Gilde-Sledding on Stjernøya


It was a beautiful day and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go sledding.  There was only one problem… we forgot the sleds.  No worries, we found some Gilde boxes (used for meat packing) which turned out perfect for sledding.




Though, sometimes we’d hit an ice bump and then the meat packers were good for rolling.


They were even big enough to hold a double stack…


…but they were too small for Moose.


He thought to give the shovel a go and what do you know… shovels are good for sledding too!


Avalanches on Stjernøya


Mountains in Norway have the uncanny habit of avalanches.  Stjernøya hasn’t escaped this norm.  The mining mountain is very steep and regularly prone to avalanches.  The mining company has buildt canals and fences to divert and prevent avalanches but they also set off explosives in the mountains for a ‘controled’ avalanche when there is too much snow build-up on the mountain.


It is much better to know when an avalanche will happen than just waiting for it.  When an avalanche is planned it becomes an event for the workers of the plant.  They must leave their work areas and stand in the safe zone to watch the explosion and snow fall.  When the explosives are successful at causing an avalanche (many times they aren’t) the workers all cheer.


Along the access road there are many mini avalanches that happen.  They are usually little snowballs that roll down the hill sides creating streams in the snow.  I think snowballs are similar to water, in that they never follow the same path.  The shape of each snowball creates a unique but regular pattern in the snow as it rolls down.  If you have a look at the snowball trail in the picture above you’ll notice a big-small-small-small-big pattern.  But the odd thing is… where have the snowballs gone at the end of their trails?


Even at the slightest movement our Saint Bernard’s instinct kicks in and he monitors the snowballs (likely, hoping they are snow grouse).

Destination Stjernøya


Our private boat to Stjernøya at the Alta westside docks.  It does 28 knots so no standing on the deck because you might blow off!


The boat is named Nefelin IV which is named after the mineral that the mining company extracs from the Nabbaren mountain on Stjernøya.


Even though it was a beautiful sunny day it was still below 2 degree celsius.  This is sunshade arctic weather.



Dogs are allowed to travel on deck.  Bear, our Saint Bernard, loves going to Stjernøya because he can run around free all the time.


It takes about an hour to get to Stjernøya.  The silos in the background are where the minerals are stored for shipping.


The mainland isn’t that far away.


On Stjernøya the mining company has apartments for overnight stays for their miners and scientists.  Without production over the Easter holidays the site is like a ghost town.


Spring is coming through on Stjernøya early.  It is said that Stjernøya has half the temperature and twice the weather as Alta.


Wildlife is all around.  There are hares jumping around, snow grouse on the hillside and white-tailed eagles which have a two and a half meter wingspan and which are one of the largest birds of prey in the world,  soar in the skies looking for fish.  Hopefully we will catch them in the act during our stay.




A ship is stranded at the docks with a Russian crew.  It is waiting for a tugboat to pull it into Alta to be fixed.  Even though the ship is docked at the island and that they are using a Norwegian ship, the Russians are not allowed to step one foot on land.  It is because they are shipping internationally and there is no official custom service on Stjernøya.


Waiting for us in the kitchen was a huge pot of freshly cooked lapskaus.  Very salty, just how Norwegians like it!


We are lucky enough to have free access to the kitchen, since we are the only ones on the island, and all.


The amount of food they have bought for us to survive the five days could feed a small army.




Lets see what we can make in the professional kitchen.  I have to remember the days when I was a chef in London.  (It sounds a lot cooler than it was.)  And oh my!  I found ‘English’ sugar in the pantry.  English sugar is made from sugarcane while Norwegian sugar is made from sugar beet.  It means I have the potential of making lovely caramel and toffee sauces!  This working Easter holiday is going to be yummy!




Stjernøya is one of the islands in the Alta fjord.  It is full of arctic wildlife and is home to one of the biggest mineral mining operations in Finnmark, Sibelco Nordic.  The island is also the summer grazing pasture for reindeer that are ferried across on barges.  You can read more about reindeer herding to Stjernøya in the post Reindeer Herding: A Family Life.

The island has a very small population, just 80 people, made up from a few sheep farms on the north side of the island.  The only way to get to the island is via private boat or public ferry from Øksfjord to the north of the island.  Stjernøya is popular for fishing and hunting.  Snow grouse, seagull eggs and trout are common favorites found.

Easter is a time when Norwegians spend their holidays up in the snowy mountains in their cabins to enjoy the sun and outdoor snow activities.  This year our family is spending the Easter holidays on Stjernøya, on the south side.  It is a working holiday, as Moose works for the mining company, so we will be well looked after with accommodation and food.  However, having a huge mountain separating us from the north, we will be all on our own.  No shops, no cars, no people.  It will either be absolute bliss or drive us nuts.  We shall see.

Over the next five days we will be posting about our adventures and discoveries on Stjernøya.


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