Don't worry, I won't rhyme the title each week - sometimes, it just works.
Is it blogging time already? To be completely honest with you, there’s only one story for this week – but I promise, it’s a good one. Off we go!
Monday morning we awoke to a beautiful dusting on the mountaintops:
And don't forget, this is on my walk to school every morning.
Oh, without giving the whole show away, let’s just say you should enjoy these pictures juxtaposing autumn and winter – there won’t be many more of them coming along…
(but on the plus side, I was lucky enough to spot the first Aurora of the year on Monday night – nothing spectacular, but sighting it so early is certainly a good sign for things to come!)
SCIENCE FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENCE
Continuing my semi-regular updates on my professors, here’s a quick installment on Prof. Hoppe, one of two for Rockets and Satellites:
Prof. Hoppe is not a full-time professor; rather, he works for Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt – as far as I can tell, it’s the research arm of the Norwegian military (though any clarification is greatly appreciated). You can find a short article on one of his projects here (translated from Norwegian by Google – but not too shabby). However, I’d like to share with you a quote of his from another article:
Why do we have to know the Energy and Charge of Particles in Saturn’s Magnetosphere?
To be frank, we probably do not need to know. This is basic science. Basic science is similar to beautiful art as in the Sistine Chapel or beautiful music or a beautiful theatre play: It is not really necessary, but it contributes significantly to mankind’s culture and to our way of living.
I share this because it’s a question I’ve been posed before, and I rather liked the answer. If you’ve got time, the article itself is a very interesting read about the Cassini probe. AND it was written in English, so it’s a bit less choppy than the previous article. Hope you enjoyed!
(I’ll tell you more about him after our intensive 12hrs of lecture next week, don’t worry).
LETTERS FROM HOME!
Monday evening I absentmindedly checked my mailbox and was surprised to see that I had a parcel note!
The next morning, I fought my way through the blizzard (oh, did I forget to mention it was snowing on Tuesday?) down to the local post office and picked up something, large, square, and rattling.
From Provost AB. Home of A Lori and U Kevin.
Grinning like mad, I biked as quickly as I could up the 100 metre (vertical) hill back to my dorm and tore the wrapping apart to find:
Logic quickly set in and told me that it couldn’t possibly be a case of beer (the parcel was only two inches thick) but what a great idea for wrapping, eh? I assure you, it’ll be put to good use.
I lovingly pulled the Molson family cardboard aside to reveal:
What a great care package. I’d been on the phone with A Lori and U Kevin over the Labour Day weekend, and had mentioned that KD was nowhere to be found in Norway.
This is awesome. We Canadians are already planning our feast. Thanks so much!
Tuesday’s Norwegian started with our professor pointing at the clock and posing us the question “Hva er klokka?”
At which point Marie looked at me in horror and told me that we were in for some “gymnastics of the mind.”
And boy was she right.
Okay, for starters, if a Norwegian says “halv fire”, which translates directly as “half four”, they’re actually talking about 3:30.
If that isn’t bad enough, they use “halv ____” as a reference point. Thus, 3:20 becomes “ti på halv fire” and 3:40 becomes “ti over halv fire”. In other words, we start talking about four o’clock when it’s only twenty after three.
And finally, the Norwegians are clever enough to use 24-hour time, but only speak of the 12-hour clock. Thus, if we’re speaking in the afternoon, we say “ti på halv fire” and write kl. 15.20.
Despite my lack of gymnastic flexibility, I was still limber enough to successfully teach Marie the subtle differences in the pronounciation of “cheep sheep ship”. So even if she arrives early at the harbour (the French use 24-hour time in conversation as well), she will be able to indicate that her preferred mode of transport is NOT via the inexpensive lamb. Always a bonus, that.
ON THE USEFULNESS OF VIDEOGAMES
One final note from school last week:
In Sattelites and Rockets, we were discussing the importance of selecting and maintaining proper satellite orientation while in orbit (makes sense, as Hubble’s only an effective telescope if you can keep it pointed at what you’re looking at). As Professor La Hoz’s prefers the Socratic method, he posed us the question: “What are the names of the three rotations a body in flight can make?”
