Here we see some of the typical fishing boats at close range. It is market day, and with a town population of 6,000 to be fed, retail business is usually very good. At those stands up in the square ahead of us, vegetables, eggs, butter, cheese, and such things, are for sale. Notice the electric-lighting equipment ; though this is only about 1,400 miles from the North Pole, people know all about modern scientific inventions, and take advantage of them. The town has a systematic water-supply from a lake on hills above. There are good schools here, a theatre, a museum of natural history and curiosities, several churches and a number of good shops.
The Wellman Arctic Expedition sailed from here in July, 1906, for their Spitzbergen headquarters.
The provincial governor of Finmarken has his official residence here, and the place is also the seat of a Lutheran bishop, so Tromso has its local aristocracy and a little circle of distinctly superior, cultivated people.
A considerable part of even the school work has to be done in winter by lamplight, for during several weeks the sun does not rise before ten o’clock in the forenoon, and sets by two o’clock or earlier; and, be-sides, stormy weather often obscures the short period of daylight.
That church fronting on the square is Roman Catholic, for the benefit of many sailors from Mediterranean ports who come in here with vessels, taking on cargoes of cod, herring, fish and whale-oils for south-ern merchants. Ordinary labor goes on at almost any hour of the twenty-four in summer-time, and a stranger feels a bewildered wonder as to when Tromso folk ever do their sleeping !
If you would like to understand the local atmosphere of such a place, read Boyesen’s Against Heavy Odds, the story of a Norwegian boy with a gift for scientific invention, told by another Norwegian. The scene of the tale is actually laid at Vardo, over east of the North Cape, but in about this same latitude, though Tromso here is a larger town, with a much larger business. If you would know the poetic and romantic side of life hereabouts, read Jonas Lie’s The Barque Future, and Weird Tales from Northern Seas.
An enterprising photographer here takes pictures of tourists by the light of the Midnight Sun, producing unique souvenirs of a northern journey.
Several years ago an English author wrote an entertaining volume* about the experiences of a camping party in the regions between here and the North Cape. Their methods were those of up-to-date city people, but the idea of summer camping in Finmarken is nothing new; Lapps have, in their own fashion, done it for centuries. A two-hour journey from Tromso will take us out to one of their summer huts.