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Daily Journals

August 20, 2006

I woke up a few times during the night — it started getting lighter by about 01:30, so there is not yet much of what we think of as night.

Birch tree and horsetails - Mike DunnArt and I rented a car and drove south toward Svanvik, which serves as the gateway to Øvre Pasvik National Park. The countryside changes dramatically as you head south, with spruce and birch forests taking over from the bare rock and tundra-like vegetation so common around Kirkenes. At several stops we examined the variety of vegetation. The white birch trunks twisted by snow, various horsetails and abundance of berry-producing plants remind me of plant communities we see in certain parts of Yellowstone each summer during our Yellowstone Ecology Institute.

ant mound - Mike DunnWe also found a large ant mound (probably Harvester Ants of some sort) similar in appearance to ones I have seen in the western United States. As we photographed this large mound (about 2 ft high and 3 ft across at the base) both Art and I began to do the “Norwegian ant dance”. Although standing a few feet from the mound, we were suddenly covered in ants. After a few nips we decided a photo from a distance would suffice.

Reindeer in a parking lot - Mike DunnRemember the three reindeer we “stalked” last evening for about an hour? After managing only a distant, yet satisfying, look through binoculars, we were hoping to get closer on today’s journey. Little did we know we would see two running on the paved walking path along the road south as we headed out of town! On our return, not far from that same location, we spotted what at first looked like a holiday display of reindeer in the parking lot of the local arena. Several reindeer were arranged haphazardly in front of the building looking artificial. Then, one twitched a muscle and we realized this was a group of live animals in a most unusual (and unphotogenic) place.

Herd of reindeerThe herd was reluctant to move as we pulled into the parking lot. Other people spotted them and drove in, approaching a bit closer so that the reindeer eventually moved off. We’re still not sure why they seemed to be artifacts from a wax museum in Santaland, but it was good to see some of these beautiful animals up close.

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner in a waterside restaurant not far from the Russian border near Storskog. Upon our return we joined several members of our expedition for a brief meeting about our departure in the morning. Art and I will be riding out with the pilot boat (the boat that meets an incoming ship to help guide it into port) at 04:45 in the morning to document the arrival of the Kapitan Dranitsyn, the Russian icebreaker that will be our home for the next month.

—Mike Dunn

 

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Kapitan Dranitsyn