I had a quick flashback to Spitfires descending out of the heavens onto the Junkers below (with apologies to my German classmates) and immediately answered:
“Pitch, yaw, and roll.”
Thank you, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator.
THE MAIN EVENT
Alright, I suppose it’s time I finally told you about the big adventure for the week. This weekend marked the annual SUT (diving club) trip to the island of Senja! The trip plan had us diving for times in three days while we spent Friday and Saturday nights in a fishing cottage.
Thus, most of this week was spent packing / scrambling to get things in order. Learning a few lessons from my previous dives, I procured a weatherproof jacket and wool clothing from Vidar (the snow may be a good indicator that it’s no longer summer here), and vowed not to forget any of my diving equipment (I’d been a touch forgetful on my last two dives, and was determined not to let that happen again).
After making my list and checking it far more than twice, I set out on the long walk down to the dive shop, marveling at the clear blue skies. We would be blessed with excellent weather all weekend, which was superb timing by the Weatherman Upstairs.
At the dive shop, we packed up our vans (containing every piece of equipment I could ever need) and departed for our adventure!
Senja is the next major island along the coast south of Kvaløya, and is well-known among Norwegians for the beauty of its landscape. As the crow flies, our destination was a mere 60 km away from Tromsø. However, Norwegian roads are noted for rather ignoring the crow:
Total distance: 222 km. At a maximum speed of 80 km/h.
And yet, I barely noticed the time – partially because the landscape was absolutely stunning (jagged moonlight peaks reflected in glassy mountain lakes – can’t ask for much more than that), but mostly because Magnus (our treasurer) and Mikko (from Finland) were such good company. Asle and Luca (from Italy) chimed in their two cents from the front seat whenever they had a chance.
Above all, I remembered how much I love the open road. It’s funny, but sometimes, I just miss driving… across the prairies, down into the valleys, up the last hill to the lake, in the frozen world under the stars, with John Petrucci echoing in my ears…
Sorry, I was lost in thought there for a bit. But back to the story!
After pulling into a roadside kiosk for last-minute supplies (my flashlight needed new batteries, so I spent $20 on four Cs… it was painful, but not nearly as bad as trying to night dive without a torch), we arrived at our destination at about 10:00 pm. We unloaded our luggage into the beautiful little fishing cottages and our equipment into the fish-cleaning shack (which didn’t smell nearly as bad as one might expect).
By the time we finished, it was about half-past ten and exceptionally dark. But we came all this way for one reason: to dive!
DIVE ONE: MEFJORDVÆR
TIME IN: 11:30 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 35 min
DEPTH: 10 m
- The dive took place RIGHT outside of the hotel in the local harbour; we dressed in the fish-cleaning shack, waddled over to the ultra-convenient stairs down the water’s edge, and easily slid into the water from the platform below. Conveniently enough, the platform was under about a foot of water, which made entering / exiting exceptionally easy – shallow enough to stand in but deep enough to swim onto.
- We dove out heading for the harbour breakwater. To be honest, I had no idea it was there; all I could see was a flashing green light. Needless to say, I had quite a bit of faith in Asle’s skills with a compass.
- Our dive towards the breakwater was across open sand, with plenty of big crabs and schools of young cod.
- Once we made it to the breakwater, we swam alongside it for about fifteen minutes – plenty of sea fans,
starfish, and life along this man-made obstacle (interesting to dive along for sure – makes me wonder what the Pier at Clear Lake would be like…).
- This dive was also my first time seeing other night divers – it’s pretty otherworldly to see ghostly lights appear out of the deep blue and watch as shapes materialize far closer than you’d expect, only for them to vanish like ships in the night.
After a relaxing swim back to the dock, we undressed, toweled off, poured a few drinks (the “fishing cottages” were furnished with a complete set of snifters – we were truly roughing it) and headed off to sleep at ~2:30 AM. It had been a great start to the weekend.
