Part Four: 2nd Port of Call, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway
It took roughly 24 hours to sail from the United Kingdom to the Norwegian Kingdom.
Norway, a constitutional monarchy, is a very progressive country. After a tumultuous 1000 plus year history, Norway separated from Sweden in the early 20th century and a national referendum determined the people’s preference for a monarchy. The people chose Prince Carl of Denmark to be their king. At his investiture in 1905 he took the name Haakon VII. He was the first king of an independent Norway in over 500 years. The current king Harold V and Queen Sonja are very well liked by their people. Norwegians are considered to be a bit dark and way too serious by the rest of us the Europeans. When Norway banned the Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’ for blasphemy, the Swedes advertised the film as ‘too funny for Norwegians’.
Owing to my gimpiness, we had to choose the most sedentary excursion on offer for the town of Stavanger. A trip up the Lysefjord seemed to be just the ticket. To reach the excursion vessel, we only had to walk ~ 200 m on Skansekaien, the pier, along the edge of Boknafjorden, home of the Port of Stavanger. Easy as pie, right? Not quit, actually. Gangways especially tend to be angled, sometimes sharply, often slippery – anything uneven was a challenge on this first day out after my accident in the UK. But eventually we made it aboard the ‘Fjordlyn’ and found seats up front in the large seating area.
Ahead of this salon was an outdoor, windswept platform to provide space for photographers, but having such a difficult time moving around, I didn’t feel comfortable to mix and mingle with the often rather aggressive males with their fancy cameras. On the other hand, I do like to take a decent picture amidst all this gorgeous countryside … Actually, I have to admit something to you, I had left my Lumix at home. Earlier this year, while in Austin, TX, I bought a new phone, an Apple 13 mini, partially with the intension of using it as my travel camera. In order to use it worry-free, even on a ship, I switched to a shatter-proof case on an adjustable length lanyard to wear the phone in a crossbody style. My pics may not be award-worthy, but they serve to illustrate my stories just fine, I think, and the phone’s camera is always at my fingertips. Except, when you’re stuck indoors and the windows are caked in grime!
I spoke with one of the employees and he assured me that they cleaned the windows every morning. Unfortunately, our excursion was the second one that day, thus the salt crust. Tough luck, grrr! Soon we docked just outside of Forsand for the ‘included’ coffee break with rather limp waffles.
Apparently, Norwegians love their waffles, they’re offered in every single coffee shop. I’m not too keen on all that sweet stuff, especially if it doesn’t include Lingonberries, so I wandered around on the large wooden pier with the help of my carved crocodile walking stick from Costa Rica that’s been helping me out for a few years now whenever my back decides to let me down. Only this time it was a leg …
Soon we reboarded the Fjordlyn to continue our trip up Lysefjord. With my husband’s help, I installed myself on the bow platform for a while to take a few less smudgy pictures.
The Lysefjord Bridge you see in two of the above pictures, is the only crossing of the fjord for its entire length of 42 Km or 26 miles. There are also no roads running alongside the fjord because the cliffs are too steep. The only approach to the few homesteads in Lysefjord is by boat.
While we were all enthralled by the goats that graze during the summer months on communal land, for which they have to be transported in and out by boat, I noticed several orangey, fuzzy blobs in the water. Jellyfish? Indeed! As bad as these zoom pictures are, they helped me nevertheless to identify the blobs as Lion’s Mane jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, Cyaneidae, Cnidaria – true jellyfish. They are native to the cold, boreal waters of the Artic Circle … just a little lost this far South? They were easy to identify through the eight-lobed architecture of their mantle, giving them a star shaped rather than rounded appearance. Lion’s Mane jellyfish may develop a thousand hair-like sticky tentacles floating about to a potential length of 30 m or nearly 100 feet!!! Those would be fully grown beasts, of course, who can achieve a mantle diameter of 2 m/6 ft, not the babies I saw here with only an estimated 25 cm/10 inches mantle diameter.
Soon we reached the key attraction of Lysefjord, a squarish rock platform high above the waters of the fjord: Preikestolen.
When huge blocks of ice formed during the ice ages, many of these glaciers began to slide down toward the sea through preexisting valleys between mountains of granite or gneiss (mostly). They were so heavy that they gradually compressed the earth’s crust, thus deepening the preglacial valley floor to well below sea levels. When the glaciers arrived at the sea, they calved, and with changing climate conditions the remaining ice eventually melted, lessening the burden on the earth. When seawater poured into these deep valleys we got this amazing new geological invention: fjords.
The glaciers were in the habit of pushing small mountains of debris in front of themselves when they followed the gravitational pull toward the sea. As they melted, they left all that extra dirt and who knows what else littering across the mouths of our newly created fjords. We call that the End Moraine and it can turn into really gorgeous areas, for example the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin.
The depth gradient of water between the mouth and the main body of a fjord creates a huge variety of unique situations regarding water flow and current, salinity, seasonal salinity changes, nutrient rich verses nutrient poor layers of water, number and type of flora and fauna, et cætera. You get the idea, every fjord presents a different situation. In Lysefjord, for example, at the trough, or mouth of the fjord near Forsand where we had waffles, the water is only 13 m/43 ft deep while the water’s depth beneath the Pulpit Rock reaches over 400 m or nearly 1300 ft. Thus the white granite rock walls are actually up to 1 Km or 3 280 feet tall! And if a terminal moraine closed off the entry to a fjord completely, eventually a fresh water lake developed and sometimes critters successfully evolved into fresh water organism, as for example the artic char, Salvelinus alpinus, Salmonidae, managed to do.
Looking up-fjord toward Lysebotn before we turned around for the return trip to Stavanger.
There are only two villages framing the Lysefjord, Forsand at its mouth and Lysebotn, 42 Km inland at the fjords pointy end. The mountains at Lysebotn are home to several hydroelectric plants, in which huge waterfalls, up to 900m tall, provide water for the turbines that produce electricity for over 100K consumers. WoW!! That’s sustainability in action!