Did you know this about Lofoten?
The cave known as "Helvete" (Hell)
Near the bird cliffs on Trenyken island in Røst, 50 metres above sea level, we find the cave known as Helvete, i.e. Hell. Towards the back, on the cave wall, three paintings of red figures have been found, symbolising the gods. One of them is about 90 cm tall, has two horns instead of a head, and outstretched arms with five fingers on its right hand and four on its left. The next figure is about 30 cm tall and resembles a child.
The third is now very indistinct, but it appears to be similar to the first figure. In the middle section of the cave there are five more humanoid figures. They are about 30 cm tall and resemble people dancing. The figures have been painted in the borderline between light and dark and may indicate ritual activity intended to facilitate contact with another world.
The mural in Ballstad, Vestvågøy
Pietro Querini was a Venetian nobleman. During a voyage from Crete to Flanders in 1431, he was shipwrecked in the North Sea. The survivors made it over into the lifeboats and drifted north to the uninhabited island of Sandøy in Lofoten, where they were found, exhausted and debilitated. They stayed on Røst until the spring, travelling south on stockfish freighters in order to make their way home again.
After returning home, Querini wrote an account of his escapades which was to become one of the most important descriptions we have of the living conditions of ordinary people in northern Norway in the Middle Ages.
Lundehund dogs from Mostad, Værøy:
Mostad is one of the most distinctive outlying fishing villages that have existed along our coast. Today, it has been more or less abandoned, but some years back about 150 people lived there, making a living in part from harvesting puffins, a practice which involved the use of the lundehund breed of dogs.
The lundehunden dog is probably a very old Norwegian breed of spitz, with unique anatomical qualities that allowed it to catch puffins in difficult terrain. Today, this breed is considered one of the rarest in the world.
The womans’s grave at Einangen, Vestvågøy
On a ridge, with a view of the inner and outer coast of Lofoten, we find the largest circular stone grave in Scandinavia. Inside the grave, which dates back to c. 100 A.D., archaeologists believe a young girl of about ten or twelve years of age was buried.
The size of the grave, its location and the jewellery she had with her in the grave, indicate that she may have had the status of a “divinity”, receiving a burial worthy of no less than a goddess.
The Troll Stone in Kabelvåg
The Troll Stone (Trollsteinen) is a large erratic boulder situated by the E10 highway a hundred metres south of Lofoten Cathedral. There is an image of a cross on the stone, the equivalent of which has been found nowhere else in Europe. It also has three marks on it which resemble the impression of three large fingers.
According to legend, the Troll Stone was thrown at the church by a troll who was said to have lived on Kjeldbergtinden Peak. He missed the church, but his grip on the stone was so hard that the impression of his fingers is still visible to this day.
Storfjell i Austre Vågan
In 1998 the tiny hamlet of Storfjell was voted Norway’s favourite, because the old ladies who lived there had begun to build a road there on their own, after the government had refused to do so. A road was the only thing that could prevent Storfjell from becoming a ghost town, but every one of their applications to have a road built there had been rejected.
In November 1998, after a 12 year struggle against the local authorities, the women brushed the mounds of papers aside and began to build the road themselves. After altogether 16 years, the project was finally completed.
Bauta of Kong Øystein in Kabelvåg
Cod fishing and the production of stockfish have been going on in Lofoten for a thousand years. Between 1103 and 1123, King Eystein had a church and fisherman’s cabins built for visiting fishermen in Kabelvåg. In this way, the King facilitated the participation of more fishermen in the winter cod fishery and thus contributed towards economic development in Vågar.
The mediaeval town of Vågar was situated in Storvågan, a couple of kilometres west of the centre of what was to become the town of Kabelvåg. It was the undisputed capital of all of northern Norway between the years 1000 and 1400.
Five kilometres south of Napp lies Storbåthallaren, a mighty rock overhang approximately 70 metres long and 22 metres deep. Outermost there is 9 metres of headroom, at the back you have to crawl on all fours. Storbåthallaren housed the oldest known Stone Age settlement in Lofoten and Vesterålen
Bird cliffs on the outside of Måstad Peninsula
Most of the seabirds that nest in the cliffside colonies arrive in Værøy in early spring. According to tradition, the puffins appear on the cliffs on 14 April. Many different species nest on the bird cliffs, but puffins are the most numerous. Kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, white-tailed eagles and cormorants also nest there. The fulmar is a relative newcomer to the cliffs of Værøy, arriving for the first time only a couple of decades ago.
The cave paintings in Refsvika, Moskenes
Refsvikhula Cave on the island of Moskenesøya is the biggest cave in Norway where cave paintings have been discovered. The 28 paintings are about 3,000 years old and show human figures with faceless heads. They were painted in red on the cave walls at locations where darkness is displaced by light. This has led to the notion that the cave was once a religious site for Stone Age man in northern Norway.
The dessert at Sommarhus
Not many people know that there is a desert in Lofoten. At Sommarhus (Morfjorden) in the north of Austvågøya, we find the desert – a magnificent area of white sand dunes surrounded by mountains and sea.
The island that sank into the sea
An old legend tells us of an island that sank into the sea several thousand years ago, where there lived a divinely inspired people with blue eyes, high foreheads and light hair, and who were free from disease and old age. It is said that after the island had sunk into the sea, it would sometimes rise up again, providing a port of refuge for pious fishermen who had fallen victim to sudden storms in the west off the islands of Røst.
The fishermen’s experience was that their boats would suddenly be standing safely on dry land, or that the waves would recede without warning and they found themselves in the middle of Utrøst harbour. The place has never been shown on any map, but apparently you follow the cormorant as it flies out from Røst, westward across the ocean.