The Tunnel At Torghatten.
A few days after reaching Trondhjem, we found ourselves embarking for another ocean journey. This time our destination was the northern limit of the continent. For a Norwegian tour naturally divides itself into three parts. The first consists of driving through the mountainous interior; the second is the exploration of its noble fjords; the third is the voyage from Trondhjem to the North Cape. This voyage, in fast excursion steamers, is now made in about four days, an equal number being occupied in returning. "Eight days?" the reader will perhaps exclaim; "why, that is longer than a voyage across the Atlantic." In actual duration, yes; but otherwise the two excursions are entirely different. For almost all the way you follow so closely the fringe of islands that there is little danger of rough weather, while the mainland is constantly in sight.
Some twenty-four hours after leaving Trondhjem, our steamer halted at an island, up whose precipitous side we climbed five hundred feet to view a natural tunnel perforating an entire mountain. Through this we gained a charming telescopic vista of the ocean and its island belt. The tunnel is six hundred feet in length, and in some places two hundred feet in height. So smooth and perpendicular are its walls, that it appears almost incredible that human agency has not assisted in this strange formation. But scientists say that it was accomplished entirely by the waves, when all this rock-bound coast was covered by the sea. Leaving this curious freak of nature, another memorable feature of our northern voyage soon greeted us, - the Loffoden Islands. These form a broken chain one hundred and thirty miles in length. The scenery in their vicinity is perhaps the finest on the Norway coast, and as we watched it with delight, the captain told us of his voyages here in winter, and I now learned, to my astonishment that freight-steamers make their regular trips, all winter long, round the North Cape to Vadso, on the Arctic coast. They encounter fearful storms at times, but rarely any icebergs. We have, it seems, a monopoly of these floating monsters on our side of the Atlantic, borne west and south by the current off the coast of Greenland.
An Excursion Steamer.
One Of The Loffodens.
Fishing On The Coast.
Of course, these wintry voyages are performed in darkness, for Night then reigns here with as much supremacy as Day in summer. The lights on the steamers are, therefore, kept constantly burning. Yet, strange to say, this is the period of greatest activity among these islands. Winter is the Norwegian fisherman's harvest-time. The only light necessary to carry on the work is that of the Aurora Borealis and the brilliant stars. From twenty to twenty-five millions of cod are captured here each winter, and twenty-five thousand people are employed in the trade.
Scene From Brothansdalen.
Soon after leaving the Loffodens we arrived at Tromso, the city of the Lapps. It had the appearance of a pretty village as we viewed it from a distance; but soon the sense of sight was wholly lost in the prominence given to another of our senses. The carcass of a whale was floating in the harbor. It had been speared and towed in hither to be cut in pieces. The blubber was being boiled in kettles on the shore. The impression which this made on my olfactory nerves is something for which language is inadequate. The odor was as colossal as the fish itself. I never sympathized sufficiently with Jonah till I went to Tromso!
Soon after landing here, a walk of an hour brought us to a settlement of Lapps, consisting of some very primitive tents. My first impression of these people was, and still is, that any one of them could have effectually concealed his identity by taking a bath. They all have dirty, wizened faces, high cheekbones, flat noses, and mouths that yawn like caverns. Their beards are so peculiarly tufted that they look like worn-out Astrachan fur. I could almost suppose that in rigorous winters the reindeer, while their masters slept, had nibbled at their cheeks. The men are about five feet high, the women four; but they are tough and hardy, like most dwarfs. Dickens could have found among them countless models for his hideous Quilp.