eye.gif (5286 bytes) Point of VIEW.

A purely analytical perception...


 

Updated May 13, 2002

 

Prelude

Norway’s history goes back about 14,000 years, to a time when it was inhabited by a Paleolithic culture that were able to survive through their expertise in hunting and fishing. As the years progressed, the country began to be colonized by people from neighboring Denmark and Sweden who put down their roots and farmed what little land there was that was tillable. It was from these settlers that the Germanically oriented language of Norway was derived. Early on, Alexander the Great sent an exploration team headed by Pytheas of Massalia, who took a glance at Norway with a view toward inventorying their assets, and was not excited about the country’s prospects. Norway provided excellent protection for the settlers, from roving bands of invaders due to its rugged geographical makeup, containing defensible positions between steep mountain ranges and the sea. Because of the convenient security parameters, a large number of fiefdoms sprung up in the country, and for the most part, there was little communication between the thirty or so individual kingdoms that made up the population of the country by the fifth century A.D.

Geography

One third of the country lies inside of the Article Circle and its ratio of coastline to total landmass places it in first position in the world in this category. In spite of its northern location, the warm waters of the Atlantic that pass close to its coasts keep the temperature in the country moderate. The population for the most part is homogeneous and small, being that less than 4 million people live here. Norway has no really large cities, with Oslo the capital having about 500,000. The next largest city, Bergen has only half of that population. Almost everyone in the country is Evangelical Lutheran, but in spite of that fact, the country allows total religious freedom and is non-sectarian. Norway has no illiteracy as children are obligated to go to school until they are at least 15-years old.

Norway is geographically, a narrow country bordered on one side by high mountain ranges and on the other by the sea. Not illogically, most of the country’s population gravitated life within a stone’s throw of the sea. The people soon became prodigious sailors, learning quickly in the perilous fiords that offered excess to the sea, or they perished. Eventually, there was some amalgamation of the petty kingdoms that comprised Norway and shipbuilding, exploring and plundering neighboring peoples became the order of the day. The growing of agricultural products is almost impossible in this country with its rocky landscape and currently this industry comprises only 2% of Norway’s gross domestic product. However, fishing is almost four times as economically important as agriculture and the Norwegians are prodigious consumers of fish products.

One of the most interesting geographical facts about Norway is the fact that the Gulf Stream runs very close to its shores and because of its warmth keeps its ports operating throughout the winter in spite of the fact that the country itself is so far north. The Gulf Stream which has its origins in the Atlantic Ocean just south of Florida, and winds its way up the American coast eventually crosses the Atlantic Ocean and then enters the Norwegian Sea. The name Gulf Stream at that point changes to the Norwegian Current and runs nearly parallel to the Norwegian coast. The Gulf Sea has a high salinity content and has an average temperature of about 8 degrees Celsius warmer than the rest of the waters in the Norwegian Sea. If I remember my mathematical transpositions correction, this would equate to approximately 17 degrees warmer than the surrounding water, just enough so that the country does not become landlocked in the winter. Much of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream are eventually captured by the atmosphere and this materially warms the land mass as well. Thus, the temperature in Norway is warmer than Greenland which is at about the same latitude.

History

Their ships were exceptional structures for that time and it allowed the Vikings, as these people were now called on to extend their reach dramatically. They explored great distances and were the first to visit North America. In addition, their sailors even visited places as far away as Russia. Viking men were allowed to be polygamous if they were rich enough to afford it and this practice was carried on through the 13th century. Marriages were arranged, nevertheless, if the bride was exceptional, there had to be a substantial bonus paid her parents. Moreover, God save the woman that married without parental permission, the husband was declared a criminal and became a free target for anyone in her family to assassinate without fear of retribution.

Divorce for men was simple, being only a matter of stating that they were no longer married, however, unless they had good and sufficient reason, this action could also became fair game for the bride’s family. Nevertheless, no one seems to know on what basis and by whom, good and sufficient reason was determined. Cross-dressing or anything close to that was ample reason for divorce and if a wife was caught in an affair, her paramour also became potential cannon fodder, however, in many places on earth, this is still true today. These people were settlers as well and their descendents were the Normans that ruled extensive parts of France. In addition, they settled in Ireland (), Iceland and Britain. King Harald the first in the 9th century, ascended the Norwegian Throne as a child was eventually able to unite the entire country under his banner.

