National Geographic : 1971 Jul
plastic shopping bag slung from its handle. Drive south looking for reindeer, and find patches of snow they have trampled in search of moss, and many tracks. A red fox stares insolently, then trots into a birch thicket. At the little customs post that marks the Finnish border turn back, defeated. No reindeer. Later you meet a Norwegian Air Force ser geant from the nearby radar station and ask if he speaks Lapp. "Oh no-it is much too difficult," he says. He tells you, though, that Kautokeino means "halfway between"-that is, midway on an old reindeer migration route from Sweden to the sea. Look again at February's Christmas card, and see an old, strange culture overlaid with skimobiles and autos and television antennas sprouting from the rooftops. And it appears that Norway's reindeer Lapps are, indeed, kautokeino-halfway between. MAN LIVED IN NORTH NORWAY at least 9,000 years ago, artifacts found near Alta have revealed. Yet I saw no building in Finnmark more than 25 years old. The paradox is rooted in Hitler's invasion of Norway during World War II. On April 8, 1940, a column of warships steamed up Oslofjorden. Surprised shore bat teries managed to sink the heavy cruiser Bliicher. (That vessel struck the Third Reich's ironic final blow 30 years later, taking the life of the courageous Norwegian journalist diver who was my friend.) The Wehrmacht withdrew from Finnmark in 1944, burning all that would burn and leveling the rest. Not even telephone poles remained standing to greet advancing Rus sian troops. And that is why Hammerfest, Alta, Lakselv, Kirkenes, and dozens of other northern towns look neatly planned and new ly built. They are. The Russians too withdrew, in 1945. But one still feels their presence in wooden watch towers near the iron-mining town of Kirke nes. When I reached a gate across the road and a yellow sign that proclaimed "SOVJET SAMVELDET"-Soviet Union-the birch stippled snowscape rolled onward toward Murmansk, a mere four-hour drive. But I had reached the end of Norway: north of Nome, east of Istanbul. Does the proximity of the Russian border worry the people of Kirkenes? I asked a workman at the A/S Sydvaranger iron-ore concentrating plant. "Nei," he replied with a cryptic Norse KODACHROME () N.G.S. Lilliputian flensers cut up an ocean Gulliver at Norway's last whaling sta tion, near Troms0. The sperm whale's 50-ton carcass will yield oil from the blubber, animal food, and fertilizer; Nor wegians do not eat sperm-whale meat. In years past, Norse whalemen fanned out from their fjords to earth's far cor ners. Today they have all but given up the chase for the leviathans.