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There is a Google Data Center in Finland. There may not be polar bears.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012



I produced what I hoped was a nice and accurate account of my visit to the Google data center in Hamina, Finland. It included some anecdotes about the local fauna. Specifically, a story about a moose that got on the property before the fencing was completed, and a team laying fiber that encountered a polar bear.

It takes a lot to ruffle a Finn, but apparently the polar bear story has blown out the Nordic stoicism and caused an uproar. It’s worse than a Nokia earnings report.

Let me explain why I included the polar bear in my report. It was an anecdote told to me by a high-ranking Googler, without a smile on his face. He reported that the employees in question had to stay in their car until the polar bear went away. This interview was on the record and recorded, by the way.

I had no reason to doubt the account.  But I am somewhat willing to concede that he may be mistaken.   In my defense, by the time I heard this story, there was no way to go to the scene of the alleged sighting and check for polar bear squat.

Now for the moose issue. At least one indignant Finn added another correction to the piece. According to this correspondent, I was remiss in calling a moose…a moose. In Finland, he told me, they are called elks.

Sorry, but I’m not backing down on this. I may not know the difference between a moose and an elk, but I’m pretty sure there is a difference. What’s more, even the Googlers in Finland refer to the intruder in question as a moose. This rogue moose is somewhat of a legend at the Hamina data center. No one is calling it an elk. And the proof is in the picture below.


Meanwhile, via WikiAnswers I have learned that there are polar bears in Finland.  Three of them, in fact.  They are reportedly in the Ranua Wildlife Park, in the Artic Circle.  I cling to the possibility that climate change, or a need to check Gmail,  may have driven at least  one of these snowy ursine creatures southwards, where it immediately began scouting out the broadband situation. Not impossible!


  • The guy in the picture is definitely a bull moose–broad antlers, broad nose, dewlap. Elk look more like giant deer.

  • LOL. This reminds me about all those Conan O’brian jokes of Finland… which Finns took a bit too seriously. 😛

  • You shouldn’t take us Finns too seriously. The polar bear thing is a really popular myth that we always tell to foreigners especially the more south they are from. I’m sure they say the same stuff in Canada to pull your leg. I visited New York last year and joked about how there are sometimes polar bears running on the streets and people bought it, why not since it’s not like they know about Finland. Once they visit Finland I think people will realize there can’t be any polar bears around since it’s not exactly arctic. We have only regular brown bears and moose/elks (difference is mostly in American vs British spelling), which are fairly common and cause a lot of traffic accidents.

  • since people had no humor and corrected, the thing with polar bears, its an old joke, dont really know where it originated but was there at least in the 70s already

    most have seen a brown bear though, they are quite common, whereas not many in number they quite often like to show themselves to their two-legged friends

    to be sure to see one, visit kuusamo (not during winter when they prefer to sleep)

  • More than 700km (more than 430 miles) to check his mail ? I have some doubts 😉

    (but I don’t know anything about moose or polarbears, I life in warmer regions)

    Anyway, I do have a question:

    How many people does it take to run such a facility (or maybe you are not allowed to provide numbers like that ?).

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