"In 800 Norway was a conglomeration of thirty-one principalities, separated by mountains, rivers, or fjords, and each ruled by a warrior chief. About 850, one such leader, Halfdan the Black, from his capital at Trondheim, subdued most of the others, and became Norway’s first king. His son, Harald Haarfager (860 – 933) was challenged by rebellious chieftains; the Gyda whom he wooed marry him until he should conquer all Norway; he wooed never to clip or comb his hair till it was done; he accomplished it in ten years, married Gyda and nine other women, cut his hair, and received his distinguishing name – the Fair-haired…"( )

However, a united Norway only survived for a concise period of time as Harald’s sons were a rancorous bunch and couldn’t agree on even the smallest concept. This warring faction subdivided the country in 940 and each came away with a piece. Even this division did not make anyone happy and it initiated a period of unrest as each of the country’s fiefdoms went their individual own ways. In addition, some of these small political subdivisions became extremely territorial and attempted to attempted to expand their reach. Simultaneously, both Sweden and Denmark, noticing the chaos started to carve out small pieces of the choice parts of this disunited country for themselves. However, Olaf the first who was a great-grandson of Harald the first eventually grabbed the Norwegian thrown and attempted to do two things, the first was to turn this land of heathens into proper Christians and the second item on his agenda was to unite the country. To a substantial degree, he was highly successful at both. However, Olaf was a hot head and he got into a bitter argument with neighboring King Sweyn of Denmark and went to war with him. That impetuous action turned out to be Olaf’s last mistake, as he became one of the first fatalities of that action.

"Olaf son of Tryggve, was a great grandson of Harald of the Fair Hair. He was a "very merry frolicsome man," said Snorri of Iceland, "gay and social, very generous, and finical in his dress… stout and strong, the handsomest of men, excelling in bodily exercises every Northman that ever heard of." He could run across the oars outside his ship while men were rowing; could juggle three sharp-pointed daggers, could cast two spears at once, and "could cut equally well with either hand." Many a quarrel he had, and many an adventure. While in the British Isles he was converted to Christianity, and became its merciless advocate. When he was made King of Norway (995) he destroyed pagan temples, built Christian churches, and continued to live in polygamy…" ()

None To Stable

Norway was getting a reputation for regularly coming apart at the seams every time a small war broke out or one of their leaders died. Moreover, they soon found themselves in that position once again until Olaf’s offspring, Olaf II was able to anoint himself the boss. This fellah was a real zealot and firmly believed that the only good non-Christians were dead ones and soon went on a mission to show one and all that he practiced what he preached. Olaf II was able to carve out some important pieces of real estate for Norway, but he was an early over-reacher who couldn’t ever seem to cross the finish line and soon had his head handed to him on a platter. You see, at that time, not everyone in Norway believed that Christianity was what it was cracked up. Additionally, they certainly weren’t interested in being proselytized by Olaf II who they considered to be a barbarian. Olaf II was summarily dispatched by the people to far away Russia, along with some of his fanatical religious cohorts.

However, Olaf II didn’t really know when he was well off. While pleasantly ensconced in Russia he began brooding over his lost empire and then began to think about all of the heathens that still needed conversion. In his last disastrous move, he raised a small army and returned to Norway, believing that there would be no problem reascending the throne. Wrong, Olaf! It turns out that both England and Denmark were united at this time under the leadership of a guy with the strange name of Canute II, the Great. He insisted that everyone call him "the Great" in spite of the fact that no one really knew what if anything he had accomplished. However, Canute II, the Great, had a very large army that for some reason was extremely loyal to him and for that reason the people deemed it imperative to label with any name he wanted.

"Social order among the Norse, as elsewhere, was based upon family discipline, economic co-operation, and religious belief. "In him who well considers," says a passage in Beowulf, "nothing can stifle kinship." Unwanted children were exposed to die; but once accepted, the child received a judicious compound of discipline and love. There were no family names; each son merely added his father’s name to his own: Olaf Haraldsson, Magnus Olafsson, Haakon Magnusson. Long before Christianity came to them, the Scandinavians, in naming a child, poured water over him as a symbol of admission into the family." ()

Don't Mess With Canute II

Well, it turned out that Olaf II had disrespected Canute II at a fancy dinner party in Saxony and Canute never got over it. Moreover, when Olaf returned to Norway with his small army in 1028, Canute was there to greet him with his large army and he was soon dispatched. It was in this way that Canute became the unbridled King of Norway, Denmark and Britain simultaneously. The rest is history, Canute had done him in, but the deceased Olaf really got the last laugh. The people of Norway believed that he had put up a bully effort and the Church concurred. Olaf was canonized for his efforts and literally became a religious icon in that country. Canute, having dispatched Olaf, returned to Britain and died. This gave Magnus I, Olaf’s son, who had been left in Russia to cool his while daddy fought the bad people, the opportunity to run the country. He did a credible job and was able to unite both Norway and Denmark under his rule () in 1035 when Canute died.

