National Geographic : 1954 Aug
Stop-and-Go Sail Around South Norway firm hold on third place-after the United States and the British Commonwealth-in tonnage of vessels in foreign trade. (Most Norwegian ships, of course, are built in for eign yards.) On a tonnage-per-capita basis Norway leads the world. And of Norway's total population of 3,500,000, some 50,000 are merchant seamen. Stavanger's First Bishop Was English From the varied tongues we overheard in streets and hotel lobbies it was easy to tell that Stavanger is a favorite tourist gateway to Nor way. Passenger liners linking Bergen and Newcastle, England, call here regularly. Ties with England are of long, long stand ing: Stavanger's centuries-old Cathedral was begun by an Englishman, the town's first bishop. We spent one night at Sola Strand Hotel, nestled in seaside dunes close to Stavanger's important Sola airport. A "gay fellow" in Norway is known as a glad laks (literally "happy salmon"). Sola Strand has dedicated a snack bar and beer parlor to this carefree type, calling the room "Den Glade Laks." A monster 60-pound salmon hanging on the wall is a reminder to anglers, gay and otherwise, of the rewards awaiting them in Norway's rushing streams. On the Sola beach, the evening of the Fourth of July, we fired aloft a dozen distress rockets bought in a ship chandlery. They were the only fireworks we could find with which to do honor to the day. Sola lies at the northern end of the flat Jaeren district, a geographic anomaly in Nor way. We drove through it returning to Deep Water at Tananger and next day, southward bound, skirted its coast. Jaeren, an extensive coastal plain, provides a shelf of fertility between sea and mountains. Its stone walls, tidy farms, and green fields reminded us of parts of southern England.* From the sea Jaeren appeared a sandy wreck-strewn waste, held together with heather and dune grass, wide open to the southwest gales. Yet inland its farms and pastures pro duce grain, hay, fruit, and vegetables. The district enjoys almost 300 frost-free days each year. Jaeren eggs are sold all over southern Nor way, and its sheep provide a fourth of the country's wool. Much of the bacon from Jaeren's annual "crop" of more than 20,000 hogs goes to Oslo and Bergen markets. The Viking chieftain, Erling Skjalgson, made his home in Jseren; he is credited with being Norway's first progressive employer, allowing his serfs to work their way out of bondage and become free men. A fair wind hustled us through the rock bound passage leading to Egersund. Round ing a bend, we were nonplused to find the way blocked by a caisson put down in the con struction of a bridge between the mainland and Eigergy. I was at the helm, taking the boat through the tortuous channel. "What shall we do?" I called out to navigator John Bull. "Can't get through," John shouted. "Come about! We'll have to hold up." It was a bad spot for maneuvering a fast moving yacht with a 7-foot reach of keel. But we managed to head into the wind while work men on the bridge obligingly pulled aside the obstacle to let us through. Egersund's harbor lay in the shadow of old warehouses. The neat town, known for its mackerel fishery and pottery output, is fast outgrowing its sea-level living space; new frame homes splash the hillsides. Ashore for a Can Opener Our ships' womenfolk went ashore to re plenish the larder with bread, cake, and sea trout. I headed for a grocer's shop to buy some canned pears and bottled orange juice. I needed also an extra can opener (one of our two having been dropped overboard) and asked the English-speaking grocer how to phrase my request at a hardware store. "It's called a hermetikkdpner," he said. "But wait. I'll get one for you." Before I could protest, the man scurried out of his shop. In three minutes he was back with an opener no bigger than a penknife. In Norway you become spoiled by this kind of spontaneous courtesy. The day we moved on to J0ssing Fjord was rainy and almost windless, so we motored along, hugging the cliffs and wallowing in the lop of an old sea. J0ssing Fjord's beetling precipices, under a dark, wet sky, loomed oppressively. At the head of the short fjord we all did a double take at the sight of two housewives hanging out the family wash in a pouring rain. Then we saw that the sheer cliff behind overhung enough to shelter completely homes, yards, * See "Country Life in Norway," by Axel H. Ox holm, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1939.