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      November 2010 > Exploring in earnest...

Exploring in earnest...

Norway's snowy wildernessEveryone's heard the heroic stories of Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton, one famed for his fatal retreat from the South Pole after an ill-fated race against Amundsen, and the other for showing remarkable fortitude, courage and resilience in the rescue of his men from Elephant Island after his ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice. But none of us can truly imagine - let alone experience - what it must have really been like for those intrepid explorers.

When you think about it, how on earth did these men prepare themselves for such adventures? Where did they go to learn their survival skills and put theory into practice; and to hone their Antarctic techniques - without putting themselves in immediate or imminent danger?
The answer is the staggeringly beautiful Norwegian Highlands.

Don’t worry! Inntravel won’t send you out into a howling blizzard hundreds of miles from base camp - but you can enter the magical beauty of this harshest of environments without having to suffer any hardships - from the warmth and comfort of a train.

Take the train Across the Roof of Norway from Oslo to Bergen in the depths of winter, and you will be immersed in the crisp, white world of the Hardangervidda plateau. At an altitude of 1222 metres, the train passes the remote station at Finse (built in 1908), and the historic Finse 1222 Hotel. Even today, this small outpost is only accessible by rail or on foot and, in winter, the snow is so deep that it entirely covers the hotel! Only by digging a tunnel can visitors get in or out!

Perfect training terrain in NorwayIt was, therefore, a perfect training camp for many Arctic expeditions. Shackleton stayed here in May 1924, testing his air-propelled sledge and motor crawler, and putting his new round tents “to a severe test”. Nansen trained here (he crossed Greenland in 1888 and almost reached the North Pole in 1895) but, despite popular belief, neither Amundsen nor Scott came here. (Funnily enough, scenes from the 1948 film, "Scott of the Antarctic", starring John Mills, were filmed here.)

The reason for this misconception is a rough-hewn obelisk, erected in 1914, into which the names of all Arctic explorers of the day were carved, whether they trained here or not. Shackleton is there, but so is Scott. The inscription reads: “Reist av nordmend 1914 til ære for arktisk forskerånd og heltemot” [‘Erected by the people of Norway in 1914 in honour of the spirit of the polar research and of great heroism’].

So, as your train glides across the plateau on rails kept clear by immense snowploughs, spare a thought or two for what those intrepid explorers endured - while you sit back in the warmth and enjoy some of Northern Europe’s most magnificent and unspoiled winter scenery slipping quietly by the window.

Norway in winter

Posted: 02/11/2010 15:09:23 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: journey, Norway, snow, transport

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