M. A Wyllie.

Norway and its fjords online

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to stone."

Those who doubt the foregoing should go to the spot.
There is the mounted Hestmann, there is the perforated
sou'-wester, and beyond it the drooping fair one, all turned
to stone. There are the messengers, a long procession of
low rocky islands, reaching from the Hestmann to his love,
and there are the Seven Sisters in stony stillness looking

As we steam along the coast the great inland chain
of snowy mountains comes in view. The valleys, descend-
ing, can be seen, with a telescope, filled with glaciers,
from the Svartisen above. This is an enormous expanse


of snow and ice, resembling the Justedal and the Folge-
fond, Svartisen covers a plateau about 4000 feet in

Then on we went, by a smiling island, where Captain
Thompson, who is nothing if not kind, slowed, as a
homestead came in view. A big white farmhouse, with
outbuildings, stood in some acres of the greenest of grass,
with a little pier jutting into the water, alongside of
which lay a boat. From afar, as we threaded our way up
the fjord, the pilot had had his glasses turned on this spot,
that was home to him. The steamer's great throttle sent
out a mighty hoot. No one appeared. The next hoot
brought a boy to the pier, who let go the boat's painter ;
and the third hoot brought Madam herself, hastily
buttoning her bodice. She was a stout lady, fair-haired
and comely. Our captain shook his head as he remarked,
" I won't wait for her another time. A year ago now,
when I first slowed, she was waiting in mid-stream. The
next, she was just coming down the jetty ; and this time
I have had to wait. I won't wait again, I can tell

The meeting did not seem to move the pilot much; I felt
as though we should not look. The moment the boat
was alongside, the pilot had climbed down the Jacob's
ladder, and with a spring was on board, stooping to kiss
the small child. She pulled her face away. He desisted
at once, took his wife's hand and said a few words to
her, with his eyes fixed on her face. One hand-shake,
and he was again on the ladder. The small boy pulled
off, and poor Madam, shading her eyes with one hand,
waved the other. This was all, after six months'
separation !

The Lofotens, the group of islands we were now
approaching, lie somewhat to the north of the polar


circle, and consist of eruptive rocks. Only a few years
ago it was found that the islands were not only granite
and syenite, as was believed, but that they were formed
to a great extent of gabbro and kindred rocks.

Towards midnight the sky that had been gradually
getting yellow seemed to glow. Shade after shade, each
more intense than the other, followed, till the whole
heaven was a vivid flame colour reddening as it neared
the peaks. The effect was glorious. Out of a blue
mist that hung along the sea rose the grandest cluster
of rugged granite. The mountains sprang up like a
range of phantoms 3000 to 4000 feet high, breaking
at their summits into countless multitudes of jagged
points. They looked like some great shark's jaw, of
a bluish tint at first, which gradually darkened, till
the whole was a black silhouette against the glowing

Passing through these Lofoten Islands, rising out
of the sea on one side, and the mighty mountain
ranges of the mainland on the other, was like steaming
right into the grandest fairy tales of the people,
more especially when the glow of the midnight sun
suffused with infinite splendour those parts of the
mountain on which it rested, leaving the other parts
in an inexpressible chill.

This is one picturesque side of the Lofotens, the
background to the mighty fishing industry that costs
more lives every year than if the country was in the
midst of war. To us, the suffering and privations, the
roughness of the living, and the cold of the water,
would seem hardships indeed ; but the Norseman has
won his adjective of "hardy." From near and far he
drifts to the fishing grounds, where, when all is said
and done, he makes but a poor living, earning but


Is. 6d. to Is. 9d. a day. For that he must catch
some four hundred cod to make what is considered a
good day's fishing ; this for a net and boat with two
hands. A line fisherman considers he has done well
if his catch amounts to two hundred. All along the
shore are the boat stations, havens with the necessary
buildings and stores. Lodgings are scarce for the men,
who during the first few months of the year number
some 40,000. Think what it must be to sleep standing
back to back, like herring in a barrel, in a close, stifling
atmosphere. Sometimes not even able to get that
amount of accommodation, the poor fellows have to
walk back to their open boats, their clothes frozen
stiff. Covering themselves with what odds and ends
they can find, they sleep, as only an overtired man
can. Small wonder that many a man and lad catches
his death of cold.

