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Travels with a Test Tube

The first in this series appeared in the B.B. for February and the editor apologises for the delay in printing Roger Stenner’s second instalment!

Pollution studies took me next, in July, to Norway.  Several days were spent in splendid weather in fjords in Western Norway.  The people are very friendly towards Britons, who have no language problems because so many Norwegians speak perfect English. A lot of rain made the waterfalls very spectacular and the high roads still lay between huge banks of snow.  Skiing was still in progress high in the mountains.    Minor roads are surfaced with oiled grit, swept and repaired almost daily.  They are not for timid drivers or drivers with a poor head for heights. The fjords are deep, cold and clear and full of hungry cod.  Ferries are an integral part of the transport system.  They are regular, efficient and cheap.  After the first work in the fjords, I took the Great North Road into the arctic circle, for more work in the fjord complex starting at Bodo.  The tidal race at Saltstraumen causes a huge set of whirlpools; the biggest in the world I'm told.  Here, I managed to surprise the locals, who were catching two pound coalfish, by taking a 15¼ lb. cod on freshwater tackle.  Sitting back feeling pleased with myself, I noticed two huge birds circling overhead - white tailed sea eagles.  With the work finished and the mini packed up with my specimens, it was time to travel south again, towards Sweden where I would meet George Honey again. Before that there was time for a detour near Mo-i-Rhana to Gronligrotten a show cave not too far south of the Arctic Circle.

From the car park in a clearing in the forest at the foot of a valley wall, along path winds steeply upward towards the cave.  Visitors are warned to allow twenty minutes to reach the cave.  In hot sunshine, with sample bottles, C02 analyser, thermometers and cameras and wearing enough clothes for a cold cave, this time was about right.  By the cave entrance is a little kiosk, making a fortune from the sales of cold drinks. The entrance fee is paid here and, as well as post cards, they sell surveys of the cave.  As show caves go, this one is a little unusual. Photographs are permitted and people who wish can go down without a guide, as long as they have their own lights. The only help for tourists is a couple of planks; some fixed steel ladders and the odd handrail - not a place for open-toed sandals - and the guides! - two very pretty girls took it in turns to guide the parties.

The cave is fairly small, with about two thousand feet of passages and is about 320 feet deep. Water from a fairly big surface stream leaks through boulders to one side of the stream, re-appearing in the cave after about a thousand feet.  The cave is in very odd looking rock.  The Great ¬Oones like entrance leads into a fairly steep, boulder strewn bedding plane passage.  The main route lies to the left.  The stream is seen briefly entering on the right.  It is soon lost, re-appearing in a photogenic little waterfall.  It soon disappears again into a small slot, but it can be heard lower in the cave.  The flat roof is covered with drops of water, condensing on the cold rock from air made warm and moist by the stream.  After about six hundred feet, where the show cave ends, a passage leads upwards to another entrance.  Part of the floor was dust covered ice.  Back at the junction, a passage to the right leads to a flat out crawl over dry sand. The roof soon lifted in an obviously solutional passage.  A little climb to avoid a dangerously corroded ladder led to smaller and steeper passages.  At the top of a vertical rift, I turned back.  It was silly to start taking risks alone; without a reserve light; loaded with gear and in a foreign land.  Instead, it was time to start taking photographs and measurements.  After crawling round in a little maze, a big passage led back into the middle of the tourist route, by-passing the flat out crawl.

Back on the surface once more, there was time to admire the scenery.  Above, a noisy raven was slowly circling.  All around was the dense forest and across the valley gleaming in the brilliant sunshine was the Schwarteisen¬glacier, the second biggest in Europe.  The ferry needed was out of action, so I could not visit it but the cave made a pleasant break in the work programme.