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Jokkmokk Winter Market 2017

The Return - Part Two

I had another of my mad ideas. Last time we were here I saw lots of ice lanterns made by part freezing water in a bucket.

I loved the idea but there was no way I  was going to pack a bucket in my luggage.

I started thinking about more portable alternatives when the idea struck me of using a balloon.

So the first night we were in the cabin I filled a few balloons with water and left them on the veranda to freeze.

The trick was to let them get solid enough to hold their shape but not so solid that I couldn’t put a tealight inside them.

Overnight at about -8°c seemed to be about right.

I had a Swiss Army Knife with a  saw blade on it which made light work of sawing a hole in the top


I was pleased with the end result. The saucer was used to make sure the tealight did not melt through the ice and scorch the paint on the balustrade.

They lasted the full week.This also gives you a good idea of the view from our cabin, straight down the Lilla Lule River. A tempting place for a walk perhaps but having followed the weather reports for some time I knew the warm spell we were having had been in place for quite some time.

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All over the ice there were pressure fractures where the rise and fall of the river surface had driven ice up over the boulders lying just below the surface.

Although there were snowmobile tracks in places on the ice it does well to remember that even a heavy skidoo has a lower weight footprint than a man on foot.

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In places there were clear leads of open water where the scouring action of the current had prevented the ice from forming.

As beautiful as it looked, it was a  very dangerous treacherous and environment.

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Having said that, providing you took great care, stayed close to the edge and carried ice claws with you, it did offer one of the more open paths for snowshoes so I would be lying if I said I didn’t take advantage of it in a couple of places.

Where small erratics were sticking up through the ice I could be fairly certain there was shallow water below.

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The light that you get in the Arctic can be a photographers dream.

On clear days the sun rarely rises far above the horizon at this time of year.

I’ll just leave a few pictures here to show you what I mean.

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Again, I covered the Ajtte Museum fairly well in my 2013 report so although we visited numerous times I will skip over most of that, just mentioning a couple of things I had missed last time.

This was rather interesting.

It is a bone used as a straw allowing the porous core to act as a simple filter.

It would not of course remove very small pathogens but it was fine enough to remove a common parasitic worm which could be caught in the Arctic.

( I have recently been informed by a good friend that there was an old Saami superstition about swallowed tadpoles developing into frogs inside your body which appears to be the origin of this practice. )

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I have mentioned before the Saami use of shoe bands to prevent snow entering the boots.

This picture shows their application very well.

I did manage to pick up an old pair at the local Red Cross shop along with a couple of birch bark boxes.

Thanks to Kev Warrington for the suggestion to visit there before the market kicked off.

There is a certain atmosphere that builds up in the town before the market.

Someone told me that the locals measure the year as either before or after it which is perhaps not surprising when the population increases something like tenfold over the week.

For all that, the days before seem calm and collected. Perhaps it has been done so often everybody just knows what to do.

I suspect though that it is more like the image of a swan on the water with it’s legs furiously paddling below the surface.

One of the first things to go up are the huge Laavus which are used as bars and venues over the market.

The Scandinavian love of candles manifests itself with ice lanterns and other contraptions to hold outdoor lights.

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Sadly the Historic Market, organised by some of the locals before the main market opens was not being held this year. There were still various exhibitions and open days to hold our interest in the mean time.

It is the Saami Craft Work that draws me to this market. I know of nowhere else that you can see the variety of craftspeople and their wares as Jokkmokk in the Winter Market week.

This fine hunting spear, although far beyond my budget, was a joy to see. Some other fine pieces would be accompanying me home along with materials that, even in the days of online shopping, are difficult to get elsewhere.

I have to admit, my anticipation was growing.

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On Wednesday night there is an official opening ceremony which passes like such ceremonies do the World over.

This one included a bit of Joiking and a bit of Saami Rap which made an interesting change.

The next day the traps were opened and the market buyers were off.

Inevitably when you are talking about craft items, the stock is not infinite.

There are many machine made items that will still be available at the end of the market but if you want that special piece that just fits your hand like it was made for it you had better buy it quickly.

My first purchase was made just a few stalls up the main track. a large needlework bag of Reindeer skin and Wadmal. It was just what I needed and I could see he only had one of them.

