Journey of the reindeer


When sun goes down after shining non-stop for almost 3 months, herds of reindeer begin they journey back inland, where they will spend winter – somewhere between Sweden, Norway and Finland. Reindeer that spent the summer on Kvaløya, Finnmark must first swim to the mainland and then walk for weeks. Their owners from Sara family follow them all the way, trying to get some control over this wild animals.

This is a short story of getting reindeer through the sea and picking the ones that will be send to slaughterhouse and letting the rest live for one more year.

Big thanks to Goggen Hansen from Hammerfest and Aslak Ante Sara (and whole Sara family) for help and letting me take part in this event.

Pictures were taken with Canon 5D Mark II, Tamron 16-28, Canon 50mm and Canon 24-105. All rights reserved: Zbigniew «Ziggi» Wantuch

1-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_15501. Goggen Hansen from Hammerfest stands on the sea shore and looks as reindeer swim in 4*C cold sea from Kvaløya til mainland near Kvalsund, Norway.

2-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_15232. Air bubbles get trapped in thick fur that helps animals to keep afloat. Trip to the shore takes around 15 minutes.

3-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_15693. Male reindeer is getting dry after crossing the sea and before continuing his journey to the mountains.

4-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_1641 4. Goggen Hansen being stopped by reindeer.


5. Few days after swimming through the sea-water, reindeer are gathered in the mountains to be marked, send further, send to slaughterhouse or killed to own use by owners. Big heard is divided into smaller groups, who are let inside big wooden fence when owners are waiting.

6-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_21276. Older member of the family looks through the fence as others proceed with animals.

7-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_21417. Animals have no way to get out, so they either stand and look or run in circles.

8-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_23358. Young man waits to pick the next reindeer while two others struggle with big male.

9-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_24009. Ground bitten by thousands of hooves.

10-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_224310. Three man holds the reindeer down to cut his horns. This animal will be transported to big slaughterhouse together with others,  in trailer – if they had horns they could hurt each other. Reindeer used to be slaughtered on the open air wich was less stressful but new legislation prohibited it – says reindeer owner Aslak Ante Sara.

11-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_214911. Man walks away with horns as three other man are getting ready to set the reindeer free. Horns are like human fingernails – cutting them doesn’t cause animal pain.

12-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_241012. Getting alt the reindeer together after summer, when they were walking freely in the mountains is a big family event.

13-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_240613. Young reindeer, born in the spring, now stands distracted in the middle of the heard.

14-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_243014. Three people struggle to catch and get control over reindeer. Males can weigh up to 90 kg in autumn and are not giving up easily.

15-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_246115. One of the members of Sara family walks inside the fence. Bandage made of duck tape covers some minor injuries.

16-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_247916. Reindeer owners work inside the fence while plates with numbers hand on the fence edge.

17-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_246817. Flock of reindeer eats grass, after being released from the main fence as they wait to continue they journey inland, where they will spend the winter.

18-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_247718. Young member of the Sara family.

19-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_249019. Time for a break. Reindeer owner Aslak Ante Sara talks to a friend over the phone.

20-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_249920. Male reindeer being skinned by a young woman from Sara family. Skin is peeled of the muscles with hands – it does require some strength but it’s easier to do this way the with a knife. Using knife would also damaged skin that has many uses – from cushioning sledges and lavo floor to providing extra income from sells to the tourists.

21-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_256221. Skinning the reindeer in progress.

22-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_252622. Half-skinned young reindeer lying on it’s own skin.

23-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_257723. Every bit of the animal is used – from skin, bones, horns to blood. Blood is gathered and used in traditional sausages.

24-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_251224. Nothing is wasted. Even skin from legs can be peeled and used as a part of skin shoes.

25-Zbigniew_Wantuch-Photo_Rein_Slakt_Finnmark_Arctic_Norway-IMG_259825. Caravans are popular summer accommodation for reindeer owners as they travel together with their herd thought largely unhabited areas.








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