It seems to me that, like the lemming, these fishermen
cannot keep away from the call of the sea. Some prosaic
people say that it is the hope of great and immediate
profit that carries them through all discomforts and
dangers, and tempts generation after generation to
follow on the same path. I would rather be let to
think that it is the same call from the sea that their
Viking forefathers obeyed for centuries.

Not so very long ago they used to sail all the way
from their land-girt fjords to the great fishing ground.
Now boat and crew go by steamer, and once on board
the merry, exciting life begins. They meet friends and
comrades at the different stations, where old stories are
told and re-told, and old times revived by lively briny
conversation. Card-playing, betting and drinking take
place, and many dances with the girls, who on Sundays
come long distances for a swing round. These join

228 tOrfisk and klipfisk

the lasses who are employed gutting the fish. One
excellent rule obtains amongst these men. The best
man on board is chosen as skipper, never mind what
his status may be on shore, whether master or servant.
Even should the owner of the boat and gear accompany
it as one of the crew, he, like everyone else, is bound
to obey the skipper, who steers the boat and superintends
the fishing.

Up to a few years ago, the fishing was principally
carried on in open boats, but every year now sees
decked boats and smacks used in the deep-sea fishing.
In the newer boats the men can live on board, and find
shelter in the cabins. Acres and acres of rock are
covered with the split fish lying out to dry in the sun,
with here and there a stack ready for shipment. A
queer harvest it looks, that might easily be mistaken
for hayricks at a distance. Near to these stacks, and
drying acres, are huge boilers where the cod-livers
stew most odoriferously. The sight of the day is to
see the boats push off to sea and return in the evening.
Assembled in their hundreds, the men are as busy as
bees with their fishing tackle and gear awaiting the
signal. As soon as this is given they all push out to
sea together, for the various fishing grounds.

The preparation of salting cod was introduced by
English merchants in the seventeenth century, and
gradually outstripped the ancient product Torfisk. The
Klipfisk is split, salted, and dried on the ground.
Torfisk are gutted and hung in pairs by the tail, and
dried on wooden scaffolds called "hjell," seen continually
by the sides of the fjords. According to ancient rules,
no fish was to be hung on the hurdles before the 12th
of April, or taken down before the 12th of June.

Just to give an idea of the quantity of dried fish


exported, I quote one year's total from the official
publication : —


To Spain 28,450 tons

„ Germany 8,720 ,,

,, Great Britain and Ireland . 5,620 ,,

„ Italy 1,940 „

„ Portugal and Madeira . . 2,450 „


To Sweden 2,320 tons

„ Italy and Austria . . , 4,950

„ Holland 3) 500

„ Germany 3,280

,, Great Britain and Ireland . 2,730

,, Russia and Finland . . . 850

„ Belgium 170

The weather, I think it must have been, that had
entered into the soul, and accounted for the sense of
rest and beauty that enveloped the world this perfect
morning. The air was gentle and warm, the sun was
shining on the beautiful white decks and the ship just
gliding through the glass-like water. There were no
more dark fjords with wall-like mountains. A broad
stretch of water lay shimmering before us ; the moun-
tains receded in the distance, their hollows, crannies,
and snows covered by a pale blue haze ; while the green
undulating land was more like our own rolling downs.
Add to this a pair of blue-tinted spectacles through
which Nature was looking this fair morning. Blue sky,
blue haze, blue mountains, and blue water, and if you
can, imagine the perfect day.

We w ere not the only people to feel it : a sense
of rest had come over the whole ship. Cook's agent
had no excursion. The Sund was shallow, and till the


tide was high there was not sufficient water for this
great ship, so she ghded on, barely ripphng the

It was with much the same feehng as that of the boys
who on a very hot day lay in the shade of a tree and
ate apples, whilst the youngest was made to stand
in the sun by way of contrast, so that his heat and
weariness should make the others feel cooler and more
rested, that we on the ship, under the awnings, watched
Sambo, on one end of a long plank, on his back, washing
the bottom of one of the boats. Another black gentle-
man was at the other end, painting as if for a wager,
swinging his legs in time to a little chant that he sang.
Squatted on the deck was a Lascar, quietly chipping
the rust off a ring bolt, that had not escaped the first
officer's vigilant eye, and from the open windows of the
music-room came voices in unison. Right forward a
knot of people sat in comfortable attitudes on their
deck chairs, some with Baedeker's Guide open on their
knee, telling off" each rock, bay and mountain, as we
passed. Others worked at some little flippant piece
of sewing, just to say they were not idle ; and others
still lay well back, with cap pulled over their faces,
going back to everyday life, in the prosaic land of

