Snowbound Southbound, Part Two

Peter Knego’s latest Norwegain coastal trek continues aboard Hurtigruten’s MV TROLLFJORD.  Highlights include a stop at Stokmarknes, home of the Hurtigruten Museum and an exclusive visit to the 1912-built SS FINNMARKEN’s salvaged promenade deck, currently under restoration.


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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.

Monday, February 25, 2016

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MV NORDLYS at Harstad.

I awoke to the gentle vibration of the TROLLFJORD’s thrusters as she maneuvered into Harstad (population 23,000) at 8:00 AM, parting the curtains just in time to catch a view of our northbound fleetmate, the 1993-built NORDLYS before we spun around into the berth behind her.

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Creping on the FJORD.

Unable to get back to sleep, I would spend the rest of the morning documenting the ship (see prior post for a Decked! top-to-bottom look at the TROLLFJORD) after fueling up with a full breakfast in the Saga Hall Restaurant. Hurtigruten provides a great breakfast spread with Continental trimmings like eggs, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses, fruit and cereal as well as Nordic bites like herring, salmon and the caramel-like gjetost spread.

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MV TROLLFJORD Restaurant Saga Hall, facing forward/port.

As with the rest of the ship, the Saga Hall is a light, airy space with pleasant millennial Scandinavian decor.

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A very short port call and a torrent of slush prevented me from wandering ashore at tiny Risoyhamn (population 200) but I did manage to get out onto the icy quay at Sortland (4,600 inhabitants) for a shot or two of the TROLLFJORD just as CMV’s MAGELLAN (ex HOLIDAY) motored in. With a little more than an hour before our next port, Stokmarknes, I headed back aboard and directly to the Saga Hall to consume the lion’s share of its salad bar offerings.

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Approaching Stokmarknes.

On the Southbound sailings, there is an hour long call at Stokmarknes, home to the Hurtigruten Museum. One of the finest maritime museums in the world, it is not only filled with artifacts from the great Hurtigruten ships of the past, it is also home to the preserved Hurtigruten liner FINNMARKEN (ii) of 1956. On my last visit, I did my best to document all I could of that now land-locked ship in the time provided, getting just enough footage to illustrate a Ships Monthly feature that was published in December of 2015.

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MV TROLLFJORD at Stokmarknes.

I was one of the first to disembark the brilliantly lit TROLLFJORD, taking care not to slip on the ice and fresh snow pack in an effort to get a good shot before the sun dipped behind Stokmarknes.

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FINNMARKEN in the snow.

I gingerly circled around the curvaceous hull of the FINNMARKEN, which despite being subjected to some pretty extreme weather, manages to glisten beautifully in fresh black and red paint.

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My lightweight Southern California running shoes served me well as I snapped a last bow view from a small jetty off her port side before heading to the museum’s entrance, where my TROLLFJORD ID would not grant free access to the museum (as my LOFOTEN ID had only two years prior). With my backpack still in Tromso, all I had to my name was that 11 Kroner, far short of the 35 Kroner entry fee needed. Fortunately, I had my Ships Monthly magazine to barter with and was granted permission to visit the man who helped me with some technical information, her former master Captain Sten Magne Engen.

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Captain Sten Magne Engen and Ships Monthly.

Captain Engen gave me a very warm welcome and even showed me renderings of the striking glass structure that will eventually be built around the FINNMARKEN, which is the largest preserved “object” in all of Norway. I will be doing a full, long-overdue Trek about the FINNMARKEN at some point in the near future.

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During my prior, equally hurried visit to the museum, I had somehow missed the preserved promenade deck of the first, 1912-built FINNMARKEN. When I mentioned that to the captain, he said, “I will show you!”, leading me outside to the landing just aft of the suspended FINNMARKEN (ii) to a corrugated metal structure. The first FINNMARKEN loyally served the Hurtigruten route from 1912 until 1956, when she became the training ship GANN.

SS FINNMARKEN of 1912. Image courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Her entire promenade deck was removed when she was scrapped in Holland in 1960.  The Smoking Room was preserved in Bergen and the rest of the ship’s interior was taken to the Villa Finnmarken in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.  In 2003, both parts were shipped to the Hurtigruten Museum, where they are now in the process of a full restoration.

