Did you know the Arctic King Crab, a highly sought after delicacy around the world, can grow 1.8 metres in length and weigh up to 15 kg!!!!
Well, here I was in Finland, travelling at speed across a frozen fjord in a sledge to catch, cook and eat the mouth-watering crustacean. An unforgettable experience that is right up there on the “best time ever” list.
Before arriving at Kirkenes for the exciting crabbing excursion, our ship M.S. Trollford, had already called into several ports on its daily mail run. These included Patsfjord, Vardo, Vadso and Berleveg.
Supplies and products were delivered and passengers picked up/dropped off. Those lucky enough to be on the ship for a few more days could go ashore, stime permitting, for a look around these fascinating ports. This was often in the dark because daylight is scarce in January. (The trip was booked with Fifty Degrees North who have an office based in Melbourne.)
Kirkenes is located at longtitude 30 degrees east. This means the town is further east than Instanbul and St Petersburg and the roadside signs were both in Norwegian and Russian. (No excuse for getting mixed up).
After docking at Kirkenes our group of 12 piled into a warm mini bus and headed off to our crabbing adventure.
On the short trip we were told that we would be helping to pull these HUGE crabs out of a hole cut in the ice that could measure up to one metre thick!
Kitted out to catch Arctic King Crab
Arriving at the farmhouse we were “kitted up” and this takes a lot longer than pulling on a pair of togs in Australia. But the battle with the layers provided – thick overalls, gloves and helmets – was definitely worth the effort once out on the icy cold safari.
Fully layered with insulated clothing it was time to climb aboard a sledge towed at speed behind a snowmobile to the crabbing area. The seats were covered with reindeer skins which definitely helped keep our backsides warm.
At 1.30pm in the afternoon the sun was just disappearing. Being January, the sun hovered over the horizon for only a few brief hours – quite an experience for a Queenslander from Australia.
The frozen fjord and countryside were truly majestic and the pristine new snow covered everything the eye could see.
There were a few prayers going around the snowmobile as we flew over the frozen fjord – the most common being a mantra something like “please don’t crack, please don’t crack, please don’t crack”!
Our guide had explained how the hole in the ice is prepared to catch the famous crab lurking in the water’s icy depths. Cod are used for bait – very successfully. The trap, known as the pot, is lowered into the water and then hauled up after a few hours to check the catch.
Then we were there – in the middle of a world of snow and ice. Just us and the fishing hole that measured about 1 metre x 1 metre. Everyone had the opportunity of widening the hole with an axe – but this old duck was happy to be a bystander and take photos.
Then it was Showtime. A HUGE basket of MASSIVE Arctic King crabs was hauled out of the freezing abyss and landed on the ice with a thud. (A quick check revealed no cracks to ice where we stood)
Eight monsters were selected and the rest put back for later. The husband and wife hosts then promptly killed the crabs by cutting them in half – demise was quick.
The haul of Arctic King Crabs was then loaded on to the back of a sledge. Not mine thank goodness – as much as hunger pangs had set in for fresh crab, having the corpses travel with me back to the cooking pot was not an option!
Back at the outside kitchen of the log cabin farmhouse crabs were popped into a massive pot with very little water and steamed for 20 minutes. Using the steaming method retains the flavor and moisture of crabmeat.
Waiting for the crabs to cook offered time to wander through the fairyland landscape of snow laden trees and buildings around the farm. Like the crabs, snowflakes in Scandinavia are HUGE.
Fresh Scandinavian Snow Drifts
The feeling of falling into pure white snow drifts, several times, is very difficult to describe. The drifts were deep but only came up thigh high – perfect for making Snow Angels.
Trying to stick to the formed paths was impossible as they were a metre or so under snow.
While exploring the farm, we came across a Sami house that was totally snowed over. The Samis are the indigenous people from Lapland.
Did you know that snow acts as insulation – a fact that was also born out later at the Snow Hotel!
Half an hour later saw everyone head back to the log cabin farmhouse, strip off the excess layers. It was then time to cosy up around the log fire and wait for our feast.
Let the Feast of Arctic King Crab Begin!
The sight of a massive tray of Arctic King Crab coming into the dining room is a sight once seen never forgotten. In a warm log cabin with a -10 degree temperature outside, we were about to devour one of the most highly sought after seafood in the world.
The Arctic King Crab was served very warm – straight from the pot. Individual large scissors were provided to cut along the legs so the flesh just flopped out onto plates. Of one thing I’m certain – I will never again taste crab that will come within coohee of these juicy, fresh and sweet tasting inhabitants from the fjords of Kirkenes, Finland.
Collectively, 12 of us ploughed through kilos of the suberb white meat.
The wise old people in the world will say that 75% of flavor is in the first mouthful of food meaning there is no need to overeat. But honestly – how do you live by that rule in such circumstances?.
All too soon it was time to pile back into the sledge and again fly across the frozen fjord to the next part of our Scandinavian Showtime.
Next stop – snoozing on an ice bed in the Kirkenes Snow Hotel….eeeek!
Tips on packing for a -20 degree holiday:
Fact: It’s super important to keep your head, hands and feet warm at all times. These are the bits that lose heat quickly.
- Warm wind and water proof jacket and trousers. These need to be large enough to fit thick woolen jumpers/clothing underneath. I bought a size larger– as much as my ego was bruised in doing this!
- Rain trousers – waterproof and breathable material (snow is as wet as rain once melted on your clothing)
- Windproof warm gloves or mittens. (Mittens can be pulled over the warm gloves)
- Warm scarf or neck warmer
- 2 pairs of long woollen underwear, tops and bottoms – preferably Merino
- 3 pairs of woolen socks
- Waterproof, sturdy walking shoes with decent grip
- Crampon slip-ons. These are SO important in winter
- Sunscreen and lip salve. You can get burnt very easily with the reflection off the snow on a sunny day.
This is the outdoor list. When indoors your usual casual clothes are all you need,
Tips for your camera in the cold weather:
- Spare batteries are needed as they go flat quickly in the cold – keep them in a pocket close to your body
- Rain/snow cover for your camera that still allows the lens to protrude for taking photos
- Airtight plastic bag with you that fits your camera – the moisture creeps in from everywhere