National Geographic : 1930 Jul
NORWAY, A LAND OF STERN REALITY the fisher folk of Norway busy nearly every month in the year. Norwegian fisheries have developed from small beginnings, when little wooden boats put out a mile or two from the shore, scrabbling for a meager catch of herring. Now great steel powerboats make catches of Io,ooo barrels of fish in a day. Once estimated by the pound, the catch is now estimated by the ton. NORWAY DOMINATES THE WHALING INDUSTRY Norway has come largely to control the world's whaling industry, once a great American business, with Yankee ships sailing from New England ports. About the turn of the century it looked as if the whaling business the world over was doomed to early extinction. Defenseless monsters, the poor whales do not get an even break! Nature ironically dooms them by causing them to signal their own destruction. If whales were equipped to remain beneath the surface even as long as the modern submarine, they would be more than a match for the energetic Nor wegians, with their big steel ships and long-range harpoon guns. Improved devices for catching whales constitute one reason why the Norwegian whaling business is becoming more profit able to-day. "Canst thou draw out levia than with an hook?" To this rhetorical question the Norwegians respond by actu ally drawing with hooks these huge ani mals out of the deep and into the hulls of the great mother ships which render the carcasses into oil, fertilizer, and whale bone. The chief theater of operations is in the Antarctic (see pages Io and 23). It would take the power of the poet Coleridge, that sensitive interpreter of bad smells, to render justice to those of a Nor wegian floating fish factory. Perhaps these hardy Norse sailors become habitu ated to bad smells and cease to perceive them in the sense that the operator of a hurdy-gurdy ceases to hear the tunes of detestable sweetness ground out on his machine. If unpleasant, like good, smells had a commercial value, the theater of the world's perfumery industry would shift from France to Norway. It will suffice to remark, however, that Norway's produc tion of whale oil rose from 19 million pounds in 1906 to 311 million pounds in 1927. The Norwegian annual herring catch would load a solid train of steel gondola cars reaching from New York to Phila delphia, or, if converted to Norwegian cars, a solid train 300 miles long. It would require at least double these train lengths to handle the annual catch of whales. The Norwegian flag flies on ships in all the seven seas and in all ports of the world. Norway possesses the world's greatest per capita marine tonnage. As neutrals in the World War the Norwegians suffered the fortune of the innocent bystander who gets hurt. Half their merchant vessels were sunk by submarines and some 2,000 Nor wegian sailors perished. The country's shipping recovery has been dramatically sudden. Despite its catastrophic losses the present tonnage shows an increase of 25 per cent over pre war. The new ships are of better quality, too. The Norwegian motor-ship fleet ranks second in the world. Laggards in modern industrialism, the Norwegians buy their ships from England and Ger many cheaper than they can build them. Ship purchases constitute one of the larg est items in Norway's international trade balance. SEA ADVENTURE ATTRACTS THE NORWEGIAN The ubiquitous, semi-amphibious Nor wegian sailor is found where sea adven ture calls. Seven members of Admiral Byrd's Antarctic expedition are Norwe gians. The pilot of the Byrd plane that flew across the South Pole was a Norwe gian. The crews of our Pacific halibut fishing boats are chiefly recruited from Norwegians. Craving the stark realities of life, the Norwegians have little use for the insipidities of drawing-room life. Like the Finns, they bear upon them the marks of struggle, privation, endurance. Their literature and painting from early times interpret the stern realities of strug gle with titanic forces. Their men of let ters hold with the British poet: "We are not May-day masquers, thou and I ! We have lived deep life, We have drunk of tragic springs!"