Day 146. Berlevag weather and rest day

Posted by: James on May 26, 2009

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Day 146.1 Fish is the lifeblood of Berlevag and here are large tubs of newly landed haddockWhen I woke in the morning the flags were flapping wildly in the wind. When I went out to have a closer look I could see I was not going anywhere in the near future. The harbour was full of small breaking wavelets and if I peered through the gap between the arms of the breakwater I could see some large breaking waves. It was not a morning to cross the difficult Tanafjord.

I went for another walk about town and down to the fishing wharfs. A boat had recently landed its catch of fish. Cod is the mainstay but occasionally they migrate away from the vicinity in the summer and it is more sensible to fish for other species. In this boats case it was haddock. There were 6 large tubs of it with at least a ton in each tub.

These fish were caught using longlines. Each long line had perhaps 1000 hooks and a number of baited lines were set out. The lines were left for a few hours and then retrieved later. Nets are also used but apparently many fishermen prefer the longlines as they are not so indiscriminate in their catch and spare the fish which are not ready to catch yet. This long sighted approach is rare and commendable in today’s world.

After the walk I went to the museum. It had all manner of artifacts but was perhaps not quite as good as the amateur collection the old Sea Lapp had at Byluft on the south side of Varangerfjord which I visited some 3 weeks ago. What this museum concentrated on was the breakwaters.

Without the breakwaters Berlevag would quite simply not exist. Its harbour is fully exposed to a north easterly wind. On a few occasions when there was a fishing boom in the late nineteenth century storms pulverized the whole fishing fleet assembled in the bay.

It was decided to build the breakwaters over 100 years ago to allow the easy access to the rich fishing just off the coast at Berlevag. However the water was deep and the breakwaters had to be about 700 metres long each.

For the next 75 years the people of Berlevag built the breakwater with a pause for the German occupation. After the war the construction project continued in earnest. A 5 km railway was built to bring massive rocks from a quarry to the breakwaters. Huge concrete blocks were also cast to line the outer walls. However a storm in the late 1950’s shown the construction to be too lightweight to withstand the huge waves, some 8 metres high, which flung the 25 ton blocks about and punched holes in the arms.

day-14Day 146.2 Some 10,000 tetrapods line the two massive nreakwaters in Berlevag-some-10000-tetrapods-line-the-two-massive-nreakwaters-in-berlevagBerlevag then used a French idea to line the breakwaters. These were tetrapods; a four legged, 25 ton block of concrete. The tetrapods not only locked together but their shape dissipated some of the wave’s impact. The concrete foundry now switched to making these and over the next few years produced some 10,000 25 ton tetrapods. In the 1970’s the breakwaters were finally finished. At their base on the sea bed they are over 125 metres wide with only the 25 metres showing above the surface.

It really was an impressive project which was undertaken by this small community to ensure its survival. Its legacy has been to encourage a strong community spirit, pride and confidence which give the town and its people a strong character epitomized in its friendly people, successful choir and well kept buildings.

Even during the German occupation Berlevag was a thorn to the occupying forces. When they retreated the Germans took revenge in burning the whole town flat. Not even the church was spared; which was usually the case. The cranes used to build the breakwater were also destroyed during this time.

When I returned to the tidy comfortable pensionat the wind was increasing. A few bins were blown over and small gravel was been whipped up into the air. The flags were cracking in the wind. The harbour was quiet with none of the fishing boats setting out.

The weather forecast predicted the weather would calm down around 2200 and then remain passive for about 15 hours before it started to blow again. Then the wind would return with a vengeance for a few days with a minor storm forecast. The www.yr.no weather forecast was usually spot on and I was starting to trust it.

I had a few hours to kill until 2200 so went to the library and then to the pub for a pizza. At 2100 I returned to the pensionat. The wind was indeed decreasing rapidly and the flags were hardly moving and by 2200 they were completely still. I decided to go for it and started packing. I set off at 2300.

It had been a nice relaxing cultural day. However I think I had really done all I could in Berlevag and another 3 days here would have seen boredom set in.

One Response to “Day 146. Berlevag weather and rest day”

  1. Daniël Says:

    That was short 😉

    Hopefully the weather gets better.