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LOFOTEN AND VESTERAALEN

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 863 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LOFOTEN AND VESTERAALEN, a large and picturesque group of islands lying N.E. and S.W. off the N.W. coast of Norway, between 67° 30' and 69° 20' N., and between 12° and 16° 35' E. forming part of the amt (county) of Nordland. The extreme length of the group from Andenaes, at the north of Ando, to Rost, is about 150 m.; the aggregate area about 156o sq. m. It is separated from the mainland by the Vestfjord, Tjaeldsund and Vaagsfjord, and is divided into two sections by the Raftsund between Hindo and Ost-Vaago. To the W. and S. of the Raftsund lie the Lofoten Islands proper, of which the most important are Ost-Vaago, Gimso, Vest-Vaago, Flakstado, Moskenaeso, Mosken, Varo and Rost; E. and N. of the Raftsund are the islands of Vesteraalen, the chief being HindO, Ulvo, Lango, Skogso and Ando. The islands, which are all of granite or metamorphic gneiss, are precipitous and lofty. The highest points and finest scenery are found on Ost-Vaago, in the neighbourhood of the narrow, cliff-bound Raftsund and Troldfjord. The principal peaks are Higrafstind (3811 ft.), Gjeitgaljartind (3555), Rulten (3483), the Noldtinder (3467), Svartsundtind (3506). The long line of jagged and fantastic peaks seen from the Vestfjord forms one of the most striking prospects on the Norwegian coast, but still finer is the panorama from the Digermuler (115o ft.), embracing the islands, the Vest-fjord, and the mountains of the mainland. The channels which separate the islands are narrow and tortuous, and generally of great depth; they are remarkable for the strength of their tidal currents, particularly the Raftsund and the famous Maelstrom or Moskenstrom between Moskenaes and Mosken. The violent tempests which sweep over the Vestfjord, which is exposed to the S.V., are graphically described in Jonas Lie's Den Fremsynte (187o) and in H. Schultze's Udvalgte Shriller (1883), as the Maelstrom is imaginatively by Edgar Allan Poe. Though situated wholly within the Arctic circle, the climate of the Lofoten and Vesteraalen group is not rigorous when compared with that of the rest of Norway. The isothermal line which marks a mean January temperature of 32° F. runs south from the Lofotens, passing a little to the east of Bergen onward to Gothenburg and Copenhagen. The prevailing winds are from the S. and W., the mean temperature for the year is 38.5° F., and the annual rainfall is 43.34 in. In summer the hills have only patches of snow, the snow limit being about 3000 ft. The natural pasture produced in favourable localities permits the rearing of cattle to some extent; but the growth of cereals (chiefly barley, which here matures in ninety days) is insignificant. The islands yield no wood. The characteristic industry, and an important source of the national wealth, is the cod fishery carried on along the east coast of the Lofotens in the Vestfjord in spring. This employs about 40,000 men during the season from all parts of Norway, the population being then about doubled, and the surplus accommodated in temporary huts. The average yield is valued at about £35,000. The fish are taken in nets let down during the night, or on lines upwards of a mile in length, or on ordinary hand-lines. The fishermen are paid in cash, and large sums of money are sent to the islands by the Norwegian banks each February. Great loss of life is frequent during the sudden local storms. The fish, which is dried during early summer, is exported to Spain (where it is known as bacalao), Holland, Great Britain, Belgium, &c. Industries arising out of the fishery are the manufacture of cod-liver oil and of artificial manure. The summer cod fisheries and the lobster fishery are also valuable. The herring is taken in large quantities off thewest coasts of Vesteraalen, but is a somewhat capricious visitant. The islands contain no towns properly so called, but Kabelvaag on Ost-Vaago and Svolvaer on a few rocky islets off that island are considerable centres of trade and (in the fishing season) of population; Lodingen also, at the head of the Vestfjord on Hindo, is much frequented as a port of call. A church existed at Vaagen (Kabelvaag) in the 12th century, and here Hans Egede, the missionary of Greenland, was pastor. There are factories for fish guano at Henningvaer (Ost-Vaago), Kabelvaag, Svolvaer, Lodingen, and at Bretesnas on Store Molla. Regular means of communication are afforded by the steamers which trade between Hamburg or Christiania and Hammerfest, and also by local vessels; less accessible spots can be visited by small boats, in the management of which the natives are adepts. There are some roads on Hindo, LangO, and Ando. The largest island in the group, and indeed in Norway, is Hindo; with an area of 86o sq. m. The south-eastern portion of it belongs to the amt of Tromso. In the island of Ando there is a bed of coal at the mouth of Ramsaa.
End of Article: LOFOTEN AND VESTERAALEN
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