“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 8

Friday, January 28th, 2022

Of course today started with our 2 ml. of saliva in our test tube for our COVID test, our health survey and our temperature check.

When we looked outside the ship decks had drifts from the snow and wind as we traveled to Alta, Norway. Around 11:00 AM we docked in Alta.

The ship sailing in the Altafjord, 23 miles long, had beautiful views.

Being this far north, the sunrise was at 9:33 AM and sunset at 12:47 PM. It was 23˚ when we arrived in Alta. It was windy too so it felt colder than the temperature indicated.

After lunch we had a three hour excursion that was a tour of Alta which has about 2,000 inhabitants. An interesting fact they shared was that Alta is on the same longitude as Athens, Greece!

Our first stop was the Northern Lights Cathedral. We listened to the Cathedral guide give us a brief history and explanation about the building itself. It was a parish church of the Church of Norway and was located near the center of town. If you walk down Alta’s main shopping street you will run into the cathedral. The church was built in 2013 and seats 350 people and it is made of concrete and wood. The exterior was made of titanium in a circular shape.

Inside was an impressive organ and a bronze statue of Christ that is a little over 14 feet.

The Cathedral’s lower level had an exhibit about the aurora borealis and it included a ten minute video that was a compilation of Northern lights viewings. It was beautiful!

A statue of Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917) was located outside of the cathedral. He was a Norwegian scientist who first tied the northern lights with electromagnetic storms from the sun. One is currently heading our way and we hope to see the northern lights this evening!

Kristian Birkeland Statue

The Alta Museum and World Heritage Rock Art Centre was another of our stops.

It would be best to visit this museum in the summer. It’s known for its thousands of rock carvings. These carvings are from a settlement dating from 4200 to 500 B.C. It’s also an UNESCO World Heritage site. Unfortunately for us, all of the carvings (petroglyphs) are covered by several feet of snow!

The carvings are buried in snow!

Instead of looking at them outside we went through the exhibit, Traces in Stone, explaining the carvings. This exhibit did have some loose rock carvings that gave us an idea of what was outside!

The stone below was named after the popular fictional children’s book character Pippi Longstocking who was known for her pigtails! In 1950, this stone was discovered in a potato field about 12 1/2 northwest of Alta.

“Pippi Longstocking” Rock Carving

The museum had an exhibit called “Natural Born Killers- Predators in Norway”. It showed the thirteen species of natural predators, from the smallest, a snow mouse to the largest, the polar bear. The exhibit talked about the lives of these animals and their role today in Norway. The exhibit had each predator represented by a taxidermist version of the animal.

A temporary exhibition was of Sami (native Norwegians) clothing and traditions and crafts. Jorunn Løkvold spent three years researching the use of mica which in the Sami language is called “fox gold”. The clothes were beautifully decorated.

A permanent exhibition about Bjorn Wirkola, one of the world’s best ski jumpers, and he was from Alta. The exhibit included his medals, awards, skis, boots, etc… It was quite a tribute to him.

Bjorn Wirkola Exhibit

The museum had a cafe where we enjoyed a mug of hot chocolate and the views out the back.

At 8:30 PM we left full of excitement because we were heading out in search of the Northern Lights! It was an hour drive out of town to our stopping spot. The roads were narrow and steep!

Narrow 2-lane road.

When we got off the bus at 9:30 PM the aurora borealis was dancing in the sky. The night sky was full of stars and “dancing lights”! We were in awe and for awhile we just enjoyed the spectacular show. We had until 11:30 to view the lights. We were back on the ship after 12:30 AM.

Seeing the Northern Lights was definitely a highlight of our trip! It was a “bucket list” item that we were lucky enough to check off and also experience a new country, Norway!

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