In any event, things became peaceful for a change in Norway and for the next three centuries a series of kings ran the country. This is not to say that during this time, there wasn’t a lot of dissention. The local bureaucrats running Norway were just like a bunch of peacocks strutting their stuff whenever they had a chance to prance around the barnyard. These folks who always were feeling much more important than they were, caused everyone a lot of grief, but eventually this annoying pretence was put to bed. The people finally got the demons out of themselves and became Christian and during the middle of the 11th century Harald III ascended to the Norway’s throne. One of Harald’s buddies was William the First, Duke of Normandy. In reality, they were probably distantly related. In any event, Bill had been the England and had really enjoyed a summer there.

Harald Evens The Odds

He called Harald, who was always willing to get involved in fun things, and asked him if he would like to help with the invasion of England that Bill was planning if he was given the thrown if successful. Bill advised Harald that he had already secured the Pope’s blessing for the invasion and that seemed to seal the deal, at least in William’s mind. However, in all candor, Harald was a trifle bored and jumped at Bill’s offer. In a pitched battle at Tostig, in 1066, William conquered England and Harald died. For the Norman’s it was a good year, but it wasn’t so great for the Norwegians. When they asked for their share of the plunder, William said they had nothing coming because it was all promised to Harald. If he could arise from the dead, he could do what he wanted with it. In spite of many incantations, that did not happen, and the Norwegians felt that they had been cheated by the new English King, that could no even speak the language.

This must have been some battle in which Harald was killed and because warfare of that time was so violent we are enclosing a small taste:

"Harold was appointed Earl of Wessex, and succeeded in some measure to his father’s power. He was now thirty-one, tall, handsome, strong, gallant, reckless; merciless in war, generous in peace. In a whirlwind of bold campaigns he conquered Wales for England, and presented the head of the Welsh Chieftain Gruffyd to the pleased and horrified King (1063)…Harold (the then ruler of Britain) moved south with a diminished force far too small to pit against William’s host, and every adviser bade him wait. But William was burning and harrowing southern England, and Harold felt bound to defend the soil that he once had ravaged but now loved. At Senlac, near Hastings, the two armies met on October 14, 1066, and fought for nine hours. Harold, his eye pierced by an arrow, fell blinded with blood, and was dismembered by Norman knights: one cut off his head, another a leg, another scattered Harold’s entrails over the field. When the English saw their captain fallen, they fled. So great were the butchery and chaos that the monks who were later commissioned to find Harold’s body could not discover him until they led to the scene Edith Swansneck, who had been his mistress. She identified her lover’s mutilated body, and the fragments were buried in the church at Waltham that he had build. On Christmas Day, 1066, William I was crowned King of England." ()

With Harald’s death, things were once again up for grabs in Norway. The politicos thought that the Church was getting a tad to pushy and relegated the institution to a lessor role for the next several hundred years. Although, we can’t say for sure, Norway prospered during the time that the church had been muted and did not suffer as badly during the Dark Ages as did others. As a matter of fact, during that period, the Norwegians attacked an unpopulated Iceland and were victorious in a pitched battle. Their victory, the first since the Vikings a number of centuries earlier was widely heralded as tidings of good things to come. However, no additional "good things" happened for a substantial period of time and Norway went into a swan dive. The Hanseatic League, a combination of the large cities in Europe, took over all commerce and left Norway out when they found that they didn’t have any. Things soon went from bad to worse, and the country soon became a land of peasants and worse.

Sweden Covets Big-Time

Sweden’s, their next-door neighbor had long coveted the country along with its nifty geographic position on the Atlantic Ocean’s warm water ports, and took over the country in 1319. However, they soon lost interest when they found out that they would have to feed the Norwegians and left. Denmark stepped into the void, which had occurred as a direct result of Hakon V’s death and the ascension of the three-year old son of Hakon’s daughter, Magnus II. He had presented powerful arguments persuasively pointing out that he could do a superb job running both countries. However, because Magnus was still cutting new baby teeth and was unable to personally debate at that time, mom ably took over the job by reading from a complicated script that Magnus II had prepared. Mom, Margaret I, also saw to it that Magnus went to the bathroom regularly. Magnus, through his agent, had raised some strong philosophical arguments in favor of the combination and Norway did not have anyone that could both refute the philosophy or take on Sweden’s strong army simultaneously..

