I’m not long back from my latest trip around Scandinavia. Last year, I was given the opportunity to chase the total solar eclipse, which was going to occur on March 20th 2015. Totality was only going to be viewable from land in two places though, Svalbard and Faroe Islands. The original plan was to head to Svalbard, but time of year meant that the weather could be hit and miss. For the sake of mobility and the dangers from polar bears, it was decided to switch to the Faroe Islands instead.
The trip would start in Norway, around Alta in Finnmark, where I was to help out a little with the final tour of the Aurorahunters season. It was a little more low-key than my full guiding in Iceland last November, but it was good to be part of the Aurorahunters team again. As usual, we would be chasing the Aurora Borealis, which in late winter, essentially means looking for gaps in the weather in much of Europe.
Of course, things didn’t quite go to plan, and we fell foul of the strike by Norwegian Airlines pilots, forcing us to make some last-minute decisions and changes to make sure we made it to the boat for the Faroes several days later. When I arrived in the Alta Commune, there was little snow on the ground, but that changed overnight, so it was lucky we decided to go on a hunt the first night and saw a nice display over a canyon and nearby mountains.
To get to the Faroe islands, meant travelling by ship from Newcastle, requiring flights from Alta via Oslo and Gatwick. The ship was to be our base for several days, including the three days travel, there and back, leaving us a few days to explore the islands. The Faroe Islands are a group of self-governing islands (and also part of Denmark) situated pretty much half way between Iceland and the Shetland Islands. The location pretty much offers a picture of the likely weather. Right in the path of the gulf stream, the weather pretty much matches that of the UK and Iceland, with the winds being closer to the strength in Iceland (and also Shetland), than the UK, in other words, potentially very windy and wet, with a lot of clouds. Obviously not the best weather for viewing a solar eclipse. However, as is so often the case, just like in the UK and Iceland, the prevailing weather meant that the scenery was pretty spectacular, with dramatic, flat-topped mountains, betraying their volcanic origin.
Also travelling on the ship, were a band of Danish and Icelandic vikings from the “Berserk Vikings“, who of course invaded the dance floor on the first night, doing recent (and not so recent) dance moves, while dressed as vikings. They were actually travelling to the Faroe Islands to hold a Solar Eclipse Viking Market at the Hoyvik Outdoor Museum, on the outskirts of the capital, Tórshavn. The aim was to raise funds for the future events in teh Faroe Islands, as well as having some fun.
Despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to experience the full glory of the eclipse or the strong geomagnetic storm that occurred during our visit, but just witnessing the sudden darkness and the cultural experience with the modern-day vikings was enough. I was even part of one of their ceremonies, thanking each other for helping to make the market a cultural success and that experience will live with me, along with the mental picture of the Faroe Islands landscape.