A Voyage to Vardø – A Scientific Account of an Unscientific Expedition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


After the “Venus Transit Conference” that took place at the University
of Tromsø from June 2 to June 3, 2012, participants were given the opportunity to
either stay in Tromsø until the night of June 5–6, or to participate in a voyage to
Finnmark, where the historical sites Vardø, Hammerfest, and the North Cape were
to be visited. This voyage culminated in the observation of the 2012 transit of Venus
at Vardø.
This paper gives a detailed account of this voyage that lasted from June 3 to June
6, and emphasizes the historical, scientific, philosophical, educational and cultural
involvement of the participants of the voyage and of the local population.
The paper concludes with reflections on the prime condition for success of any
of the Venus transit expeditions of the past: the weather must cooperate in the
first place – not only during the quarter of a day of the transit, but also during the
preceding weeks and months in order to allow the explorers to rightly determine their
geographic positions and correctly set their clocks. The latter factor is no longer an
issue nowadays, but the weather aspect remains today a limiting factor as much as
it was 250 years ago.
Despite the variable and partly clouded weather at Vardø during the time of the
transit, the participants of this expedition were able to observe Venus in front of
the Sun – with interruptions due to quickly moving clouds – between 4.30 a.m. and
the fourth contact at 06:53:20 a.m. A large number of impressive, partly ‘dramatic’
photographs have been taken especially in this time interval.


  • Christiaan Sterken
  • Per Pippin Aspaas
  • David Dunér
  • László Kontler
  • Reinhard Neul
  • Osmo Pekonen
  • Thomas Posch
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Ideas
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-232
JournalJournal of Astronomical Data
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch