Sea Kayaking in Norway – Large, Long and Beautiful
Back in 2007, Auckland Sea Kayaks guide Nic Mead paddled the world’s largest fjordsystem. Below is his account of the expedition.
No other fjord in the world, drills 200km in from the coast with its inner recesses splintering into half a dozen subsidiary fjords. No other fjord this long is navigatable from the sea, to the glacier that once carved it. No other fjord in the world is this deep.
This fjord is the Sognefjord, located on the west coast of Norway. For the above reasons two kiwis and a Norwegian choose to kayak its full length, starting in the countries second largest city, heading towards a mere finger 100’s of kilometers away.
Norway is a sea kayakers dream. In a tamed and heavily populated continent, Norway remains its wilderness outpost. Every thing is on a grand scale, from the towering rock faces, abundant fisheries, wild landscapes to its remarkably beautiful people.
Many thought we were slightly crazy, planning to paddle up the Norwegian coast in October, a month renowned for carrying in the fast approaching winter. We had studied the weather maps and knew that there was a high pressure system over Russia that would bring us fine weather but head winds for most of the trip.
Leaving Bergen the self proclaimed *Capital of the Fjords* we headed north with the vision of navigating through an archipelago consisting of some three thousand islands. Passing cod fishing boats, suburbia, and steady flotilla of bright-white ferries we headed north and in search of our first nights camp.
A new day brought as another navigational exam. However with mirror like water, our bodies full of Bjørn Havregryn (Norwegian porridge) we paddled a further 54km into solitude. We hooked onto our first fish while paddling across Austfjorden, a 12km stretch of water exposed to the North and Norwegian Sea. This fjord is also where one of Norway’s largest oil refineries stands at Mongstad. We where muscling in fish while dodging oil super tankers.
After a few days, many kilometers and the passing many other fjords we arrived at the entrance of the mighty one. The Sognefjord. At its mouth it’s a hefty 30kms wide and nearly divides the country in two as it stretches half way towards the Swedish border.
During the ice age, around three-million years ago the whole of Norway was covered in ice. This weight pushed the existing river valleys deeper and deeper to the depths well below that of the ocean floor. The Sognefjord descends to 1250m, ten times deeper than most of the Norwegian Sea. Later as the ice retreated, it left huge coastal basins that filled with sea water to become a fjord. The warm water of the Gulf Stream keeps it ice-free.
As we headed up the Fjord our fishing was drastically reduced as we were trolling 2m below the sea surface. We later learnt that the fish in this fjord live, swum and feed at deeps ranging from 50-100meters.
As we paddled up the fjord you can see that Mother Nature can be a generous friend but also be a dangerous adversary that must be shown respect. Not a single building had been nailed, not a field has been ploughed without the Sogne people having the knowledge and experience of nature’s forces. The farms and houses glide into the landscape where snow avalanches in the winter months would sweep by them at close range. For the people that settle down in the fjord, all there choices and life directions were decided by the fact that there is so little land that can be cultivated. These people had to look elsewhere, to the mountain tops, narrow strip along the fjord and to the hills to supplement there livelihood.
The final leg of the journey took us into the Nærøyfjord. There is a reason that this site was placed on the UNESCO list in 2005. This list includes the most unique natural and cultural monument sites worthy of preservation in the world today. This is Europe’s narrowest fjord, and its stern beauty makes it the perfect finish to an unforgettable journey.
I have done a lot of sea kayaking in different parts of the world, but no other expedition brought more variation in paddling conditions, more abundant sea life and more geological bewilderment than that of the mighty Sognefjord.