After a story by Alf E. Hanssen (in Norwegian)
Translated and rewritten by Michael Holtermann and Rick Shupper
In the spring of 1857, Le Maire and his two technical assistants Christoffersen and Pettersen traveled to Andenes to start work on Andenes Lighthouse. Le Maire was born in Denmark and was master mason. During the early 1840s he worked at Kvitholmen Lighthouse as a mason.
As early as 1828, a commission was appointed to investigate and make a recommendation on construction of new lighthouses along the Norwegian coast – and where these should be placed. The commission submitted its proposal to the authorities in the summer of 1829.
Authorities must have taken an early interest in Andenes. Negotiations between the state and the Andeses landowner Jonas Falcke began in 1840. The final purchase of land for the lighthouse took place in January 1845. But it wasn’t until 1854 that the Parliament’s budget committee gave the green light on implementing construction plans. After yet some discussion about the location, the final go-ahead came August 6, 1855.
Lenses and other technical equipment were purchased from France, and were all properly packaged and stored in Lofoten until they could be transported north to Andenes. The poor harbor conditions at Andenes presented major problems for the lighthouse administration. Iron plates and other equipment could not be transported north from Lofoten before a proper quay was established with cranes were in place. For that purpose, a solid stone quay was built in Flambergodden, the location of the lighthouse.
Most workers at Andenes lighthouse site were people from the northwest coast. They were experienced and skilled lighthouse builders. A big problem to be resolved was housing for all the visiting workers, and the lighthouse building administrations struck an agreement with a Lind, former trader at Andenes. For 60 thalers (riksdaler = the currency at the time), the merchant arranged workforce housing for the summer.
The good income summer fishing could provide was a great temptation for visiting lighthouses builders. Many would have preferred to go fishing than build lighthouses in Andenes. Therefore, wages had to be significantly increased – and after a lot of hardships and back and forth, the work finally began in the summer of 1857.
In summer of 1859 the lighthouse was completed, and its first lighthouse keeper was captain Sivert With Reginor from Trondheim. Nanna With has painted a vivid picture of his grandfather in the book “Along the way,” published by Dreyer publishing in 1954.
In 1865 iopen conflict between the pilots who had been hired after the lighthouse was built and Sivert With. The essence of the dispute was the the pilots duty as assistants at the lighthouse. The dispute was settled with the hiring of a permanent employee in the position.
In the summer of1867, a large schooner wrecked off Andenes. The ancient documents often tell about shipwrecks off Andenes in those days.
The fishing fleet also was quite exposed to the weather and sea conditions until the piers were in place. The smaller boats had to be brought up on the beach overnight, then put out the next morning again. Often we read about the storm damage to the boats and equipment in the harbor. “Many a beautiful sea boat splintered to pieces,” says Selius Jensen. In the great storm of February 16, 1881, Andenes lost much of the fishing fleet, along with both piers and boathouses.
Sivert With was a man with many irons in the fire. He put forward different proposals and plans for expansion of port facilities in Andenes. It was to awaken the authorities’ understanding of the matter’s importance.
In 1874, With prepared plans for port development at Andenes, and November 17 the same year, Dverberg committee gave its full support to the plans. Two years later, at a town hall meeting at Andenes fishermen and other interested parties put forward demands for a solution to the poor harbor conditions. Sivert Nielsen, who was visiting Andenes in 1880, found the demands of the fishing population to be justified. April 3 1888, the development plans of Andenes harbor were approved.
In 1893, work began on a breakwater system, but the fishermen demanded that this pier not be connected to the mainland, which would close the Moholm strait. This requirement was ignored by the port authorities, and would later prove to be a major inconvenience for the boats in the harbor. In 1902, therefore the passage in Fyrvika closed, and the pier was now connected to the mainland.
Stones for this breakwater system was partly derived from Andenes and Steinavær in Andfjorden. The first quarry was Ravnholmen, later Trollhaugen. From the quarry on the Ravnholmen, horses were used for transportation. From the quarry at Trollhaugen and from Bjørnhaugen, locomotives did the job. From Steinavær, boulders were transported on large barges. And only twice during the construction period, the steamer “Andenes” had to turn back due to bad weather.
The first house the state’s port authorities erected was a coal storage at Flambergodden. Both the locomotive Røiken (Smoke) and the crane barge Grautløva (Porridge Lion) were powered by steam engines, as was the case with the drills and the other cranes. Later storehouses for equipment and tools were built, a building for the office and carpenter shop was established, as well as a smithy and storehouse for cement.
The engineers lived in the newly built church singer’s living quarters in the early years. Later the Port Authority bought ground of the former trader Kiil for the construction of new engineering residence. The house would eventually become a doctor’s house in Andenes. And today, the Polar Museum’s collections can be found in this building.
So many things could be said about the people and events that had its close connection to the harbor. A separate chapter is the story of Pomor trade, when the bay saw the fleets of the Russian vessels that drove exchange.