Summer Climate Within The Arctic Circle
( Originally Published 1881 )
THERE is no land, from the arctic circle northward; which possesses such a mild climate and luxuriant vegetation as Nor-way and Sweden. The countries situated in the same latitudes in Asia or America present a cold and barren aspect compared with the part we have just visited. This climate is due to several causes: the Gulf-stream, the Baltic and Gulf of Bothnia; the position of the mountains which shelter the valleys; the prevalence of southerly and south-westerly winds, which blow almost all the year round, especially in Norway; the long hours of sunshine, and the powerful sun. On the Norwegian side, along the coast and fjords, owing to the genial influence of the Gulf-stream, the spring begins earlier, and the summer is longer than in Sweden; but the days of sun-shine are less, as the climate is more rainy; consequently the vegetation does not increase so fast. Summer succeeds winter more rapidly on the Gulf of Bothnia, and vegetation increases almost visibly, especially as the dew is very heavy. Owing to a less rigorous winter on the Norwegian coast, and a. Ionger period of medium or milder weather, several trees flourish to a higher latitude than in Sweden. Rye, which in the arctic circle is planted at the beginning or middle of June, attains a height of seven and eight feet early in August, having reached ninety-six inches in eight or nine weeks, and, when first planted, sometimes grows at the rate of three inches a day. The barley at Niavi was ready for the harvest in the middle of August, six or seven weeks after being sown,
The larch (Larix europœa) extends in Sweden a little above the arctic circle, but in Norway farther. The bird-cherry (Prunus padus) grows in Sweden within the arctic circle; in Norway, as far as 70° 20'; and on the shores of the Tana River attains a height of ten and twelve feet, bearing fruit. The mountain-ash (Sorbus aucuparia) bears fruit in Norway on Allen fjord, 70° ; S. hybrida grows as a bush in Norway as far as Tromso, 69°. The lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is seen on the Lofoden as high as 68° 30'. The maple (Acer plata noides), horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), and the buck-thorn (Rhamnus [Frangula]) grow as far as the polar circle ; the elm (Ulmus montana) grows to 670; Cytisus alipinus, as high as 68° 30', and the hazel-nut (Corylus avellana) at Stegen, 67° 56', but does not bear fruit there.
The fir or spruce region (Regio sylvatica) extends from the coast 'up to about 3200 feet below the snow-line, but towards the high latitudes the trees increase -very slowly, are stunted, and found in bogs and marshes. With the disappearance of the fir, the following plants cease to be noticed : Rosa cinnaimomea, Carex globularis, Galium boreale, Lysimachia thyrsiflora, Phragmites communis, Smilacina bifolia.
In the second region (Regio subsylvatica) trees continue to grow to a height of 2000 feet below the snow-line. Forests of Scotch pine, sometimes called fir (Pinus sylvestris), and of fir (Aides), extend in Sweden as high as 68° 30'', and at seven or eight hundred feet above the sea-level. As the land rises they become more stunted, and disappear on the loftier lands. In Norway they are met as high as 70° N.
The third and most characteristic region (Regio subalpina) is that of the birch, these trees growing at a higher elevation than any other. The Betula alba verrucosa grows at a height of 2000 feet in the southern part, but is not seen in Norway above 64°. The Betula alba glutinosa, or highland birch, is found to almost the extreme northern part, and grows in the southern, in some districts, as high as 3500 feet above the sea. The birch often attains a height of eighty feet, a spread of nearly the same, and fifteen or eighteen feet in circumference in the south.
In the fourth region (Regio alpina) the birch has disappeared, and the dwarf willow (Salix glauca), dwarf birch (Betula nana), and the juniper (Juniperus communis) grow to about 1400 feet below the snow-line. The Arbutus alpina, Trientabis europcea, Veronica alpina, Andromeda coerulea, Pteris crispa and Archangelica are found in the fifth region. Still higher the willows and dwarf birch lose even their bush form; the Betula nana creeps along the ground. On the warm sides of the hills are seen Lychnis (Sagina?) apetala, Ophrys (Orchie ?) alpina, Erigeron uniflorum, Astragalus leontinus; and in swamps, Aira alpina, Carex ustulata, Vaccinium uliginosum, even to 800 feet below the snow-line.
In the sixth region mountains never have melting spots on open ground. When the ground is free from snow, a few dark plants grow: Empetrum nigrum (without berries), Andromeda tetragona and hypnoïdes, Diapensia lapponica; on greener slopes, Gentiana tenella and nivalis, Campanula uniflora, flora, Draba alpina; in colder places, Pedicularis hirsuta and flammea, Dryas octopetala. The region extends to 200 feet below the snow-line. Still higher up, as we have seen, vegetation shows itself in a few exquisite flowers and the reindeer-moss (Cladonia rangeferina), which grows almost to the snow-line, is abundant even at Spitzbergen, 80° N.; spirit has been made from it, as it possesses a small amount of farinaceous matter. The Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica) is also abundant, and contains eighty per cent. of digestible substance; it is often used as a substitute (mixed with flour) for bread in had years.
In regard to cereals, we find that wheat does not thrive within the arctic circle in Sweden, though it does in Norway. The common and the other species of wheat grow as far as Skibotten, 69° 28' N., and very rapidly; in the south it takes 110 to 120 days from sowing to harvesting. Rye—both the winter and summer varieties—thrives as high as Alten fjord. Barley is also seen at Alten, being planted in the last days of May, in bloom in the middle of July, and harvested at the end of August or beginning of September, yielding tenfold. Oats grow as far as 60° N., and in Alten to 70°; field pease, as high as Bodo, 67° 20'. Potatoes yield well in Norway on the coast, at Alten, and in warm summers even as far as Skarsvag, about 71° 4', and at Vadsö. The climate is colder on the eastern side of the North Cape. At Vardo, 70° 40' N., they cannot begin gardening or planting before the middle of June, and sometimes not before midsummer; fogs prevail from June to the end of July; August and September are generally clear.
Beets will grow as high as Vardo; also flax and hemp, though not extensively, up to 70° N., in the most northern region attaining a height of two or three feet. Timothy, meadow foxtail, wild oats, and red clover, up to 69° in West Finnmarken; white clover to 70°; and in Vardo, turnips. Carrots grow as far as Varanger fjord, and in Alten they attain a weight of one and a half pounds ; parsnips not more than one and a half inches in thickness. Hops ripen as far as Lofoden.
The country is especially rich in berries. The wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is high-flavored And very sweet, and ripens beyond 70° N.; and in the southern part of Scandinavia, as high as 3000 feet. The wild raspberry (Rubus idceus) thrives as far as 70° N., and in the south, to a height of 3000 feet; the arctic raspberry (R. arcticus) is delicious, having the aroma of the pineapple. The cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoecus) and crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) are also found. Many varieties of the blueberry and whortleberry (Vaccinium) grow everywhere to 71°, and farther south to a height of 3000 or 4000 feet. The gooseberry (Ribes) is found as high as 70° on West Finnmarken, and in Syd Varanger to Jakobs River; it extends in the mountains between the fir and the birch limits. Black and red currants grow wild on the mountains; also the Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum), and the Swedish cornel (Cornus suecica). The most prized berry is the cloudberry (Rubus chamoemorus), growing everywhere as far as 71° N., and found south at 3000 feet above the sea; before ripening it is red, and when growing thickly together it forms a beautiful red parterre. The cherry (Prunus avium and cerasus) ripens sometimes in Norway at 66° N.