As if the reign of Magnus II wasn’t hard enough to follow, things soon got even stranger still. Margaret I, the mother of Magnus II, grabbed the throne when her soon died and ruled Denmark, Sweden and Norway. However, not everyone was excited about this turn of events and when faced with insurrection went to her German relatives who suggested that they would help but she had to resign. Having been left with the choice of resignation or being beheaded by the revolutionaries, left the thrown to her grandnephew, Eric of Pomerania, a German national. Under his fearless leadership, Norway was relegated to becoming a vassal state of Denmark. Everybody lost interest in Norway, which became devastated by a disease called the "Black Death" which savaged all of Europe. Norway was defoliated and with no people to handle the country, Norway soon descending into the ranks of a fourth class country ().

Denmark and Sweden Make Music

The Union between Denmark and Sweden with Norway playing the role of "odd man out" continued until the time of Napoleon. Denmark chose the wrong side in a series of wars that Napoleon fought and as a result, control of Norway was ceded to Sweden. You kind of get the feeling that Norway was treated like a ping pong ball during this period and was used as a throw-in when someone one a war. Kind of like the player-to-be-named later in baseball. However, Norway finally rebelled against this role and indicated that they were now fiercely independent of everyone. This attitude was frowned up, but Norway backed it up by naming Danish crown prince Christian Frederick or Christian VIII to their thrown thinking that this move would cause so much confusion that maybe they could get away with it. This was not to be the case, but for the first time in centuries, they were given some independent rights and for the time, this seemed to satisfy them. They even had the right to have their own army and navy, important things in a military environment.

However, Sweden tried to keep their nose well into Norway’s business for year to come and it wasn’t until years later that they really had thrown off all of the bonds created by their overly friendly neighbors, Sweden and Denmark. Sweden eventually indicated that if the Norwegians would hold a plebiscite and voted in favor of total independence that would be granted. The vote was overwhelming and in 1905, after numerous centuries, Norway ran its own show. Having had the their resources pruned for centuries by the neighbors, the country had no industry, no substantial military, no resources and no infrastructure. Therefore the decision was made to remain neutral during the First World War. This tactic worked and during that period, the country was able to substantially build up its industries and became a suppler to both camps engaged in the conflict.

Business is Bad, Really Bad

Norway got out of the First World War unscathed but the "Great Depression" had no neutrality and the country was once again sent back to the Stone Age. The people became disheartened and strongly desired a pick-me-up. In the meantime, the Norwegian Government renamed their capital of Christiana; Oslo, the name originally given in 1048 by Harold Sigurdsson. Oslo was located within a magnificent countryside but was continually burning down because of fires. In 1624 after the city of Oslo had been decimated once again, a frustrated King Christian IV thought the name unlucky and renamed it after himself, Christiania.

As Germany rearmed, Norway liked what had happened during the First World War and immediately reported to all concerned parties that they were neutral. However, Germany had a man named Hitler running the show and he didn’t know the meaning of neutrality. Almost every country that he overran declared itself neutral so he interpreted the word as meaning conquest. This exercise was set off when France and Britain mined the water along the Norwegian cost to impair German shipping. Hitler was aware that Norway was critically located along their shipping channels and also possessed substantial natural resources and factories. Germany seeing that this country was unquestionably invaluable, invaded the Norway and after a short period of time emerged firmly in charge. Norway was considered so critical by Hitler, that at war’s end, he still had four hundred thousand troops stationed there that could have well been used on the Eastern Front or in Western Europe.

The War Ends

Norway suffered for a time after the war ended as did everyone else in Europe. They were greatly aided by American aid and soon started a recovery. The country became increasingly democratic and elections were held in 1945 in which the newly formed Labor Party grabbed the gold ring. With able management, a badly desecrated country, totally demolished by the departing German Army had recovered to its pre-war vitality. In ensuring years, Norway became a member of the United Nations. () In addition, while Norway had given considerable thought to entering the European Community (EU), it decided against that choice when people at home began to riot. They determined that membership in the European Free Trade Association, in 1959.

"Norway has long been a great fishing country. Its total catch is about 4 billion pounds (1.8 billion kilograms) a year. Norwegian fishing crews bring in large numbers of cod, haddock, herring, and mackerel. Much of the catch is processed for export. Norway's once-great whaling industry declined sharply during the 1960's. Large catches by Norway and other major whaling nations made many kinds of whales increasingly scarce. In 1987, Norway joined an international moratorium (temporary halt) on commercial whaling. It continued to take some whales for research purposes. In 1993, Norway resumed commercial whaling of minke whales, claiming they were no longer in danger. " ()

A New Attitude Towards Sex

Norway has become a very modern place in terms of its social customs. For the most part, marriage is no longer considered mandatory for eligible folks here and the name of the game to some degree has become one of musical chairs. Moreover, Norway comes in second place in the world's derby for the number of births to unwed parents. The only country that can top their statistics of 49 percent of all births being to unwed parents is tiny Iceland which claims that record at a lofty 62 percent. Moreover, these statistics are for the year 1999 and it is believed that the numbers have carried further into the atmosphere in the since that time. 

