during the ‘polar night’ on his blog.

Going, Going, Gone!

Whilst the countdown on this page still indicates 17 hours before the sun will set for the last time until January and we enter the ‘Polar Night’, the reality is that due to local hills and somewhat cloudy skies, we haven’t had direct sunlight for well over a week already.

It is certainly dark for a large part of the day, although if you are out in the country, away from street lights, etc. there is day light for several hours more than might appear in the town. This was noticeable today as we drove to Husøy on Senja for a 5pm service: there were traces of sunlight in the sky until about 4.30, despite darkness seeming to be complete in town at about 3pm. The other thing which was very beautiful was strong moonlight on the mountains and sea, and apparently it will be even better once we have ‘proper’ snow. Unfortunately I decided not to take the camera, thinking it would be dark, ergo nothing to photograph. Sarah played in Rossfjord today and commented that it looked like the sky had been painted in unnatural colours, which she had never seen before.

Anyway, below are some pictures from Rossfjord, taken earlier this week. Having had our camera for nearly 6 years, this week I noticed a setting which makes the colours more vivid. I’ve often thought our pictures looked a little less colourful then reality, so I took some test scenes with the old and new settings. I’m not sure I like the results (the pictures are more vivid, but dark and seem to have less detail) – I think the truth probably lies somewhere in between . . .

Hannah’s Pictures

Hannah and Kris flew back to England on Tuesday, including part of the journey on beleaguered airline SAS and they arrived home safely and on time.

Just before they came to Norway they got themselves a fancy new camera to record their visit, and were afforded many good photo opportunities here. They also learnt some valuable lessons, which I’m sure they will be happy to share:

  • Read the manual first (or at least experiment at an early stage). On their first evening in Finnsnes they got great views of the northern lights, but sadly the camera said it was too dark and refused to let them take pictures!
  • Don’t forget the charger (thankfully the low battery warning went away after they switched the camera off for a few minutes).
  • If you take pictures from a moving car with the windows wound down, the car will fill with rain / snow, and the muddy water thrown up by passing cars and lorries (good job I had a cleaning cloth in my glasses case).

So, below are some of the hundreds of pictures they took here, including:

  • Oslo attractions (sculptures, cathedral, pub, etc) – note to Raleigh: may be I should be worried about sabre-toothed tigers after all!
  • Hannah outside our apartment in the snow.
  • Tourist ‘hot-spots’ on Senja.
  • The lights beside the lake in Finnsnes.
  • The hills on the way to Tromsø (we drove there for the first time).
  • The arctic aquarium ‘Polaria’ in Tromsø, including a seal that seems to be able to read Chinese. Another note to Raleigh: yikes, I guess I have to be worried about polar bears too!
  • Tromsø harbour at night.
  • The ‘Arctic Cathedral’ with it’s new blue illuminations.
  • The latest fashions in snow suits and ski wear.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers, and those who also celebrate Thanksgiving Day!

It’s very different here – just another work day, so I’m sat in my office at 3pm and it’s completely dark outside.

Enjoy your turkey and trimmings, and especially the chocolate, coconut and pecan pie!

More soon.

Blue Senja

This week Hannah is visiting with Kris and today we drove the tourist route round north Senja. You’ll notice the photos are a little different to my summer excursion with Christopher Briggs!

Unfortunately there was an unadvertised closure of one of the tunnel about 2/3 of the way on our journey, so we had to drive back the long way in the dark, but at least they saw most of the ‘sights’ in daylight (or should that be greylight?).

Apparently on a nice day the light will be even bluer soon.

Polar Piety

This may seem like a strange title for a post with mostly pictures of sunrise / sunset, but the fact that I drove to Bjorelvnes church on Sunday morning at sunrise and was leaving shortly before sunset raises the interesting question of whether it is easier to be more ‘pious’ at the poles: after all, I spent almost the who day at church  (measured in terms of daylight), so surely that makes me a very pious person (did you spend all day at church last weekend?)!

Of course, God is not interested in these kind of pious claims (salvation is a free gift of God through faith, not something we earn), but jews and muslims have problems caused by having one very long ‘day’ in the summer (when the sun doesn’t set for a number of weeks), and the equivalent ‘night’ in the winter. Apparently they have special rules here. So, I’m glad not to be bound by rules (at least not those).

Anyway, Sunday was a delight with two family worship services, including the children’s choir, band and a dramatic re-enactment of Jesus stilling the storm (Kitty, your drama lives on in the arctic). Matthew 8: 23 – 27

As mentioned, the pictures were taken on the way to / from Bjorelvnes, looking over the sea to Senja (the pictures don’t really pick up how pink the mountains looked), and towards the Finnsnes bridge (on the way home) with sea fog rolling in. I’m not sure what made the paw print – do you have any suggestions Raleigh?