Finnmark county is Norway's northernmost county, the largest county of Norway by area, but smallest by population. The prefix "Finn" from Finne means "Fin" or "Saami," and "mark" means "settled border area."
Finnmark county, which has an area of 48,637 km2 (18,778 sq mi) has its coastline along the Arctic Ocean and the Barents Sea, its borderline in the east to Russia, in the south to Finland, and in the west to the Troms county. The county includes 2760 km of coastline and 1261 islands. Midnight Sun in Finnmark occurs from May 11 to July 31 (North Cape) and May 30 to July 11 (Alta); the Dark Period occurs from November 18 to January 24 (North Cape) and November 23 to January 19 (Alta).
The northernmost point in Norway and mainland Europe is Knivskjellodden, located at 71°11'8'' N. The North Cape (Nordkapp)—discovered and named by Richard Chancellor in 1553 on the island of Mager0y (since 1999 connected by undersea tunnel)—is slightly further south at 71°10'21'' N. The North Cape features impressive cliffs rising 307 m above the Atlantic Ocean. The easternmost point in Norway is the island Horn0ya located at 31°10'4'' E.
The landscape in Finnmark is different from the other parts of Norway. The fjords are wide and open with flat peninsulas between them, falling steep at the coast, east of North Cape without skerries. Between the fjords and the Finnmarksvidda (Finnmark mountain plateau or Finnmark Plain, 300-400 m), old sandstone formations are folded and pressed upward, forming a number of pyramid-shaped mountains (Gaissene). Tana River, Kautokeino River, and Alta River are the three major watercourses running out from the plateau and in long fjords into the sea. The mighty Alta, running through Europe's largest canyon, is a rich salmon river; up to 20 tons of salmon are caught here every summer. The construction of a hydroelectric power station caused violent protests from the local Saami reindeer herders in the early 1970s.
North of the Alta Fjord, on the island of Seiland, Norway's two northernmost glaciers, Seilandsj0kelen
and Nordmannsj0kelen, are located. The highest point in Finnmark is the Svartfjellj0kelen mountain at 1218 m.
Finnmark's large geographic area, a complex coastline, and the long fjords cause substanial regional differences in the climate. The warm Gulf Stream keeps the coast ice-free, with a temperature in February between -2°C and -7°C, while the inland climate is more continental with long periods with temperatures around -15°C (the lowest temperature ever measured was -51.4°C in Karasjok on January 1,1886). The average summer temperature is 10-12°C along the coast and around 14°C inland (temperatures above 30°C occur during the summer). The annual precipitation is 600-1000 mm along the coast and 300-500 mm inland.
Around the Alta Fjord, it is possible to grow free land vegetables like carrots and potatoes; turnips can be grown on a commercial basis. The world's northernmost pine forest is located in the Stabbursdalen National Park (803 km2). Finnmark's other two national parks are 0vre Anarjakka National Park (1399 km2) and 0vre Pasvik National Park, where brown bears live (67 km2).
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