Fjords v. Squirrels

Abigail (sister #4) has been visiting me here in Finland for the last three weeks, which has been fabulous.  Here follows a photographic journey of our post-Eurovision time together, including a trip around a Norwegian fjord, some field work, some row boats, and some seriously adorable Finnish squirrels.

Vardo barn wisdomFirst things first: we took one Sunday and made a trip up to and around a Norwegian fjord.  We drove around Varangerfjord and out to the Barents Sea (the Arctic ocean, essentially).  It was pretty spectacular, and ended (for us) at the little island village of Vardo.

Kim and Abby at VarangerfjordThe drive out to Vardo (which took about 4.5 hours from Kevo) was a little bit stormy and cloudy, so the views of the fjord took on a dramatic edge.  It was also really cold and windy, so we felt secure about the veracity of our Norwegian foray.  For the authentic fjord experience ala Kim and Abby, look at the following fjord pictures while listening to one of these Eurovision songs: Iceland and/or Norway.  We also had a really good time trying to make up fjord-appropriate lyrics to O, Holy Night, which may be published later. :)

Perfect picture of Vardo by roadVardo was adorable, but was also a little tragic.  It was a fishing town of multiple thousands of people and several fish-cleaning factories, but outsourcing of the fishing-related businesses to China a few year ago has meant that the vast majority of the population moved away in the search for work, and the town has a slight ghost-town-esque feel to it.  On the upside, murals are popular art on the island, so dozens of buildings sported impressive public artworks, including phrases like the one in the first picture written on the side of an abandoned barn.  It helped make the village seem more alive and really gave it a personality.  I also particularly like the phrase on the side of one of the old fish-processing plants:

Cod is GreatVardo was accessible only by boat or undersea tunnel.  A 3km tunnel ran us below the ocean floor (!), and popped us out on the island.  This is apparently much better for access during the winter, when a bridge would be constantly closed due to winter weather hazards.  It was strange to know we were driving under the ocean, especially because the walls inside the tunnel were wet….

Vardo tunnel entranceVardo tunnelWe also found a creepy underground fortification near the coast on the island, from whence you could emerge using this manhole.

groundhog photo on VardoThe weather took a turn for the brilliantly sunny while we were in Vardo, so we got to experience the sunny version of the fjord on the return trip.  Here’s a group shot we took somewhere along the way back.  Our fellow travelers were Lauri, one of the summer Kevo staff members who’s a science masters student in Helsinki, and Carol Scott, my PolarTREC teacher here for the month.  (For more info on Carol and the adventures and work related to the PolarTREC expedition, go to her daily blog about our project here).

Varangerfjord group shot #2We also saw a lot of sheep (apparently Norway is a big wool producer), and all the tiny, newborn lambs were squeal-worthy (which Abby and I did quite a bit).  They had the unfortunate habit of standing in the middle of the roads – perhaps Norwegians also eat lots of spontaneous mutton meals.

Norwegian sheep in the roadAbigail also took her obligatory ‘Polar Plunge’ (okay, Barents Sea Plunge) into the Arctic waters near Vardo.  She only ventured out to knee-depth, which was smart, considering our lack of towels and such.  She claims to have enjoyed it more than she thought she would.

Abby's Polar PlungeWhew, fjords!  Back at Kevo, Abigail also learned how to row a boat!  The station is on a peninsula in the middle of the Kevo lake, with a short, 1/3 mile stretch of water between the station and the road-side docks.  So there are a lot of rowboats, which Abby and I availed ourselves of on a regular basis.

Captain Kim and her squeaky oar vessel Abby rowingDepending on the wind, rowing wavers between relaxing and rigorous, but is always a good time.

Abby rowingKim rowingAbigail also accompanied me and Carol to the field twice, and she got to experience the polar opposites (ooooh!) of spring field conditions in the Arctic – the cold and wet:

Abby cold and wet at PetsikkoAnd the wicked hot (seriously, it was almost 80F this day, which is whack!):

Abby's hot field dayIn between all the roadtrips, rowing and field work, we also did two days of hiking near the station.  Our first hike was up to the ‘peak’ of the plateau across the lake from the station, back when there was enough snow to use trail-side snowbanks for hydration instead of carrying a water bottle.  We also threw snowballs at each other, one of which Abby caught on camera while in flight.

snow v. waterbottle snowball ho!

In a half-summit picture, Abby is pointing to the peninsula on which the main Kevo station is situated, aka: where I live.  In case it’s confusing, the station is not where her finger is touching, but rather the peninsula just across the water from where her fingertip is pointing.

Abby points out the Kevo stationOur second hike took us through the first 5 miles of the Kevo Strict Nature Reserve’s canyon hike.  We did a 10 mile in-and-out, as hiking the entire canyon takes multiple days.  It was sunny, warm, and beautiful with all the buds newly broken, making everything that great, new-leaf light green.

Abigail meets a Kevo treepretty sure this is a 'waterfall'

Kevo hike water breakHappy Kevo hikersProbably Abby’s favorite part of her time in Finland was the Finnish squirrels.  They have these great tufts of hair on the tops of their ears, making them look so adorable and demonic at the same time.  They’re also skinnier and smaller than American squirrels, so they’re cute in that chipmunk kind of way.

Finnish squirrel #1 Finnish squirrel #2Finland misses you already, Abigail.  I think Robin Stjernberg sums it up best with his most-excellent Eurovision pose, which I dedicate to you, Abigail, for making my May in Finland unforgettable and so special. Sweden Eurovision pose

One thought on “Fjords v. Squirrels

  1. Dude! Those squirrels are ADORABLE. And Finland is starting to sound like a good idea of 80 is “seriously hot”. It’s 104 in Davis right now.

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