Two stories connected to a piece of a wool blanket.
by Liv Bangsund
When I was a small girl, could I, sometimes during wintertime, have a flu, an ear infection or was just feeling cold after playing in the snow. Then, a piece of a blanket, like this wool piece, was by my mother, placed on the hot radiator or close to the fireplace, to be heated. When heated, my mother added to the wool piece one or two drops of white camphor oil. I still remember the smell of white camphor oil.
The origin of the white camphor oil is the camphor tree. The tree has active components of camphor found in every part of the tree. The tree is native to Formosa or Taiwan, China and Japan.
The white camphor oil extracted from the tree can be used in vapor therapy to clear the lungs, dispel apathy and calm nervous depression. It has a beneficial effect on any psychosomatic illness, while having a good effect on painful muscles when used with great care.The oil was a well-known remedy against the plague and embalming corpses in the old Persia, now Iran, while the Chinese used the tree to build ships and temples, because of the durable and aromatic properties of the wood.
In my grandfather’s house in the town centre of Tromsø there was a beautiful Chinese camphor chest decorated with carvings of dragons, ships, people and animals. I cannot really tell, but maybe the smell of white camphor combined with the images of the carvings on the camphor chest had the positive effect of making me feel better from my cold.
White camphor oil can be bought in your local drugstore
The Coastal Express or Hurtigruten is considered as one of the world’s most beautiful sea voyages. For more than 115 years Hurtigruten has been the most important communication link between the north and south of Norway. Translating as ”fast route”, it was the quickest and most reliable passage into the remote lands of northern Norway, regardless of weather conditions.
In the 1950-60, this piece of wool was a part of a blanket which belonged to the cabin equipment on the Coastal Express Nordstjernen or The North Star. Today the woolen blankets are replaced with more modern cabin equipment and the company has extended their cruice programme to include Greenland and Antarctica.
In 2005 I had the opportunity to travel with Nordstjernen from Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen to Hindlopenstredet which is located at 80 degrees north. Spitsbergen and the other islands in the Svalbard archipelago are located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway and the North Pole where the warmer currents of the Gulf Stream meet the cold air and water from the north.
Every summer, thousands of seabirds migrate to the coastal cliffs of Svalbard due to its proximity to the feeding grounds. The field landings from Nordstjernen took us both close to the Arctic wildlife, including the polar bear, and to the ghost hunting stations from past times, when farmers from northern Norway headed for Svalbard to seek their fortunes as trappers.
I still cannot tell, but I could imagine the trappers from northern Norway in their hunting huts at Spitsbergen,using white camphor oil from China on a piece of wool, curing their cold.