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As workers scurried around us with saws, sanders and other gear, the good captain took me through the various lounges, pointing out where missing bits would be recreated with the same materials and, whenever possible, the same methods of craftsmanship.

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There is even a grand staircase made of beautifully carved mahogany that will surely be likened to that of the TITANIC, which of course, was built in the same year.

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FINNMARKEN stateroom.

On the upper of the two levels, there was a row of partially preserved staterooms that are also under full renovation.

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FINNMARKEN stern 3/4.

As the TROLLFJORD sounded her whistle, warning that she was ready to depart, I bade the kind captain goodbye, hoping to return again to see both FINNMARKENs and to spend more time in the museum, itself.

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MV TROLLFJORD bridge, facing starboard.

Shortly after sailing, our press group was welcomed to the bridge as the TROLLFJORD made her southerly way along Norway’s rugged Vesteralen coastline.

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Sunset near Trollfjord.

On summer sailings, the southbound ships sail directly into Trollfjord, a tiny but dramatic glacial inlet that is only 2 kilometers long but surrounded by walls of vertical rock that tower hundreds of meters above.

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From TROLLFJORD to Trollfjord.

In the winter, with its dense snowpack creating an avalanche threat, Trollfjord is too dangerous to sail into. Instead, the MV TROLLFJORD made a pivot around her namesake fjord and then sailed onward into the spectacular Raftsundet.

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Raftsundet sunset.

The Raftsundet is a narrow strait linking Vesteralen in the north to Lofoten in the south. For the next hour or so, the TROLLFJORD sailed through a majestic sound surrounded by the jagged islands of Lofoten.

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TROLLFJORD deck glow.

Our time aboard the handsome MV TROLLFJORD was nearing its end. Moments after she tied up at the port of Svolvaer, we were rolling our luggage ashore to the adjacent Thon Hotel, where a gourmet dinner and a good night’s sleep awaited.

Tuesday, February 26, 2016

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Svolvaer morning.

We would have an entire day in Svolvaer before boarding the KONG HARALD that evening. As we were enjoying our short segment on the TROLLFJORD, the refurbished KONG HARALD motored straight from her Bergen shipyard to Tromso, where she would embark guests (and hopefully my forgotten backpack) on a partial southbound voyage.

Lofoten was in its full glory as we headed off on a boat for a morning fishing excursion.

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Fishing expedition.

Although the temperature was frigid in the wind, the sun was brilliant and the seas were utterly calm as our boat sped into the sound on another Hurtigruten excursion.

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Poles readied.

The chill quickly finished off my drained camera batteries. As the indicator flashed red, my camera shut down just before the adventure kicked into full swing.  Hopefully, one of my comrades will share some photos of our fishing exploits. We would literally drop our lines into the water and within moments, a fish was caught. I managed to bring in five, including one of the day’s largest, which gave me quite a workout to reel in. And if that weren’t enough, there were the gulls and sea eagles that followed us, diving into the sea and hovering alongside for our rejected fish bits…

Back at the hotel, our chef chopped and sizzled our spoils into a magnificent feast with all the trimmings.

A frozen yours truly by Ryazan Tristam 2016.

I was in suspended animation without a camera, doing my best to absorb the beauty around us as we headed out again for a walk around Svolvaer. We crossed a long bridge and meandered through a snowy neighborhood to the stockades of pungent, drying fish as the mountains behind us turned varying shades of salmon and violet. Fortunately, a fellow blogger, the lovely Ryazan Tristam, was kind enough to take my photo moments before I slid off onto my derriere.

Early that evening, we regrouped for a quick visit to Svolvaer’s Ice Museum with its myriad carvings before the KONG HARALD came and whisked us off.  As we stepped into her newly revitalized entry lobby, I was promptly informed that, thanks to a forgetful clerk at the Scandic Hotel, my backpack was never delivered to the ship in Tromso. My life without an identity, money, battery chargers, phone, computer and just about everything essential would continue…

End of Snowbound Southbound, Part Two

Much more to come…

Special thanks: Lauren Frye, Elliot Gillies, Oystein Knoph, Ryazan Tristam, Runar Larsen

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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