Just to give you an idea of how pervasive the concept has become in Norway, Marit Arnstad, a female member of parliament who is unmarried, also became pregnant while she was serving as the country's oil minister and is now raising a son by herself. However, the morals here often start at the top and Norway's crown prince Haakon lived out of wedlock with his girl friend who was also a single mother with a child long before they eventually tied the knot. Moreover, the child's father is a convicted cocaine supplier and she gained a well-publicized reputation as a "fixture' of Oslo's house party scene some hears ago.  With folks like that leading the charge you can well understand where they are getting their ideas from.

It is interesting that what seems to be happening in Europe is the fact that, the more financially independent the women become, the more unwilling they are to jump into marriage. The New York Times in a story that they ran on the subject by Sarah Lyall entitled Europeans Opting Against Marriage, 3-24-2002 stated: "In the Scandinavian countries, in particular, such women tend to be educated and employed. Buoyed in part by policies that allow them substantial financial grants even when they return to work, single mothers live beneath the poverty line...Not just Norway. In a profound shift that has changed the notion of what constitutes a family in many countries, more and more European children are being born out of wedlock into a new social order in  which, it seems, few of the old stigmas apply. The trend is far more pronounced in Nordic countries, in France and in Britain, and less so in southern countries like Italy and Switzerland but the figures as a whole are startling, particularly because they tend to hold up across all social classes. " 

However, that is not to say that folks in Norway don't tie the not any more. The only difference is that they are doing it later in life and for what are probably much more logical reasons. Moreover, the people hereabouts no longer seem to believe in the infallibility of the church and its teachings about marriage, morals and families. These folks  are introspectively looking at marriage from their own personal point of view and considering what their own needs may be instead of heading into like a sheep to a sheering because it said so in a book. Moreover, because of the fact that this generation's parents had also become somewhat liberated, the kids are not being fed a bunch of nonsensical garbage by their parents as to what is right and what isn't. You may call this the ultimate "me" generation, but if that what makes it work than that seems ok too.

In the United States, religion, financial opportunity and the church are the major factors that are holding people back from joining their European counterparts in this freer form of life. In addition, American laws have not changed in the same manner that they in Europe. Thus more accommodations to the regulations must be made here  by young people. Moreover, religion is a bigger factor in the United States than in Europe and that is critical to the changing morality. Claude Martin who is a professor of sociology at the Institute of Political Science in Rennes, France put it this way: "The most import thing, it seems to me, is the quality of the relationship between the members of the couple, not whether they are married or not. Here in France there is very little difference between being married and cohabitating, and very little difference between children born out of wedlock and those that are born within marriage."

The fact is, the system as we know it is breaking down all over Europe, but nowhere is it a prominent as in the Nordic countries. . As we have pointed out, there are excellent reasons for what is occurring. However, the true emancipation of women here stands alone at the top for being the most important. However, the advent of simple yet highly accurate birth control devices is certainly up there among the critical factors that brought on this sexual revolution in the first place.  However, the most import ../../single issue involved in the whole _quot.css;affair" is the social net that is wrapped around everyone in Europe but especially those in the Nordic countries. Norway is a particularly interesting case because they can afford the luxury of taking care of everyone a lot better than all of their neighbors because of the immense oil discoveries that have been made here. However, many of the other countries are becoming overburdened by debt and many of them are now suffering a form of economic stagnation. We will have to revisit what happens to them in the near future, but in the area of free love, it appears that Norway will lead the world for some years to come.

An Explorer and a Half

Norway's reputation as the premier sea faring nation was certainly enhanced by a man named Thor Heyerdahl who was part explorer and part archaeologist. He became world famous by taking a voyage of over 4,300 across the Pacific Ocean in a, would you believe, log raft. His trip was highly publicized and followed by the international press. Literally no one believing that he could make it from Peru to Polynesia on his rickety contrivance, but this guy was one tough hombre. He had named his raft Kon-Tiki and soon Thor had completely captured the imagination of world audiences as they followed the trek on a daily basis in the news. In realty, while most thought that Heyerdahl was just showing the world that he could end the trip alive and in one piece, he was really attempting to prove his theory that the South Seas had been populated from an east to west direction rather than the time honored concept that it was really the other way around and that its population had come from Asia. The Norwegian explorer certainly made his point and he made it in spades before a world audience.

