Aalesund, An Island Port And Important Fish Market
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Direction—We are facing west, toward the open North Atlantic. Surroundings—The island on which we stand extends off eastward behind us, connecting by a bridge with another island, and thence to the mainland, twenty miles farther back. For a long distance at our right islands large and small are scattered thick along irregular shores.
(We are seeing the place just now on a rainy day, when mist veils the distance. It is a pity, but, in truth, it does rain here an incredible number of days in a year, so really the present aspect of the place may be considered characteristic in its own way.)
This pretty little park directly below is a public pleasure ground, a favorite resort of the townspeople in midsummer, when, on a clear day, the sun does not go out of sight in the northwest until nearly 10 P. M., and the twilight glow has not time to fade out of the sky before the sun appears again in the north-east, somewhere about 2 A. M.
That channel or sund (sound) between the two island districts of the town is the Aale-sund, for which the place is named. It is crossed by a bridge just out of sight at our left. With a long arm of this island—Norvo (o means island) —reaching around the harbor at one side, and that long pier built out from Aspo at the other side, the sound snakes an excellent haven in which a large fleet of fishing boats can simultaneously take shelter.
Enormous quantities of cod, herring and cod-liver oil are brought in here every season from famous fishing banks among the Lofoten islands, farther north, and re-shipped to other European ports, a good deal going to southern Europe by way of the Mediterranean. Several lines of passenger steamers call here, too, and the little port is one of the busiest in northern Norway.
The town has been in existence as a town and a trade center only about sixty years; indeed, there could not have been any Norwegian fish dealers here in very old times, for the great German Trust, of which we saw reminders down in Bergen (Position 51), would have crushed promptly any attempt at such an enterprise. However, that deep, sheltered channel was used over a thousand years ago by Viking ships belonging to a few land-owners in this vicinity. Less than three miles away, behind us at the left, on this very island, there is said to have lived in the ninth century an adventurous sailor and soldier, and the consequences of his voyage out into the Atlantic, beyond that promontory we see now, have been making European history ever since.* In all probability Rolf's piratical cruise around northern Europe to the French coast was made with vessels very like the one we saw in the museum at Christiania (Position 7). Those were rough old times among leaders of men.
If we were to believe an enthusiastic writer like the late Paul Du Chaillu, who was in love with every-thing Norse, the qualities to which England so largely owes her dominant place to-day among the nations—her taste for seafaring, her energy, courage, love of con-quest, her administrative ability in colonial affairs, her sturdy common-sense in matters of self-government, are parts of her inheritance from the Norman descendants of old Rolf and his men, together with the influence of the Vikings that settled in England.
Nothing of the old Sea King remains now on this island. The present atmosphere of Aalesund is frankly modern and fishy. Let us go down into the town and watch work going on in one of the big warehouses, while a cargo is being unloaded from a vessel along-side.