SATURDAY SHEDS A LITTLE LIGHT
I woke up just before 8 AM and silently cursed my inability to sleep in. However, any thoughts of going back to sleep quickly vanished when I looked outside my window:
Hmm. Apparently, the town we’d arrived in by night was actually paradise by day. How about that, eh.
I’m going to spare you most of the hundreds of photos (literally) I took of the gorgeous open-ocean-harbour-surrounded-by-mountains that is Mefjordvær, and simply present you with the view looking towards the west of the town:
the east of the town:
And finally, our fishing cottage/hotel smack in the middle of everything:
This picture was taken atop the breakwater; you can see the little platform we dove off on the right-hand side of the pier - oh, did I forget to mention our cottages were on a pier?
In front of the four-peaked hotel was the fishing hut with our equipment inside (Elin smiling for us in this picture):
and by the door, we set up the all-important compressor (fearless leader Gerhard attending while Asle looks on):
Oh, and I thought you’d like to see our mode of transportation. We have Little Red Riding Hood with her 25 horsepower Johnson outboard:
And SUT’s very own Toyota van, appropriately named the Wolf:
Nope, I didn’t make these names up. Luckily for us, the Wolf had new tires, and so the snow/ice/slush presented no problem for our club's skilled drivers.
THE “FISHING COTTAGE”
For some reason, when I see the words “fishing cottage”, I was expecting something Spartan but functional. However, I would classify our accommodations more along the lines of vacation resort destination:
The last picture was of my roommate Magnus – he was the only other one cool enough to snag a loft bed.
And you know how to identify coolness? By the brand name of one’s jeans, of course:
I really hope I’m not the only one who thinks this is funny – otherwise, it would seem that I’m just a creep who takes pictures of boys’ clothing. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.
DIVE TWO: MEFJORDBOTN
After tearing my eyes away from the scenery and closing my jaw (did I mention it had also snowed the night before, adding a soft layer of white to the naturally jagged peaks?), I sorted my equipment out and jumped in the car for dive #2, at the base of the Mefjord.
Once again, the location was exceptional:
And trust me on this one, the underwater world was every bit as good as this one.
BUDDIES: Asle & Øyunn
TIME IN: 12:00 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 45 min
DEPTH: 25 m
- After a few night dives, I really enjoyed the sunlight and clarity that diving at noon gives – we must have had over 50 feet of shockingly clear visibility.
- This was the first of our wall dives – we literally dove along the mountain cliff as it plunged into the water.
- Probably the most life yet – there were large schools of young sei everywere. And they weren’t even the least bit scared.
- Once again, it was great fun to run into other divers mid-dive – Malin (along with her partner Camilla) definitely enjoys her diving (refers to non-divers as “those without gills and webbed toes”) and is never afraid to be, er, expressive underwater. We’re talking dancing here.
- Thanks to a pair of tips from Asle and Gerhard, I was able to have greater control over my buoyancy than I’ve had in a drysuit to date. (for Mom and Dad’s benefit: I used the rear discharge on my BC so I could maintain a preferable horizontal position, and I made sure to adjust my weight belt such that I was able to lie perfectly still in the water without tumbling or spinning.) It was great fun to have full control over every dimension, let me tell you.
After the dive and a surprisingly frosty cool-down (shivering in the bright sun didn’t exactly reassure me for the diving that night), we piled back into the Wolf and made our way to our cottages.
I was fairly famished at this point, and so I broke out the first box of gold:
Yes, Aunt Lori, those are hot dogs. I even bought ketchup.
And oh man, was it good. The Norwegians thought I was a little strange to get so excited over noodles, but that didn’t dampen my spirits one bit.
I followed this up by a walk on the breakwater (looked over a bit of Norwegian, but mostly just soaked in the fjordness) and a kick-ass nap. Life is good today.