So we steamed through Vaags Fjord, into Solberg
Fjord, enjoying every inch of the way ; twisting and
turning through the narrow Gi Sund at the head of
the Solberg. Once again the mountains rose as we
passed the island of Senjen on our left, and crossed
the Malangen Fjord that ran athwart our course; then
on round the curve that leads to Tromso Sund.

A considerable tide was setting in, the buoys coming
up and passing quickly, with quite a ripple round them.


Here it was that one of the terrible maelstrom was
supposed to lead ships to their destruction. But this
whirlpool, like the sea serpent, has died a natural death.
The pilot scoffed at the idea, and suggested that this
useful knowledge was imported, as it was not to be
found on Norwegian charts. The stream is there, no
doubt, but to anyone used to the tide at the mouth of
Portsmouth harbour it seems but a sluggish cun-ent.

The streets of Tromso are in no way interesting. There
are some good fur shops, however. Evidently it is a
busy trading place, if one may judge by the many vessels
anchored there. Outside the town the green is luxuriant,
and inside every house has some attempt at window-
gardening. Geraniums, cacti, myrtles, and such - like
foreigners, bloom and flourish under careful tending.

According to the pilot, the growth is wonderful : birch
trees now in full leaf were quite bare only a couple of
weeks ago. There is no closing of the blossoms at night-
fall here, no vegetable repose, no halting of the upward
movement of the sap, but one unceasing development,
stimulated throughout by the continuous sunbeams.
Then comes the long, long winter's sleep, and darkness,
until the next short one-day summer awakens.

Tromso stands on the oldest rocks of the globe. The
anchorage where we now lay, in full sight of the town, was
snug and protected. Red-roofed houses and picturesque
groups of fishing cabins lined the water-side, jostling
the great warehouses and boat- builders'' yards. The
new moon stood over pink-flushed Bensjordtind. The
sea was calm ; the air still and warm ; the sky to the
south one bright luminous haze of purple and yellow.
The mountains and snow-wreaths glowed with that
strange rosy fire of which Alpine travellers rave.

Level northern rays threw long blue shadows on the


quiet sound. The chatter of the gulls and the splashing
of the fish that rose and flickered all round us were the
only sounds that broke the silence. As the sun sailed
along the horizon the shadows wheeled, but the colours
remained. Sunset-glow deepened till it reached its
greatest depth ; then rosy sunrise gradually faded into
the bright light of a summer day. Thus visible all at
once from the ship's deck are evening and morning,
night and day, sunrise and sunset, seen together, though
definitely separated by the north midnight glow.

It was past eleven, and still the artist continued his
sketch ; midnight was going to strike as he lifted his head,
holding the water colour away from him, and remarked,
" I can't see as much as I did, so shall leave off." But
there were the last touches to put, and before these were
finished, the cooler grey of another day lit up the town.
Why there should be such differences I am not able to
say ; why the sun's rays in passing westward should tint
the sky with warm, languid, evening colours, while those
that at the same moment start upwards towards the
east should look so cool and grey and wakeful, I cannot
tell ; but here they are, side by side in unmistakable

Palest blue sky without a cloud, and the jagged peaks
jut out of the snow wreaths, which curve and swell into
every possible fantastic shape. Out of each hollow in the
mountains the glaciers push downward, sometimes
poised right on the edge of a precipice, glittering like
emerald, and curling like the waves of some mighty
frozen ocean. The crannies in the rocks are filled with
snow right down to the water's edge, and the heat mist
which partly veils the base of the grey rocks and hangs
in horizontal wreaths, makes them appear the more


p *


We steam past jag after jag. Here the pinnacles
cluster like armed knights springing up among the
cliffs, there a tall arrow-headed rent stands almost
upright, filled with a glacier that seems to be falling
headlong from the heights above. Up against the
blue it is smooth and white, tipping quietly over with
a clean curve to the crest, where it breaks into thousands
of pale green cracks and cliffs. Now it is squeezed
between two upright masses of rock, and takes a twist to
the left, corrugating and shrivelling the surface as though
there were eddies and backwaters in this seemingly
motionless torrent. There is farther down another
smooth acre or two, which again below breaks up into
peaks and ridges glistening like jewels.

