Kvalsund on Repparfjord – a changing Norwegian village
Those who do not live in Northern Norway, Troms or Finnmark will not have heard of Kvalsund or the Repparfjord. On our way to the officially northernmost city in Europe, to Hammerfest, we come through this place. It irritates and fascinates us at the same time, one would not expect a settlement of this size in such a seemingly barren environment.
To start with, the title photo does not reflect the state of Kvalsund on the Repparfjord, rather I am fascinated by old decaying buildings and their past. In addition, the photo of the old fish factory conveys the change that Kvalsund and its around 1,000 people are constantly exposed to. In addition, when I look through the pictures at home, I always notice what I haven’t photographed. So one of the reasons to come back here and experience a small part of the history of this area.
The landscape partly rises steeply out of the fjord. In the north and west it runs quite hilly, while in the south it forms a plateau that is about 200 to 300 meters above sea level. This plateau stretches like a ridge towards Sennaland.
The highest mountains around Kvalsund are the Seilandsjøkeln with a height of 986 meters at Seiland, the Store Navgastat with a height of 713 meters and Skinfjellet at Kvalsunddalen with a height of 713 meters.
In this environment, the Sami in particular use the pastures for their reindeer from the Kautakeino area. The surrounding area is also a wonderful hiking area. But the island of Kvaløya, which is part of Kvalsund, or Seiland are also wonderful landscapes for hiking. The waters are very popular for their wealth of sea trout and salmon. The Repparfjord is one of the best-known waters for wild salmon, but is completely leased.
Kvalsund is about 32 kilometers before Hammerfest, we drive about 112 kilometers from Alta or Lakselv. Reason enough to have a place like Kvalsund where there is really everything you need to live. And yet, since 01.01.2020, it has united with its neighbor Hammerfest as a common community. The desire for this has been in the population of both municipalities since 2015. The decision to merge then followed in 2017.
Kvalsund was already part of Hammerfest. But that ended on July 1st, 1869. Kvalsund became an independent municipality and at the same time got city rights with all associated privileges. At first, 541 people lived in the new commune. The first new merger brought the sparsely populated area of Kokelv with 34 inhabitants to the municipality of Kvalsund on January 1, 1963.
The place gets its name from its location and the whale that probably passed here earlier. Because the name is made up of whale and strait.
Kvalsund was originally considered a Sami settlement. And so was the original name of the place Finnbyen, which in turn stands for seed settlement. However, the immigration of Norwegians and the Kven settlers from southern Norway in the 18th and 19th centuries changed cultural development. However, between the 18th century and around 1980 there was a merciless Norwegianization of the Sami, so that large parts of the Sami culture were destroyed. Today there is a small museum in Kokelv, which commemorates the regional way of life of the Sami.
As in all of Finnmark, there is no pre-war building in Kvalsund, with one exception. Because on November 4, 1944, the residents of Kvalsund were also evacuated. They were only allowed to take what they could carry. As soon as the boats left, they saw the firelight over the place in the dark, every house was lit and burned down.
For whatever reason, the church in Kvalsund was spared. It was only consecrated in 1936. When people returned home in April 1945, they saw only the tall grass and the burnt ruins of their houses. During their displacement, some had been brought to the south coast of Norway. Elsewhere we will let contemporary witnesses have their say.
Reconstruction began, the ferry to the island of Kvaløya, which partly belongs to Kvalsund, and thus to Hammerfest, started operating again. In 1977 the ferry connection was replaced by the northernmost suspension bridge in the world.
Another peculiarity. Because near the Kvalsund Bridge is the world’s first tidal power plant. The strong currents in this strait were decisive for this location.
Another, but very controversial, feature in Kvalsund is currently under construction. One of the largest copper mines in Europe is being built near the town. Cutting into the pasture land of the reindeer of the Sami is particularly tricky, but also the disposal of millions of tons of highly toxic rock, which is no longer used to extract the copper. It is disposed of as a sea dump in the fish-rich Repparfjord. Digitization is not free.
In any case, we will visit Kvalsund again shortly and then take extensive photos. Sometimes, unfortunately, you only realize afterwards which pearl you were visiting.