“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”. Following the advice of the Dalai Lama, I arrive at Lofoten, an archipelago composed of seven islands to the north of Norway and the Arctic Circle. Its climate is the first of many surprises. The temperatures are milder than in Greenland or Alaska and remain above 0º. This phenomenon is caused by the gulf’s current, which warms Lofoten from the Caribbean.
Esben and Trond have been working for 15 years in the turbulent waters of the Arctic and they look around 60 years old. The sun hasn’t yet risen when together they launch the boat out into the open waters. We cast anchor several miles out at sea from the port of Grunnfarnes. They invite me to fish. In perfect English they tell me that the day before they had returned to land with three tonnes of ‘skrei’, the most sought-after cod in the world. And unique, because it can only be caught in Lofoten from February to April, when the fish arrive from the Barents Sea to spawn. Their day’s work doesn’t end there when these coveted fish are trapped in their nets, as they then have to gut them and hang them on wooden racks in the open air. In pairs, held motionless, sunlight falls upon them pitilessly, giving them their traditional character that heightens the sense of smell. They will stay like this for three months.
Hundreds of tourists visit the port of Svolvær every year to attend the World Cod Fishing Championship.
Fishing is a serious business in Lofoten, and they celebrate it to the full. Hundreds of tourists visit the port of Svolvær every year to attend the World Cod Fishing Championship, which is held on 1st and 2nd April. The person who catches the biggest fish wins. It’s captivating how naturally Lofoten uses tourism to exploit the sector that has been the driving force of its economy.
Not only work revolves around the sea on this Norwegian archipelago, but leisure too. “She’s going under!” cries the captain of the large boat that I share with a dozen other people on the safari along the coast of Vesterålen. The lucky ones among us have arrived in time to see an enormous whale’s tail disappear into the depths of the ocean. “She can dive to 3,000 metres, so we won’t see her again on this trip”, he explains to us. The winter safaris are organised from November to March and there are companies that guarantee whale sightings. If you’re not lucky first time, they repeat the trip or refund your money.
My mobile telephone rings and brings me back to reality. It’s a notification from Norway Lights, the app that informs me that an aurora borealis is about to illuminate the town of Laukvik. Its ‘Polarlight Centre’ organises chats and exhibitions about the aurorae. For a few minutes, there is a magical whirlpool of greens and purples that dance across the sky. This is the rhythm of Lofoten.