The raft called Kon-Tiki held a crew of five and was 45-feet in length. It was made of balsa wood and had a rudimentary sail. He was going to ride the currents and follow the southeast trade winds literally wherever they took him. He arrived at his destination some three months later with all aboard in good spirits and healthy. Moreover, had made a copious record of every part of their voyage by filming literally all of it. In their free time they conducted experiments over a broad range of oceanographic subjects.

Heyerdahl had quite a formative background, which included attending the University of Oslo leaving with  a degree in zoology and than did advanced work in 1936 while in the South Pacific in the subject of cultural anthropology. His father was a Norwegian industrialist and his mother was the director of a museum. It was she that gave him the push in the direction of archaeology and it was his father that paid the freight. During World War II, Heyerdahl was a paratrooper in a Norwegian military unit based outside of his then occupied country. In later years he also made exploratory trips to the Galapagos and in another mystical voyage sailed down the Tigris River in Iraq on a reed raft. In spite of the fact that both of these experiences were serious scientific accomplishments, neither had the panache that was brought into the public's eye by the trip of the Kon-Tiki. However, the 1960s brought Heyerdahl's one public failure into full view and in it  he had put together the most complex of all of his schemes.

He was attempting to prove that the ancient Egyptians and the Peruvians had commercial trading relations with each other thousands of years ago. Heyerdahl believed that it was critical to prove that the Egyptians had substantive boat building skills and the navigational prowess to make the difficult trip successfully. In order to duplicate what equipment existed at that time, he had an Egyptian type  papyrus reed  vessel constructed in sort of a United Nations of boat building program. The papyrus reed came from Ethiopia, the boat makers came from Chad, the boat was transported to Morocco and named it after the Egyptian sun god and it then set sail for Peru. Heyerdahl had tried to copy the best of what the Egyptians could have done with what existed at that time. However, in spite of his very game efforts and after eight weeks at sea, the reeds became waterlogged and the boat sank in the Caribbean, a long way from Peru. However, this was a man that did not enjoy failure; he went back to the drawing board and this time commissioned professional boat builders in South America to create a more seaworthy craft. The boat was christened the Ra II and made it as far as Barbados before the trip was again shelved. However, this in itself was somewhat of a victory for Heyerdahl and he may well have proved his point.

In any event, this amazing man died on April 18, 2002 at the age of 87 after setting the world on its ear. He always attempted to accomplish the extraordinary and more often than not he succeeded. This Norwegian explorer and will be sorely missed and he had indeed represented his country well in all of his endeavors.

A Whale of A Tale

Norway certainly deserves its reputation as an enlightened country and for the most part no one has much quarrel with that statement. However, in spite of its recent oil riches, Norway has always been a seafaring country and for most of its existence, its primary source of hard currency came from fishing. However, in 1986 the entire world came to a unanimous agreement that whales were being grossly over fished and that without some environmental brakes being applied, there may soon be so few of these creatures left that it just wouldn't matter anymore. Every single country in the world including Japan and Norway at that time signed an agreement aptly named the International Moratorium on Whaling which  put an end to that practice. However, as time passed, Norway with a country literally having a substantial number of able bodied seaman, soon became restless and in 1993 determined that the restrictions were far to severe and determined to go back into the business of catching these large mammals no matter what the other nations of the world or the environmentalists thought. The Norwegians were joined several years later by the Japanese, who love to eat anything that swims in the ocean whether it be mammal or fish. As a matter of fact, it doesn't even have to swim to wind up on Japanese plates, it can grow as well. 

As the years passed by, it was primarily the Japanese pushed for more and more latitude relative to their fishing habits and in spite of public opinion they gradually increased their harvest through various strange tactics, most of which were terribly transparent. However, the Norwegians by this time had totally lost their appetite for blubber and the fact that both countries had agreed to hunt but not trade whale meat caused a lot of Norwegian whale meat to rot at the pier. As far as the people in both countries were concerned, this was hardly logical and it was fundamentally uneconomic. Thus,  the Norwegians questioned as to why their  whale catch should  rot when they could simply ship the excess overseas, make the Japanese happy and profit substantially for doing it. They and the Japanese agreed that this indeed was a grand idea and have announced to the world that they are soon going to effectuate this program. In order to accommodate the perceived increased need, Norway has given their whalers a substantially increased quota. Moreover, a massive amount of whale meat had already been frozen and is sitting in warehouses throughout the country. This Japanese deliciously sells for a big premium over there and with increased production and the stores that are held in refrigerated warehouses, the Japanese should soon be very happy campers. From an economic standpoint the Norwegians are overjoyed as well.

