Norwegian Ice Tunnels Address Climate and Mythology

At the heart of the Juvflye plateau in Norway, icy tunnels are carved in the Juvfonne snowdrift. The tunnels attract tourists, who are there to learn about climate change, Norse mythology, history and nature as part of the Mimisbrunnr Climate Park.

The park was named after the well of knowledge in Norse Mythology. According to the myth, Odin, father of all gods, gave up an eye so he could drink from the well, which was guarded by Mimir, the wise giant.

Melting glaciers in the mountains of Oppland County, where the park is situated, revealed more than 700 ancient artifacts. Under the snow and ice, researchers found a leather shoe, a knitted tunic and hunting tools from the Bronze Age. As visitors make their way through 60 metres of icy tunnels in the park, they discover this history, which spans deep into 6000 year old ice.

Visitors walk through tunnels designed by artist Peter Istad and encounter a number of artifacts preserved in ice blocks. The tunnel remains at -2.5 degrees Celsius year-round. Most of the artifacts, however, are kept in a museum 30 minutes away.

“The speed of the ice melting is formidable and alarming, but the number of new archaeological objects give a unique possibility for improving the knowledge and for interpreting the story about the early inhabitants and users of these mountain areas,” Norwegian researchers wrote in a recent paper analysing the significance of the park and its potential for raising awareness about climate issues.

The project was developed by the National Mountain Institution, private tourist companies, research institutions and public authorities to enhance climate research, but also engage the public in climate consciousness. In the park, visitors are also invited to enjoy an outdoor opera and stunning views at 1900 metres above sea level.

Though the park can accommodate 20,000 people, it only received 3,400 visitors in 2014. Most of its funding comes from the public and private sectors and the park itself has yet to achieve commercial success. Still, the park presents opportunities for cross-platform collaboration, Norwegian researchers said.

“An important outcome is the fruitful exchange of experiences, between public and private partners, tourism and science interests, amateurs and professionals, and between local, regional and national actors,” the authors wrote. “The network has shown to be quite dynamic.”

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