Soon enough the trip felt like being a trainspotter's endeavor: Just five minutes after getting away from the residence house I stopped again, pulled the camera and tripod out of the car to film a long line of iron ore carriages, whose load emitted steamy clouds into the morning sky. The sun had not risen yet, but the light, as all North nerds know, is the most fantastic during dawn and dusk. So I started a short but intense trip with cold feet.
Short the trip would be since dusk arrives at 1 p.m. and it is light till maybe 2 p.m. By that time I wanted to be in Narvik already, following the railway line that connects Kiruna with Narvik. Initially I wanted to be on the train – imagining it might rise even higher through the last part towards Narvik than the much newer street that follows the tracks otherwise. But then I realized that taking pictures out of the wagons would just not capture the train itself. One would anyway be on the passenger train, one of two day-to-day, that they want to get rid of as soon as possible to put even more ore trains on the schedule.
The train it is that makes Kiruna possible – maybe even more than the mine (according to Lennart Lantto, who was again of great help). To begin with the invention of the train in England and the giant task, undertaken by British workers, of laying tracks for a railway through the mountains from Narvik to Kiruna, the iron ore could finally reach the world market: Narvik is the closest ice-free harbor. The Gulf Stream keeps the waters from freezing, meanwhile the sea is closing on the Swedish side, in Luleå.
If this sounds like an advertisement story for the exploitation of Northern Europe, I cannot really help it. I feel like caught into the fascination of these ventures: the work, through summer and winter, laying out tracks; just as the mine, the omnipresent humming and the metal bangs, the lights in the winter darkness, the steams, the giant destruction of land caused by the breaking down of the earth into the mine closing the tunnels, when they are empty and left by the machines. And the history with its dark parts: The ore was shipped to England and Germany, firing WW II, until the Germans conquered Norway. From there on tons of ore were shipped to German steel mills and, I imagine, used in the process to built giant battleships like the Tirpitz, which than steamed towards North again to take part in the “defense” of the long Norwegian coast and especially Narvik. Only to be brought down in no time by English ships and planes: The one and only trip of the Bismarck took eight days and cost 3.500 sailors lives. That way the ore returned to the North and formed a giant coffin for thousands of soldiers on the bottom of the sea.