Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tall claims galore at Hammerfest?

Hammerfest is famously associated with polar bears

Glittery polar bear statues stand guard outside Hammerfest's City Hall

...and as Puppet Ponyo points out, Hammerfest is home to

Which is the world's most northerly town?  Claims have been made for it being Honningsvag, located at longtitude 70°58′55″ North.  But although it lies a bit further south of the North Pole than its fellow Norwegian settlement, the residents of Hammerfest (situated at longtitude 70°39.8016′ N) believe that it's the rightful holder of the title of "northernmost town in the world"!
This is because, the people of Hammerfest maintain, Honningsvag -- with a population of less than 5,000 people -- is not big enough to be considered a town (according to a Norwegian law passed in 1997, one year after Honningsvag had been declared a town according to another official deed!).  In contrast, Hammerfest, with its larger population of over 7,500 inhabitants, could even arguably be considered a city; seeing that its mayor operates out of a building whose English title is translated as City -- not Town -- Hall.  So if it's not the northernmost town in the world, than it's the world's northernmost city!
In addition to its geographical claims, Hammerfest also takes pride in its being associated with polar bears.  It's not just that the town/city's coat of arms has a polar bear on it but that images of this carnivorous creature which actually is not indigeneous to mainland Norway can be found on car stickers, emblazoned on the ground, on the windows of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, etc., etc.!  And of course, there are polar bear statues about town, including in front of its otherwise not particularly memorable-looking City Hall.
Speaking of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society: I'm not sure how valid are its claims to being a royal society but it's worth noting that it was only established in 1963 and thus isn't all that ancient.  Also, although it sounds like its membership would be restricted only to serious explorers, that's actually far from the case.  Indeed, anyone who's ever been to Hammerfest is eligible to apply for membership, which will be granted after you pay a fee for the privilege!
All in all, one gets the distinct sense that, if nothing else, the denizens of Hammerfest are generally pretty happy to tell tall tales and pull one's leg (albeit while happily sharing in the joke).  At the same time, it's all done with such good nature and cheer that one can't help but smile and enjoy the shenanigans.  
And as a bonus, if you can get past the enticing souvenir area of the tourist information office, which is located in the same building that houses the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, then you'll find a small but informative museum that -- yes, indeed -- contains some interesting information about polar bears and such! ;b     


sarah sbk said...

Hi ytsl,

When I began reading the 3rd paragraph what came to my mind was something like the New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim that occurs in places like Canada, Scotland, Holland and US. However I couldn't exactly picture you, your mother and Puppet Ponyo taking part in this type of tourist activity if it were offered. So I was happy to read further in the post that the town celebrated real polar bears.

sarah sbk said...

It does still bother me that Puppet Ponyo doesn't have some kind of outer garment when she is in a colder climate :-) However she looks happy and to be enjoying herself.

YTSL said...

Hi sarah sbk --

The thought of being in that cold water... let's just say that having ice water and cubes poured down my neck -- during the Crossing the Arctic Circle ceremony -- was shocking enough!

As for Puppet Ponyo: when it's too cold, she just doesn't go outside! Actually, it's windy conditions that make her less likely to venture out rather than purely cold ones... ;)