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Tromsoe is a surprise to every visitor, for no one expects to find such a pretty town decorated with turf and trees and flowers in the arctic circle. It lies upon a gentle slope, the streets are planted with birch and mountain ash which have attained considerable size, and in the center is a park and a grove of birch trees. There are several streets of frame and log villas, surrounded by gardens, wild cherry tree, foliage plants and flowers, which the people take a great deal of pride in cultivating, and one does not wonder because they are half buried in snow for two-thirds of the year.
It is midnight in Tromsoe for seven months, noonday for three months and twilight the rest of the year. The electric lights are kept constantly lighted day after day for seven months, exept when nature gives an exebition of electrical fireworks more brilliant than any ever seen at the Buffalo exposition. Then the lights in the streets are extinguished, but they are still needed in the houses. The effect of the aurora borealis is exeedingly exhilarating. The air is so full of electricity that it crackles. Everything you touch throws out a spark. The hair on your head is so dry that it stands up from the scalp and the sparks fly from the feet of a cat as she crosses a rug or a carpet. This exhilaration prevents sleep with a good many people, and the phenomenon is usually followed by an epidemic of nervous prostration. But the doctors contend that it is conducive to health; that it stimulates the vital organs, invigorates the tissues and prolonges life; having the same effect upon the human system that is obtained in electropathic treatment.
If the aurora borealis could be tamed and harnessed - and some time it may be - what a power it would furnish for industry and the various uses to which electrisity may be applied! But unfortunately it is irregular. Some years there is no display for weeks, and at other seasons the lights are burning at the north pole continually all winter.
Tromsoe is the favorite point for fitting out arctic expeditions. Most of those who enter the polar regions east of Greenland make their headquarters here. Evelyn Baldwin sailed with the Ziegler party the day after we were at Tromsoe, but did not attract much attention from the residents, because they are accustomed to such things. While it is not an every-day event of their lives, the whaling fleets that are coming and going regularly during the winter season are exposed to almost as many perils as explorers.
Tromsoe is a trading place and does a large business in fish and fishermen's supplies. The harbour is always filled with vessels of all nations that go there for codfish and herring, furs and oil. The shops are filled with attractive goods; the streets are wide and well kept; the public officials occupy buildings of pretencious architecture; the churches and the schoolhouses are as large and as convenient as any we have seen in Norway outside of Christiania and Bergen; and if a stranger were dropped down here without knowledge of the place he would never suspect that he was in the polar regions."