The history of the Hurtigruten-Shipping-Line
It is the year 1891, there are only two insufficient maps for the sea area at the north of Trondheim, and barely 28 beacons that emit their spare light. In the land that is blocked by massive mountains and deeply penetrating fjords, the transport facilities are more than insufficient. Snow, the long winter nights and the massive north-south expansion of the country provide more difficulties. Numerous coastal areas are, no matter of the season, not accessible from the country at all.
Due to this problem, the experienced captain Richard With developed the plan to arrange a shipping route between the north and the south of the country. Some people considered him to be mad when he announced that this route is going to be sailed according to a determined schedule during all seasons, as also during night and day.
Of course, there was a shipping traffic alongside the Norwegian coast since time memorial, it was just this "way to the north" that gave Norway its name and for centuries, the active trade between the north and the south of the country was done with the help of the typical northland boats. Sometimes, there was also a passenger that joined the freight; Also the mail was transported by ship. Storm experienced men rowed little boats in scales alongside the coast up to the northern Finnmark. But everything was left to chance, these are the weather conditions. Additionally, the ships were not in use during the nights, this meant to the far north that there was practically no shipping traffic at all.
This also did not change much when from the year 1830, the first steamboats navigated to the north. Mail, freight and poeple were still on the way for weeks in order to get to their destination. But the prospective politicians of the Norwegian parlament considered the steamboats as a possibility for a closer connection between the north and the south of the country, this is why Richard With preached to the converted at the parlament with his suggestions. Because one thing was also sure for With: without a statutorial financial support, no shipping company was able to realize such a plan. The other shipping companies were already refusing anyway when they were asked to take part on the project. They simply considered it to be impossible to navigate also at nights.
But Richard With kept holding to his ideas, as additionally to his detailed knowledge of the Norwegian coast, he had been listing courses and times during the day for many years. With the assistance of the pocketbook, compass, a watch and a log, these records had to be applied and implemented at night. In May 1893, things were ready, the state and the shipping company signed a four-year contract. It was determined to navigate in the summertime the stretch Trondheim - Hammerfest and in the winter Trondheim - Tromsö once a week.
On Sunday, the 2nd of July 1893, the pioneer ship "Vesteralen", adorned with flags, left the harbour Trondheim with course to Hammerfest; Nine ports were on schedule. The trip became an unprecedented triumph. Finally, north and south were reliably and effectively connected. The population and the economy got their Hurtigrute and with this completely new possibilities of getting in touch with each other.
After the way was channeled, the other shipping companies followed. The regular traffic was continuously expanded. In the year 1898, Bergen was included in the schedule, 1907 Vardö and 1914 Kirkenes. From then, the shipping traffic was on a daily basis. Then the german occupants came, half of the ships got lost and numerous people were brought to death. After the peace agreement, the fleet is rebuilt, and in the year 1964 the last ship of the new generation was put into service.
But then the expansion of the infrastructure and the regional airports starts; Enormous amounts were invested and simultaneously, the freight volume of the 11 ships decreased. The transportation of the mail is practically cero, no one can talk any more of "mailboats". Indeed, the Hurtigrute gets increasingly popular among the passengers, if one wants to take a trip at a certain time this person should possibly book two years in advance, but the state is not willed any more to practically subsidize the tickets of the Hurtigruten passengers from all over the world. This is why in the year 1990, a storm breaks out over the Hurtigrute, against which all of the other overcomed storms were only a gentle breeze. It is a question of to be or not to be!
In the course of the parlementarian debate, it gets clear: the Hurtigrute, these are not merely 11 ships, the Hurtigrute is a unique institution, a national pride, something that can't be measured with money. Specially the delegates of the northern provinces fight together with the shipping companies in favour of the Hurtigrute. The latter put their ideas very clearly on the table in the parlament, how the future of the Hurtigrute should be. By a hair, and with a majority of only two votes, the Hurtigrute could be saved from the most dangerous storm of its history.
The plan of the shipping companies is implemented; With statutorial help, the fleet is renovated, the transport capacity of cars and passengers is increased drastically. From the year 2002, the Hurtigrute should be able to get along without subventions. In the year 1993, at the 100th anniversary of the Hurtigruten, the first two ships of the new generation were baptized with the names "Richard With" and "Kong Harald". In the course of the years, more ships follow. The curve of the number of passengers faces steeply upwards.
The plan of the shipping companies seemed to come together. But as before, the winter months still give concern. The state, by the time convinced about the uniqueness of the Hurtigruten and that the shipping companies are on the right path, gave further financial means. For the present, until 2012, everything remaines unaffected. Every evening, the Hurtigrute leaves the harbour in order to start the voyage.
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Auhtor: Manfred Hofmann; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz