National Geographic : 1947 Mar
Seen from Half Mile Up, 2,000 Fishing Boats LIKE the spiny vertebrae of a gigantic, nearly submerged dinosaur, rocky Lofoten Islands emerge from the sea off Norway's fjord-indented northwest coast. Alplike peaks make a mighty backdrop, dwarfing islanders, their boats, and scat tered fishing towns. To the Lofotens, as to all northern Europe, Nature gave one great boon-the Gulf Stream Drift. This mighty ocean current, flowing north be tween Iceland and Britain, tempers Lofoten climate, keeps ports ice-free, nurtures myriad schools of valuable fish. Between islands and mainland lies stormy Vest fjorden, 50 miles wide at its southern entrance, funneling northeastward to narrow, cliff-bound straits. Into Vestfjorden every February flows a sea of silvery cod to spawn. Then gather Viking fishermen from every port in Norway to reap a glistening finny harvest. O lmfliart NilssO from Black Star Black Out a Tiny Lofoten Harbor (Center) Fishing towns like Svolvaer, Kabelvag, and Hen ningsvaer (above) bulge with five times their normal population. During the six-week season the Vestfjorden be comes the world's most concentrated fishing area. Some 7,000 boats bob on its choppy waters. An army in oilskins, 30,000 strong, fights time, wind, and weather to bring in the catch. Though some North Atlantic fishing banks yield more cod the year around, Lofoten fisheries produce the world's largest seasonal catches. The first post war season, 1946, yielded a bumper crop of over 165,000 tons for hungry Europe. Fishermen re membered that prewar catches averaged 95,000 tons. Fishing is all-year work for nearly all Norway's 125,000 fishermen. Leaving Lofoten, some follow cod farther north; others re-equip to catch herring, brisling, saithe, or salmon. Then island towns settle back for ten quiet months.