Gale-force winds and stormy seas showed passengers on board Hurtigruten’s celebrity ship MS Nord-Norge just how tough life can be in northern Norway, but the change in the weather didn’t seem to dampen spirits either on board or ashore. Crowds still turned out to enthusiastically greet the ship in the tiniest of towns, and hope to get on national TV.
As the ship plowed through the high seas and heavy rain Tuesday evening, with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s cameras rolling, a few brave boats turned up to escort Nord-Norge into port. A fierce but short-lived storm finally offered some weather drama although it didn’t last long. And through the heavy clouds, TV viewers and those on board could suddenly spot some unusual lights on the shore – bonfires had been lit along the rocks leading into the harbor in the small port of Mehamn.
Gathered around the brightly burning bonfires, a tradition at this time of year to celebrate Midtsommer, were hardy souls, decked out in full storm gear and braced against the wind with flags unfurled. A group of heavy construction workers had gathered their earth-moving equipment together on the shore and turned on all their flashing lights. Painted across the huge plough on one of the vehicles was the message “Velkommen til Mehamn.”
Waiting on the pier where Hurtigruten ships dock every evening was a crowd that made it seem like everyone in town had turned out to be part of the historic voyage, every minute of which has been broadcast live since Nord-Norge left Bergen on Thursday.
Then came a short fireworks display, music began and a group of young women performed a can-can dance on the wharf. The proud citizens of Mehamn weren’t about to be outdone by their fellow Norwegians further south, who also have been showing up in droves all day and all night long as the ships makes its way up the coast to Kirkenes.
Many carried the signs that have become a fixture on the quayside, as Norwegians in the far north try to send greetings on live television to friends and family in the south: “Hei Mummy i Oslo” read one sign (Hi Mummy in Oslo), “Heia Gro og Knut Einar” read another, “Heia Molde and Otta” read a salute to those two cities. And the crowd roared when folks suddenly realized they were in a live shot from one of the 11 cameras mounted on board the ship.
The storm almost prompted Captain Geir Johannessen to drop Tuesday night’s port call at Mehamn. The weather was so severe out at sea that passengers had trouble staying on their feet as they stood at the vessel’s buffet, and one camera shot picked up a deck chair flying across the fortunately deserted afterdeck that had been filled by sun-worshippers earlier in the voyage. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” Johannessen told NRK. “But clearly we wanted to visit. I think they would have been very disappointed if we didn’t come.”
Amidst all the festivity on and off the ship, the vessel’s crew went about their duties and small trucks busily off-loaded cargo and at least one car in Mehamn. The entire port call lasted less than an hour and Mehamn clearly enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame. Then it was time to move on to Berlevåg.
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