Though flung so widely, there is order in the seams,
which follow each other curve for curve. Suddenly, in
the midst of its career, down the cleft the glacier comes to
an end, and from it fine streams spring into space ; thread-
like at first, and then falling with a rhythmic patter, they
at last become nothing but a thin cloud of misty vapour.
Lower down still there is a basin into which the falling
mist gathers once more, and turns into a silver vein,
which sub-dividing again, dashes down a pyramid of
fallen rocks and boulders into the fjord.

Now we are passing a huge bluff of cold grey silurian
stone, seamed and worn by the frosts and snows of ages,
stained russet and purple in patches. It is everywhere
covered, on the flatter surfaces, by loose stones, and
great piles of debris lean against the almost upright
sides, with just here and there a little clinging grass.

Next there is a big sugar-loaf; the whole west side
seems to be weai'ing away in one great cataract of
rolling stones. Looking back, we see the whole of the
peaks in a vista one behind the other, the snow glistening


bright in the sun, and cold and blue in the shadow.
Miles away in the misty distance we discover the highest
rocks only ; the rest is vapour.

Following the coast as we had been doing, the Alpine
forms disappeared in the Trondhjem depression, only
to reappear as soon as Nordland began. Here we had
again come into the well-known scenery, and a more
majestic panorama it is impossible to find than the wild
gabbro mountains of Lyngen in the glow of the midnight
sun. Away from the sun lay the bay, a faint pink opal,
the mountains the palest blue ; the two colours mixed
and reflected in the calm water. The glorious sun !
who can describe it, the red glow in the sky, the pink
haze along the foot of the mountains, the glowing
peaks drawing out one after the other, and the mist
making the whole look like transparencies.

The mountain behind which was the sun, stood up, a
deep blue black. The sun drew nearer and nearer to
the edge, disclosing a wonderful peak, a wall sheer
down into the fjord. Soon in all its glory it blazed
over the top, reflecting a ladder of light across the sea.
The waters of the fjord turned to the palest steel with
streaks of orange on the tops of the waves left by our
screw and the over-ripple. A shoal of porpoises slowly
diving were so much the colour of the ripple that it
was difficult to tell one from the other.

As we neared Lyngen the sweet smell of the firs was
wafted towards us from the shore, mixing with the
freshness of the coming day, that was again intensifying
the glow in the sky. I shall always associate Lyngen
with the smell of the firs : never had I known it sweeter.
On two sides they encircled us, growing thickly on the
first ridge that followed the valley. It is a town of
some importance, boasting two hotels, a church, a pastor,


a doctor, a lensmand, and a proud peasantry, to say
nothing of a Lapp settlement,

Lyngen lies, like most of the other towns, enclosed in
mountains on three sides, with the usual little white
wooden church with a squat black roof, and many white
houses dotted about. A pebbly beach circles the shore
with rough grass growing to the edge, on Avhich many
boats were pulled up. To one side of the boats were the
"hjell" for drying the Torfisk, and along the shore
wandered the ponies, nibbling the grass whilst waiting
for their masters, who had come in from the country
round to church. Many people had assembled, for a
bishop had come to confirm some of the Lapps, who in
twos and threes were walking about the main street ;
wonderful little people these, and so fully aware of the
note of colour needful for their grey surroundings.
The carioles and stolkjaerres were in lines round the
church, and the good people seemed to me almost as
interested in the Lapps as we were. Many streamed
along on the dusty road, in the company of the Vecti
on their way to the camp. The Lapps had chosen well.
Their camping ground was a mound covered with
short grass, and fir trees with a babbling stream to one
side and a thicket on the other, where the reindeer
browsed and were milked.