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It seemed that more of the top crafts people had moved to indoor locations on this market. I can’t blame them, typical temperatures are around -30°c to -40°c at this time in February. Everyone was talking about how warm it was this year.  Really quite worrying.

There is always a traditional reindeer caravan through the market about mid day but the chances of getting any useful  photographs are always limited by the crowds.

This fine gentleman is Anders Sunna, one of the best craftsmen we found outdoors this year.

True, it looked like his wife was running an indoor stall as well but it was nice to shake the hand that had made two of the very fine pieces we bought.

It is clear that there is a good crop of younger crafts people rising up through the market. Supported by the Saami Craft School in the town and also the Sámi Duodji the Sámi handicraft foundation but it is good to see some of the more experienced hands holding their own in the market.

There is a lot of fur on the market more that some people might be comfortable with I suppose.

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There is a very good reason that fake fur has not replaced the real thing in Arctic conditions and it has to do with the shape of the hair.

Synthetic fur is one thickness from it’s root to its tip, real fur tends to taper to a point.

This means that when ice builds up on the hair from condensed breath and the like, it sticks to synthetic fur but slips of the real stuff.

Nature has been designing it for millions of years, that’s even longer ago than some imaginary guy said “Let there be life.”

(Might as well offend everyone at the same time.)

On the whole I prefer to recycle fur when I can but I do use fur in my living history work and also on my Arctic kit where needed.

Now of course we know that sythetic fibres are causing untold damage in our rivers, lakes and seas so there is another thing to consider.

Knife makers were on every corner and street, some fairly standard some extraordinary.

I wasn’t in that market but I could have picked up some really nice work if I had wanted.

Less textiles that we had hoped to see this year.

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At Ajtte there was a new exhibition of Duodji.

Apparently a collector had bequeathed his collection to the Museum and it contained some beautiful works by some of the best crafts people around.

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It certainly raised the bar for the kind of work you can find if you are patient enough.

You will have to wait for part Four to see what we came home with.

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One of the indoor markets was held in a local school hall. They didn’t close the school down or anything it was just business as usual with kids running all over the playground at break times.

The kids appear to be a bit better than me at this ice sculpture thing.

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The playground was a bit different though. Tons of snow piled up from clearing the roads, with ropes for climbing and the best slides you could imagine. The same had been done in other places as well.

can you imagine that in the UK? There would be barriers and signs all over the place. The would probably close the school and they certainly wouldn’t let them out at break time.

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Down by the lake things were winding up for the Reindeer Racing.

Crowds were gathering, Reindeer were groomed and  money was exchanging hands.

While not taken a seriously as it might be elsewhere, family pride was at stake here as well.

The sledges, the course and the reindeer are all real enough but their burdens this time would be members of the public.

Mostly a matter of hanging on for dear life it looked like fun to me.

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At the other end of the lake was a chance to try a short trip with a Dog Sled Team.

I do like the idea of that for another trip perhaps.

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As the afternoon progressed into an early evening, the lights levels dropped and the market lit up

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It’s not all craft work of course.

There was some more serious outdoor gear on show as you might expect for a semi-mobile population in conditions like these.

Damian was wondering how to get an ATV like this into his luggage and had to settle for a brochure instead.

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The conditions had turned a little mistier which led to a haw frost lining everything it touched.

Still not particularly cold, -13°c was the coldest we got all week and that was overnight. I had a tracking thermometer set up on the veranda all the time we were there.

It did lead to a change of style for the photos though.

I leave a few here for your enjoyment.

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Back to Part One.         On to Part Three


Sub Zero Crew - Bushcraft UK

Unless noted otherwise, all photography, artwork and content on this site is copyrighted. © Gary Waidson 2022 All rights reserved

The Ice Raven Project promotes sustainable and low impact bushcraft and wilderness skills in Arctic and winter conditions. This includes the use of  tents, tarps  and snow shelters where possible. Fires are only used where safe and where use and collection of firewood will not damage the natural environment. We often travel to locations by public transport and then use snowshoes, sleds, toboggans and pulks to transport our equipment into the wilderness.