She’s a Lady, whoa, whoa, whoa, she’s a lady….
Talking about her…she’s a lady!
Sung by the legendary Tom Jones
How to turn a 1930 trappers’ cabin built for beluga hunting into a female friendly place? Simply put, it isn’t easy.
The trappers’ cabin “Bamsebu” was built in 1930 for beluga hunting and is a bit less than 20sq meters in size with construction being made of logs and wood. We are 140 km from the town of Longyearbyen and the nearest shop so…whatever we needed, we had to bring here in August/September when we started this expedition.
Living here demands years of preparation, constant hard physical labor and vigilance. Fixing boat engines, carrying long dense Siberian logs, chopping wood and ice, foraging in a whiteout for a resupply of wood, repairing doors blown off from the hurricane wind, taking parts off a snowmobile in -25’c, lifting 30kg sacs of gear, dragging a 300 kg boat up on shore, hauling a sled laden with ice up to the hut, getting up on a roof to put up a new HITI flag to welcome the sun back, repairing a weather station , curling up and crawling out a side window because you are snowed in, photographing the aurora in -32’c, going for walks with goggles and so many layers of clothing your normal pace is slowed drastically as you strap on a waist belt with a multi-tool, knife, flare gun and sling a rifle over your shoulder, lifting bear proof coolers and rolling and moving 120 litre food barrels, and digging out ice core equipment buried after a recent snow storm. Everything we do is in the extreme cold and wind…just another day!
There is no shower here. No sink with running water, no heater, light switch, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, juicer and no bathtub or hot tub! There is an ancient looking “used” rusted iron harpoon hanging from the ceiling with chain link to anchor it so it doesn’t accidentally fall on Sunniva during her night of slumber. There are thousands of bones from beluga whaling from the early 1900s that lie scattered on the beach covered with ice and snow. This was a man’s world. Trapping, hunting and early expeditions were dominated by men. Stories told by men about men. The women were there, in these stories, and often represented the glue that kept things together. They were true pioneers that possessed equal skills and brought the tough, soft feminine into an otherwise harsh world.
Helfrid Nøis- a 163cm tall badass of a woman that overwintered here in Svalbard with her husband Hilmar Nøis for seven years. She rowed distances that today would take hours with a motor boat, almost 30 nautical miles one way from Fredheim to Gåsøyene to collect eggs in a fjord that was rough and open sea. She is known to have rowed 14 hours straight until her hands were raw and frozen.Tough and determined. From her book called “Ishavskvinne – Historien om Helfrid Nøis”…which means “Woman of the Polar Ocean – History of Helfrid Nøis” she shares how she washed the ceilings and walls from top to bottom – they were covered with seal oil that they used for fuel instead of firewood. The place was full of soot and grease. She transformed it into a place that was more synonymous with its name “Villa Fredheim” which means “Villa Peaceful home”. She painted the walls, baked cakes and bread so delicious the scent travelled down the valley. Tablecloths on the table for every meal, pressed curtains, carpet runners on all the floor spaces. Never had anyone seen such a cozy trappers cabin before!
Then there is life at Bamsebu some 70 years later. We both love functional, clean, organized and cozy with small touches that have the feel of “hygge” as the Norwegians call it. Here we have a wood burning stove, cast iron pots to cook and bake with. We have dinner with candles and a tablecloth just like Helfrid did.
We have a large rectangular bucket that we use for our sponge baths, washing our hair, our clothes, our dish towels and the such. We celebrate with a nice glass of wine and we try to make all of our moments memorable by being present. This is living!
With our own little areas next to each of our beds we have items like photos of family, carvings, tablecloths, candles, small sunflower, wall signs like ”Live your Passion” and “stupedama – bare gjør det”, headlamps hung up, oils, special products we use like Eight-hour, Aveda, BeeClean, music, small lights in many small places, curtains handsewn by Marit, cooking and baking recipes from Sandy, Bettina, Susanne. Life is in the details!
Self-care keeps us sane and feeling healthy, strong and feminine.
We have a sauna that we fire up when the wind is right. It generates a heat and calm that is indescribable in this Arctic freezer. After a salt scrub to take away a few weeks worth of work the wool layers come back on and under it all, is Primadonna from “Det lille Under.”
Yes! We are women! And we are strong, vulnerable, compassionate, resourceful, capable, kind, courageous, smart, curious, and concerned about our planet and its resources.
With our string of heart lights we connect women between pole to pole as we celebrate all of us on this International Women’s Day!
Big hugs, Sunniva and Hilde
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