DIVE THREE: MID-MEFJORD
In the evening, five of us (Asle, Magnus, Mikko, Gerhard, and myself) packed up the Wolf and headed to a site about halfway between Mefjordvær and Mefjordbotn. The fading light wasn’t great for photos, but I did snap one to show you the slippery slope to the water:
Needless to say, sliding along the snowy slope followed by the scramble over wet/frozen boulders was less than fun. Especially with ~50 lbs of lead, tank, and scuba gear. And the slight surge throwing us onto the rocks wasn’t much of a help either.
But as always, emerging was worth the struggle.
TIME IN: 6:00 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 50 min
DEPTH: 20 m
SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT!
After scrambling back up the rocks (veeerry slowly – appreciated my flashlights then), we shed our layers and Gerhard cracked the beer he’d carried with him:
What can I say, the Arctic is an exceptionally effective beer cooler.
Thanks to my Norwegian prowess, I was able to decode my first full sentence (I overheard Luca asking one of the girls if “I kveld vi spiser sammen?” which means “We eat together this evening?”). Thus, I was on the ball for the big meal of the night: Fårikål.
Fårikål, the national dish of Norway (even has its own holiday) and literally translates as “mutton in cabbage”, and consists simply of mutton, cabbage, black pepper, and flour boiled together and served with potatoes. It was hot, it was filling, and far tastier than the Norwegians were expecting me to find it.
After the feast, we settled in for a great night of beer and bullshooting. I finally turned in sometime in the morning. Life is good today.
Sunday morning was spent cleaning up from Saturday night; the cleanup went pretty well, but we moved one of the rugs and discovered a little structural flaw:
I’m not in Civil Engineering, but that can’t be good. And I don’t know if you can tell in the picture, but the floor actually slants in a different direction on either side of the crack. I guess the rugs were there for a reason, eh.
Luckily, the view out our kitchen window more than made up for any little crack:
Like I said, this “fisherman’s cottage” ranks up there with any vacation home I’ve ever been to. And I mean that.
The Wolf stuffed to the gills, we headed out onto the open road.
(I just reread that last piece of imagery - hmm. Amphibious wolves. Well, I suppose they'd fit in nicely with a scuba club.)
I’ve never actually taken a picture of the highway before, so I thought I’d snap one for you:
As you can see, there’s no line down the middle, but only two dotted ones on either end. This is a one-lane-and-a-half road; two cars can squeeze by each other, but not without slowing down. They’re very common in Norway (think grid road courtesy). However, the larger highways have the standard yellow-road-down-the-middle (which, by the way, is a Canadian invention – how about that, eh).
We took the scenic route home across the heart of Senja, allowing me time for a quick nap and an interesting conversation with Øyunn about her time on Svalbard. If I ever get up there, I’ll tell you all about it.
Oh, and the scenic route was pretty good too:
And there’s no picture that can capture this, but one tunnel we took literally took us from autumn to winter – it was pretty cool.
DIVE FOUR: BJØRGE
After stopping in Finnesnes for supplies (which reminded me quite strongly of mountain towns in BC), we made our way to our final divesite, located almost due south of Finnesnes on the mainland.
The site was again a beautiful cliff in a sheltered little bay:
so we set up the van and started unpacking.
TIME IN: 3:00 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 50 min
DEPTH: 20 m
- Floating in space alongside the cliff with only blue above and below was simply spectacular – if you ever get a chance to dive alongside a cliff in an icy-blue Norwegian fjord, I highly recommend it. It was like floating in space…
- There was also tons of life clinging to the wall - we were able to get very up-close and personal with the underwater plants and animals, including a few vicious starfish (as evidenced by the slew of mussel shells around them. There were also a ton of brown fish with stripes, but I’m not sure what they were…
- I’m glad Beth wasn’t here, because we saw a MASSIVE jellyfish – at least one metre across, with tentacles. It was unearthly, but so cool!
In closing, I thought you’d appreciate a few random pictures from the dive:
And finally, my farewell picture from the Senja trip:
(In case you can’t tell, I’m wearing nearly every piece of clothing I brought on the trip – but I was warm.)
Overall, the trip was a true highlight of my time in Norway so far. Thank you for reading this far, I hope you enjoyed my tale. Take care, and see you next week!