Lofoten Islands . Norway .
MINOLTA DYNAX 7 . GOLDEN EDITION.
Fujichrome Velvia 50 Slide Film .
Lofoten (Northern Sami: Lofuohta) is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world’s largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.
Henningsvær in Lofoten during fishing season.
Lofoten (Norse Lófót f) was originally the old name of the island Vestvågøya. The first element is ló ‘lynx’, the last element is derived from Norse fótr m ‘foot’. The shape of the island must have been compared with a foot of a lynx. (The old name of the neighbouring island Flakstadøya was Vargfót ‘the foot of a wolf’, from vargr m ‘wolf’. See also Ofoten.)
Stockfish has been exported from Lofoten for at least 1,000 years.
Vågan (Norse Vágar) is the first known town formation in northern Norway. It existed in the early Viking Age, maybe earlier, and was located on the southern coast on eastern Lofoten, near today’s village Kabelvåg in Vågan municipality. However, the Lofotr Viking Museum with the reconstructed 83 m long longhouse (the largest known) is located near Borg on Vestvågøy, which have many archeological finds from the Iron Age and Viking Age.1
The islands have for more than 1,000 years been the centre of great cod fisheries, especially in winter, when the cod migrates south from the Barents Sea and gathers in Lofoten to spawn. Bergen in southwestern Norway was for a long time the hub for further export south to large parts of Europe, particularly so when trade was controlled by the Hanseatic League. In the lowland areas, particularly Vestvågøy, agriculture plays a significant role, as it has done since the Bronze Age.
Lofotr was originally the name of the island of Vestvågøy only. Later it became the name of the chain of islands. The chain of islands with its pointed peaks looks like a lynx foot from the mainland. In Norwegian, it is always a singular. Another name one might come across, is “Lofotveggen” or the Lofoten wall. The archipelago looks like a closed wall when seen from elevated points around Bodø or when arriving from the sea, some 100 km. long, and 800-1,000 m. high.
During 1941, the islands were raided by British Combined Operations commandos during Operation Claymore in March and a subsequent diversionary attack to support the Vaagso raid in December.
Lofoten and Vesterålen
Lofoten is located at the 68th and 69th parallels north of the Arctic Circle in North Norway. It is well known for its natural beauty within Norway. Lofoten encompasses the municipalities of Vågan, Vestvågøy, Flakstad, Moskenes, Værøy and Røst. The principal islands, running from north to south, are
Southern tip of Hinnøya.
Southern 60 % (approx.) of Austvågøy (526.7 km² in total 68°20′N 14°40′E),
Gimsøy (46.4 km² 68°18′N 14°11′E),
Vestvågøy (411.1 km² 68°10′N 13°45′E),
Flakstadøya (109.8 km² 68°5′N 13°20′E),
Moskenesøya (185.9 km² 67°55′N 13°0′E),
whilst further to the south are the small and isolated islands of Værøy (67°40′N 12°40′E) and Røst (67°37′N 12°7′E). The total land area amounts to 1,227 km², and the population totals 24,500. Many will argue that Hinnøya, the northern part of Austvågøy and several hundred smaller islands, skerries and rocks to the east of Austvågøy are also part of the Lofoten complex. Historically the territorial definition of Lofoten has changed significantly. Between the mainland and the Lofoten archipelago lies the vast, open Vestfjord, and to the north is Vesterålen. The principal towns in Lofoten are Leknes in Vestvågøy and Svolvær in Vågan. The Lofoten Islands are characterised by their mountains and peaks, sheltered inlets, stretches of seashore and large virgin areas. The highest mountain in Lofoten is Higravstinden (1,161 m / 3,800 ft) in Austvågøy; the Møysalen National Park just northeast of Lofoten has mountains reaching 1,262 m. The famous Moskstraumen (Malstrøm) system of tidal eddies is located in western Lofoten, and is indeed the root of the term maelstrom.
The sea is rich with life, and the world’s largest deep water coral reef2 is located west of Røst. Lofoten has a very high density of sea eagles and cormorants, and millions of other sea birds, among them the colourful puffin. Otters are common, and there are moose on the largest islands. There are some woodlands with Downy birch and Rowan. There are no native conifer forests in Lofoten, but some small areas with private spruce plantations. Sorbus hybrida (“Rowan whitebeam”) and Malus sylvestris occur in Lofoten, but not further north.
What were thought of as the extinct Great Auk, turned out to be some of the nine King penguins released around Norway’s Lofoten Islands in August 1936 and there until at least 1944.3
Reine, Lofoten, seen from top of Reinebringen (June, 2003).
Winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild considering their location north of the Arctic Circle, this is the largest positive temperature anomaly in the world relative to latitude. This is due to the Gulf Stream and its extensions: the North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current. Røst and Værøy are the most northerly locations in the world where average temperatures are above freezing all year456. Winters are slightly colder in the northeastern part of Lofoten, Svolvær has a January average of -1.5°C (30°F), but summers are a bit warmer, with both July and August 24-hr averages of 13°C (56°F). May and June are the driest months, while October has three times as much precipitation 78. Typical daytime temperature in May is 9°C (48°F), in July 15°C (60°F) and in September 11°C (52°F). The warmest recording in Svolvær is 30.4°C (87°F).
Strong winds can occur in late autumn and winter, but are rare from late March to mid-October. Snow and sleet are not uncommon in winter, the mountains can have substantial amounts of snow, and in some winters, avalanches might come down from steep mountain slopes. Two of the top ten deadliest rainstorms ever recorded passed through Lofoten.
In Svolvær, the sun (Midnight sun) is above the horizon from May 25 to July 17, and in winter the sun does not rise from December 4 to January 7. In Leknes, the sun is above the horizon from May 26 to July 17, and in winter the sun does not rise from December 9 to January 4. The temperature in the sea has been recorded since 1935. At 1 m depth in the sea near Skrova, water temperatures varies from a low of 3°C in March to 14°C in August. Some years peaking above 17°C. November is around 7-8°C. At a depth of 200 m the temperature is near 8°C all year 9.