There were some twenty or more Lapps — such funny
little men with red-gold beards, and hair that grew
like our friend the Golliewog''s. They dressed in deep
blue cloth caftans, with bright red, yellow, and green
stripes round the edges. A four-cornered hat, the points
of which turned up or down like the ears of a rabbit,
adorned the men's heads. Their bundled-up gaitered
legs and feet, and the broad leather belt fastened very
low down, gave them impossibly long bodies and short


legs. These Lapps must have been fairly well off, as
they had plenty of silver ornaments about them, and the
women odd-shaped silver spoons, that they kept tucked
in the bosom of their gown. Being dressed in cloth, too,
was a sign of their wealth, meaning that they had two
suits, the poorer Lapp only having the one of fur, like
some of the small children, who gamboled about for all
the world like Baby Bunting in his rabbit skin.

It was evident, at a first glance, that hot weather
does not suit these people. They shone as they sat
or walked in a perpetual state of oily fusion. I cannot
think what they can have felt like in their huts in such
a restricted area and in such weather. One can imagine
that on the bleak cold fjelds such close quarters might
be a source of comfort to its inhabitants ; how a sense
of warm, loving snugness might exist among a heap of
these little people, when all huddled together on the
floor round the centre fire during the long darkness of
their bitter winter-time. On a day like this — well, it did
not look comfortable.

The women were clothed like the men, all but the cap,
which consisted of a skull-cap with lappets at the side,
the top being scarlet, blue, or violet, with bands of many-
coloured strips, and edged off close to the face with a
little common white lace. The owner of this cap also
had a handsome though gaudy tartan silk shawl over a
woollen one, little bits of odd gold ornament on her belt,
and a silver spoon.

We had some trouble to make her sit for her portrait,
but she did in the end, and felt virtuous. A little man
had been hanging in a dangerous way, with his family,
over our shoulders, greatly interested in the work ; she
insisted on his sitting for his likeness also.

When he was seated, his wife took the long pipe she


was smoking out of her mouth, pushed it rapidly into his,
dumped the baby on his knee, ran into the hut to fetch
the baby's new and still more brilliant cap with a red
bob on the top. She wrapped a big comforter round its
neck, and only then sat down contented with herself,
taking a puff at a friend's pipe now and then.

" The Lapps, who are generally called Finns in Norway,
are a brachycephalic race, which, however, is very clearly
distinguished anthropologically from the short-skulled
type found among the true Norwegians." " The cranium
is lower, more rounded, and with weak muscular attach-
ments. The face is very broad across the cheekbones,
tapering away to a weak chin, the nose flat, with a broad
base, and the mouth large." The skin is dark, but I
doubt me through dirt and exposure, as Mr. Hansen
states that "the skin except in children is rather

I talked and smiled to the baby whilst our artist
sketched the group. The little thing was wailing, and
looked as if it longed to be loosed from its coverings and
lacings. Its little pale flat face was turned up to the
sun, which made the weak eyes water and glued the red
lids. Expressing my meaning by mute action, I pleaded,
" Do unlace it," which the woman did with a grin. I was
alarmed. The tiny thing caught hold of my two
fingers and sat up. All its little wrappings fell off, and
laid bare a white, plump, perspiring body, quite as pale
and clean as any English baby. I kissed and tickled it,
making it laugh, to the joy of the camp.

" The hair is generally chestnut brown, but quite as
often fair as dark. The growth of hair on the men's
faces is weak and shaggy, generally confined to the upper
lip and a little on the chin. The eyes are quite as often
light as dark, are deep-set, sometimes obliquely placed


under heavy, often inflamed eyelids," The stature of the
pure Lapp is very small, not averaging more than five
feet ; to this is added a slender frame, round chest,
and but slight muscular development, bow legs, short
broad feet and a waddling gait. How far the fairness
is due to the long-continued crossing with Scandinavians,
it is difficult to determine ; but the shorter-skulled half
of Mantegazza*'s Lapps were if anything fairer than the
less short-skulled. In any case, however, the Lapps form
a very distinct race, having their nearest relatives among
the Mongolian tribes.

Nansen in his first crossing of Greenland had ample
time to study the two Lapps, Balto and Ravna, who
accompanied him. The first named he calls a " River
Lapp " ; these are generally people of some size and have
much Finn blood in them, and are of average height. Balto,
an intelligent fellow, did everything he undertook with
great energy, showed some power of endurance, was
willing to lend a hand at any job, whilst his read}' tongue

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