Welcome to Hammerfest: The self-proclaimed northernmost town in the world
[dropcap]The[/dropcap] 10,000 people living in Hammerfest are further from the equator than most will ever go. Beyond 70 degrees north the town lies on the northern coast of Northern Norway, deep within the Arctic Circle. From May the night sky is not seen for three months, a welcome relief from the months of darkness and ice the stormy winter brings.
Many people of Hammerfest are proud of their claim as the world’s northernmost town, yet despite Hammerfest’s remoteness and extreme location it is not even in the top 10 of most northern communities; Hammerfest sits hundreds of miles south of the most northerly towns, with the top spot contested between most of the countries surrounding the Arctic. The argument of the most northerly town is fought less over geographic location, and more over the precise definition of what a town is.
Recent investment from gas companies has seen Hammerfest experience a period of rapid growth. Despite the tough winters and remote location Hammerfest is surprisingly cosmopolitan and modern; drawing in tourists, energy workers and people from around the world. With a history dating back to the 17th century the town remains relatively new, thanks in part to being regularly razed by various naval visitors. With the future looking somewhat more stable the town’s cultural offerings have expanded, from the LED-embedded architecture of the Arctic Culture Centre to the Sami community and The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, which having been founded in 1963 offers visitors a somewhat jokey chance to become members of the Isbjørnklubben and discover Hammerfest’s history as a trading port.
The pride of the people of Hammerfest is infectious; having hid from the brutal weather with hundreds of imported beers in the surprisingly stylish Jernteppet, a bar named after the iron sea defences dug up from the harbour, it is hard to disagree with the locals that this is indeed the northernmost town in the world.
Max Catterall is an artist and photographer living on the south coast of Britain. When not in the studio he is exploring every nook and cranny he can find. You can generally find him somewhere between the sea and the mountains.