However, this is not to say that the rest of the world is happy about what is gong on. The International Fund for Animal Welfare headed by Fred O'Regan thinks that the killing of whales is for the birds and said, "the plan of these two countries is absolutely outrageous and obviously Norway and Japan have determined to go their own way in spite of international feelings in the matter. However, the last word is not yet in on the subject and the International Whaling Commission meets again in Japan in the Spring of 2002. Naturally there will be a lot of talk about what a terrible thing those two countries are doing and there could possibly be a concession or two, but the bottom line is that nothing of consequence is going to occur that will fundamentally alter these plans. In spite of the fact that no one likes it, no one is gong to war over it and that is about the only way that these folks are going to back down.

Norway hardly needs the money and their role as an enlightened world leader in the area of morality will be sadly shaken as more of this hits the press in the coming months.

In Spite of a Bad Rap

All of this bad stuff aside, Norway won the annual award given by the United Nations as the best place to live. Not that they are going to publicize it at all because Norway is not really accepting new residents. However, the award given by the United Nations Human Development Agency indicates that Norway is the best when it comes to a combination of factors including healthcare, per capita income, life expectancy and educational levels. Australia, another country that is also not particularly excited about accepting new emigrants finished a distant second ahead of Canada which had topped the list for six consecutive years.  

The Name of the Game Changes

Oil and gas were discovered off of Norway’s coast in the late 1960s and everything else became mute. The country’s government waxed and waned, with political parties gaining and losing power as the Norwegian’s became as fickle as a teen-aged girl on her first date. However, who was in power, no longer mattered as the black gold started supplying the Norwegian’s with untold riches. The country became big brother and literally supplied its small population with whatever they needed. Health care is provided freely to all citizens and Norway has one of the best doctor to patient ratios in the world at one in 326. Pensions are more than adequate and everyone is covered. Maternity leaves are also part of the social plan and women can take a year off of work with full pay while expecting.

When talk of the oil fields in the North Sea eventually running dry, new oil was discovered and the country probably has greater reserves today than at any time in their history. The only problem is that they are just a little further offshore and a little deeper in the ocean. Technological advances are seeing to it that Norway remains oiled up and things look particularly rosy for at least the country’s immediate future.

 

Troll

As we have pointed out earlier, the easy oil has already been found, and in order to make further discoveries, any number of high-tech ideas have the subject of experimentation. In certain cases, locating and drilling for oil has become so sophisticated that one can be almost certain of how much oil is going to be there, exactly where it is and how much will be recoverable before even drilling the first hole. This is no longer a business for wildcatters; it is a big money play, and only the major multinationals have the vast resources that enable them to complete. As more and more oil is drilled in hard to get locations, we will be seeing innovations that will be mind-boggling. Take for example, "The tallest man-made structure ever moved on the surface of the Earth is Norway’s Troll gas platform.

The structure was so immense that it took ten of the world’s most powerful tugs in the world over a week to tow the hundred-story structure, weighing over million tons, onto its ultimate production site. It is taller than the world’s tallest building and is the heaviest object ever transported by man. At times, their speed was less than knot for the 180-mile journal, but for the most part the tugs were pulling their cargo at about 2 knots. "The tow-out alone will go into the Guinness Book of Records as the heaviest man-made object to move on the surface of the earth, displacing the previous record holder, the tow-out of the Ninian (another drilling facility) central concrete platform." "The greatest challenge of all was moving it safely from its construction site to its deep-water location 80 km off the Norwegian coast. Its sheer size and weight made its transportation extremely difficult. Yet several novel marine operations were successfully achieved."

The hydrocarbon field that the Troll rests over is the biggest in Europe, and the estimates are that it will be pumping oil for many decades. The Troll contains the first-ever fully automated drilling rig, which has been installed on the platform to drill the 40 development wells. The structure was constructed to last no less than seventy years, a great accomplishment in itself when you consider the dismal weather conditions that are common in it’s the North Sea location. The project cost over $5 billion to build and took six years, and it is the fourth largest man-made structure in the world.

There were other nightmares waiting for the construction people on the Troll project. For example, the depth of the water that the structure was placed in is over 300 meters, which makes it the deepest construction project ever undertaken, but even more deadly was the fact that where the Troll was placed, the seabed had the consistency of a rotten pancake. Thus, pilings had to be sunk deeply into the ocean to insure the structures stability. The weak soil at location meant that the platform penetrated to a depth of nearly 36 meters. The skirts are sunk to this depth to obtain sufficient stability for the production phase. They consist of 19 concrete cylinders, each 32 meters wide, joined together.

