Some confusion this morning in the Instant Kaamos office concerning the news carried by Selkouutiset of the end of the kaamos in Northern Finland. Apparently yesterday, the sun showed it’s face again in Utsjoki — Finland’s most northerly municipality — for the first time in 51 days, bringing the period of polar night to an end.
There’s quite a difference within the parts of Finland that fall inside the Arctic Circle. In Rovaniemi, for example, sitting just about on the circle, it is only on the day of the winter solstice that the sun doesn’t rise.
But when I checked the Gaisma site, it seems that Utsjoki will today enjoy a day nearly an hour and a half long. This does not compute. Any suggestions or explanations, however implausible, will be warmly welcomed.
This blog supports the blackout by Wikipedia against legislation passing through the US Congress that would limit internet freedom. For this reason, today’s links are Wikipedia-free.
I come back to Helsinki to find that the Winter still disappoints with a measly one degree above zero. As I step off the plane onto the tarmac, my foot finds slippery sleet-water on top of ice, and I fall on my new case, painfully pulling a neck muscle which still hurts.
I’m back just in time for the start of my new Finnish course (“Once more unto the breach dear friends!“). It turns out to be a toughie. The seemingly most able teacher gives us an assessment test and the comprehension text – which seems to be something about the financial condition of the postal service – is otherwise incomprehensible to me. And I can’t quite bring myself to just randomly tick the multiple choice questions in order to gamble on getting at least 25 per cent. Having taken courses provided by Helsinki Summer University which are almost exclusively about pumping you full of Finnish grammar, I think I do OK on that part of the test, but less well on finding the “dictionary forms” of declined and conjugated nouns and verbs. Time will tell if I’ve been too ambitious in choosing this higher-level course.
After a remarkably long and deep sleep I awake to the darkness of the kaamos, on a day with temperatures happily a couple of degrees below. And with Mrs Kaamos, still on GMT, sleeping late, I sip green tea and look across the rear courtyards to the lights of the office building opposite, wondering what it must be like to go out to work in the dark, and come home when the sun has long set.
[Haven’t found a better pic for this post yet. Do pop back later and I’ll find you one.]
I can’t say they didn’t warn me. But this is a Winter that is breaking records like nobody’s business and to the disgust of taxi drivers, Helsinki City Council is having trouble coping. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s always so warm in our flat but every time I go out I still feel outraged by a cold wind that bites so hard you want to have it humanely destroyed. My fault for being too mean to buy a proper winter coat I suppose — the cheap anorak I bought in Oxford Street just ain’t doing it.
It’s not the length of the nights that gets to you but the darkness of the days. Every now and again, you catch a glimpse of a low, steamy sun but mostly the best you get is little more than a dim twilight. At least the discovery that a local bar offers a very good pint of Fullers ESB provides some welcome relief.
A Finnish detective goes up to Utsjoki to interrogate a murder suspect.
“Where were you on the night of November 22nd to January 16th?”
Made it to Lapland at last, in time for the shortest day. But thankfully or disappointingly, here in Salla it is both warmer and lighter than I had expected. I had somehow thought there would be no sun to rise anywhere within the arctic circle at the Solstice. However, by about 10am it is starting to get light — although if you don’t get a move on, you quickly miss the best part of the day as by around 2pm it’s pretty dark again. Right now, just after three, it is as dark as tumma siirappi and the local library provides some welcoming brightness as well as warmth.
Been getting back into the swing of cross-country skiing, sometimes going for as much as minutes without falling down, watching as Finnish under-fives shoot past me as I edge incrementally along the ski trails. And today, skiing along the side of a frozen lake in a forest of snow-draped spruces, I stopped to take in the silence and the beauty and begun to realise why a Stone Age people might have decided to settle and then stay in this wild and frozen land.
I see that in the north of Finland, kaamos or polar night has long begun. Philosophers please note, in Utsjoki the sun will not come up tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that. In fact, no sun until mid-January.
Meanwhile, here in Helsinki, about 6 degrees below the Arctic Circle, a miserable spell of mild, grey, drizzly weather has given way to exhillerating crisp, clear days. All the same, it is strange to get up in what feels like the middle of the night and look out onto the street to see people scurrying to their offices like disturbed house-mice. I do my best to get out during some of the precious hours of lightness.
But I have to admit I do have a predisposition for warm dark places. And with the innovative ways that Finns find to heat their homes, you can enjoy your overheated flat with a certain level of ecological impunity.