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Pole to Pole

Day 17: Hammerfest to Karasjok

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole'Two thousand five hundred people . . . all shopping at once.'

I look round at the food stalls in the market-place selling reindeer sausages and cods' tongues and bright hats and sealskin boots and try, without success, to visualize the scene.

Was I familiar with the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society? Taking my look of incomprehension for one of curiosity, the Director of Tourism ushers me, without further ado, into the presence of the Mayor of the World's Most Northerly Town who, in fluent and persuasive English, enlightens me as to the role of the polar bear in the history of Hammerfest. It has clearly been a submissive role, requiring the polar bear to do little more than lie still and not get up, but the town is proud of its part in the hunting and fishing of Arctic waters.

With brisk Scandinavian efficiency I am enrolled as member 116,747 of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society and issued with card, stickers, hat, badge, certificate and a carrier bag to hold them all in. Which all goes to show that if you run a town 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle with no sight of the sun for three months of the year you have to make the best of what you've got.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 17
  • Country/sea: Norway
  • Place: Hammerfest
  • Book page no: 34

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