Blend Worx

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Norway: Fjords, Scenery, Shipwrecks

Norway occupies the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The country, which voted to stay out of the European Union, is a constitutional monarchy and King Harald V is the chief of state. 4.8 million Norwegians call an area slightly larger than New Mexico home and enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, thanks to abundant natural resources such as petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals.

Norway features 15,626 miles (25,148 kilometers) coastline that encompasses hundreds of magnificent fjords and numerous small islands. With a population of 256,000, Bergen is the second-largest city and located on the south-Norway: Fjords, Scenery, Shipwreckswestern coast. Despite being as far north as the southern tip of Greenland, Bergen’s weather is relatively mild. In fact, Bergen enjoys one of the warmest climates in Norway, thanks to the Gulf Stream. The city is home to the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), an advisory services company in the fields of marine ecosystems and aquaculture. Bergen is also the main base for the Royal Norwegian Navy, and its harbour is Norway’s largest port.

Frankenwald shipwreck
Frankenwald wreck | Photo: Gulen Dive Resort

The city of Bergen is almost surrounded by water. Within a 20 mile (32 kilometer) range, divers have access to at least 50 known shipwrecks, including the Frankenwald. Built in 1922, the 5,000 ton German steamship sunk on January 6, 1940 after it struck an islet in the Sognefjord. The wreck, which is considered one of the best dives in Norway, sits perfectly upright on a sandy bottom in 138 feet (42 meters). Divers reach the deck in approximately 98 feet (30 meters), and the rear mast extends to a depth of 23 feet (7 meters). Handrails, deck winches and lifeboat davits are still in place. The sheer scale and size of the 400 feet (122 meters) long wreck is truly awesome. The Frankenwald is nicely decorated with plumose anemones and other species.

From the shores of a village called Vadheim, another wreck with an interesting history can be reached. The Oldenburg is a 4,988 ton German boat that has participated in both World Wars. Built in 1914 as a transport boat, the ship was requisitioned by the German navy and converted to the merchant raider. During World War I the Oldenburg became the most successful warship of all time, sinking, mining and capturing close to 50 Allied ships.

After the war, the British ceded the Oldenburg, and later sold her to the French. In 1933, the French sold the ship back to the Germans. During World War II, the boat was once again requisitioned by the German navy, this time as a transport ship to support the German occupation of Norway.

During its history, the ship had many names, including Pungo, Möve (Moewe), Vineta, and Greenbrier. Today, the wreck rests on her starboard side at a slope with a starting depth of 82 feet (25 meters). The bridge is in 131 feet (40 meters) of water, and several cabins and rooms that make up this superstructure can be explored. The stern of the vessel lies in over 197 feet (60 meters) of water.

The German cargo ship Katja hit a reef in November 1964. The stern broke off and the 148 feet (45 meters) boat did sink quickly. Divers will find the wreck in 66 feet (20 meters) in the sand between two rocky ridges. The stern section is upright and still intact, and an anchor lies against the port side. Sinks and toilets can be seen inside the hull.

Steamship Anna Sofie
Steamship Anna Sofie | Public Domain

The remains of the 3,077 ton steamship Anna Sofie can be found in Haugesund at depths from 115 to 164 feet (35 to 50 meters). The Norwegian-owned ship was built in Newcastle in 1919, but commandeered by the Germans during World War II. She hit the Trollholmen just north of Haugesund in February 1944, and sank quickly. The vessel lies on her port side and has not been salvaged. Unfortunately, the wreck site is in a shipping lane and exposed to tides.

Not too far away rests another steamship, the Vestra. The 1,422 ton boat was built in Holland in 1904. Again, the Germans commandeered the 243 feet (74 meter) long ship during World War II. Anti-aircraft guns did not help much. The ship was sunk by British bombers during October 1944 while carrying a cargo of limestone.

Divers will find the wreck sitting upright with her bow pointing to the North. The superstructure collapsed, and the hull has been badly damaged. Since the Vestra rests in the middle of the harbor, permission from the Harbormaster is required to dive the vessel.

Barenfels steamship wreck
Barenfels steamship wreck | Photo: @janetteekren

The Barenfels was another German steamship with triple expansion and turbine engines that sank in April of 1944. The 7,569 ton boat was struck by a mine laid from a British mini-submarine at her moorings in Bergen. While the bow was salvaged, the stern section of the 460 feet (140 meters) long ship sank while it was towed away. What’s left from the wreck lies on its portside in about 66 feet (20 meters).

Divers planning to visit Norway should book their accommodation in advance to avoid surprises. An umbrella is recommended, since Bergen has 260 rainy days per year. The water temperature can be a balmy 63 degrees (17°C) during late summer and early fall, thanks to the Gulf Stream. Even during the winter, the temperature stays around 43 degrees (6°C), but storms are common.

Visibility varies and usually ranges from 33 – 98 feet (10 to 30 meters). While on the expensive side, Norway undoubtedly offers some of the finest wreck diving in the northern hemisphere, as well as outstanding scenery. Visitors have to observe some rules governing scuba diving in Norway: Diving in the areas of military bases, fishing zones and habitats is not allowed. Divers need to deploy a dive flag at all times, and spearfishing is strictly forbidden.

A YouTube video showing divers exploring the wreck of the Frankenwald can be found here.

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