The concrete is between .5 meters and .7 meters thick. The skirts were cast in one continuous slip-forming operation with a lifting rate of 1.7 meters per day. The weight of the platform is supported by a combination of friction along the skirts and soil pressure at the lower domes and tips of the skirts." In addition, a record was set when 36-inch diameter heavy-walled pipe was laid in water depths down to 350 meters. "To avoid the rocky shore approach, the pipelines have been laid through a tunnel into land. Construction of this landfall tunnel included vertical piercing in 170 meters of water, another record."

Moreover, 120,000 tons of cement and 100,000 tons of reinforced steel went into the structure. The concrete platform built by Norwegian Contractors was the largest single contract issue in Norwegian history. The facility is linked to the shore through a fiber-optical cable as part of an integrated offshore-on-shore control system. Thus, the Troll Platform became the first system in this part of the world capable of remote operation from onshore. This makes the platform a kind of super failsafe operation, in that should its control room short-circuit or the platform catch fire, then whatever could have been accomplished on the platform can be adequately handled from the shore.

Environmental conditions were a nightmare for a project of this magnitude:

"The onshore processing plant at Kollsnes on the bleak coast of Oygarden, north west of Bergen, is the "brains" behind Troll. From here, up to 100 million standard cubic meters of gas per day will be sent by seabed pipeline to Zeebrugge and Emden for distribution across Europe. Developing new technology to enable wet gas to be piped 65 km from the platform to an onshore processing plant was a real engineering challenge. The Kollsnes site houses the largest gas processing plant in the world. It features the largest compressors and variable speed electric motors ever built. The lasting of tunnels 3.7 km out to sea to link Kollsnes with the Troll platform demanded some of the world’s most advanced tunnel engineering technology."

"The Kollsnes site was subject to strict environmental restriction to preserve the character of Oygarden, the first area settled in Norway after the Ice Age 12 – 15000 years ago. The Plant may not emit sound above 40 Decibels. The natural shoreline has also been preserved. As a result, the plant goes virtually unnoticed from a distance. Other environmental restrictions include a ban on the release of heated water and other pollutants. Uniquely for a gas processing plant, Kollsnes is powered by hydroelectricity, not gas, says Jonassen. An innovative virtual reality, multimedia-reporting system has therefore been developed using ROVs attached to a 4 km umbilical. The system has the potential to be adapted for any remote site inspection, hazard prevention and verification."

Because it was felt that the field of hydrocarbons that the Troll was harvesting was enormous, the Platform had to be built with longevity in mind. It has been constructed to withstand the fierce weather that is normally served up in that area, which includes, gales, snowstorms, below zero temperatures and ice flows. This is not exactly a stroll in the country. From an environmental point of view, the structure had to built in such a way that it would be environmentally sound during its useful working life, in spite of the fact many obstacles had to be overcome. From the success of the operation of the Troll, appears that the engineers have done an admirable job protecting the environment.

"The 369-meter structure now stands in water 302 meters deep and is sunk into the seabed to a depth of 35.7 meters. The whole structure, including the topsides and the flare tower, is 472 meters high. As such, Troll A is the world’s tallest and heaviest concrete platform and the heaviest man-made object ever to have been moved across the surface of the earth. In addition, the Troll is considered by many to be the safest facility of its kind in the world. "…On the new Troll platform in the Norwegian North Sea, Shell has installed what it claims to be world’s first fully-mechanized drilling rig. If personnel are not needed on the drilling floor or on the pipe deck, then they are excluded and therefore cannot be injured in any accidents. The personnel requirement for drilling has been reduced from the usual fifteen or so to just five, who are housed in a safe module outside the hazardous area.

"The key to the mechanized handling is a novel "javelin arm" mounted on the drilling floor, which extends out to clasp the pipe section raised by the gantry crane. The javelin arm brings the pipe onto the drilling floor and "stabs" it into the drill string. The top of the pipe is picked up by the top-drive and the pipe section is tightened by the "iron roughneck." The whole process is automated, with all components having a "space-sensing" ability, so that crashes are avoided. Automation extends to the blending and delivery of drilling mud and cement, in modules just below the drilling floor. The whole process is controlled by three operators, working in the soundproofed, safe, control room." ()

The facility was fit for a king when finished and none other than His Majesty King Harald V of Norway presided over opening day festivities that took place on June 19, 1996. He was rightly proud of this literally "all Norwegian" project that set records in so many areas that haven’t even been counted them. This little known structure has set the pace for innovation in deep drilling techniques. But they also have set the standards in safety, environmental considerations and drilling techniques. This structure is truly a monument to man’s ingenuity. When it was announced in 1986, it was called the "Norwegian Man on the Moon Project." The Economist Magazine dubbed the Troll as one of the 10 technical wonders of the modern world, along with moon landings, the first heart transplant and the  jumbo jet. Not bad company.

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