Ships

Blood On The Tooth

It’s a legacy steeped in one man’s drive that lives on in this special ship.

WORDS JEREMY DRAKE

To 'get blood on the tooth' is a Norwegian idiom coveying the drive to overcome and achieve greatness. Photo: Stian Klo

There’s an old Norwegian expression, ‘å få blod på tann,’ which loosely translated means: ‘to get blood on the tooth’.

A somewhat graphic metaphor, it’s used to convey the human drive to achieve greatness. When Hurtigruten founder Richard With established the Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Express in 1893 – an unprecedented achievement in itself – he changed the future of travel along Norway’s coast forever.

Raftsundet Norway. Photo: Trym Ivar Bergsmo

The 1,250 nautical mile journey from Bergen to Kirkenes was once a very perilous one. Tonnes of herring, halibut and cod needed urgent transportation from the north to a hungry southern Europe and no one was willing to tackle a dreaded coast marred by treacherous winds, reefs, islands and difficult-to-navigate inlets. That is until With, an experienced shipmaster from Tromsø, buried all of his teeth into a Norwegian government tender that no other sailor would touch. He was the only man willing to defy the sceptics and take on the ‘hurtig ruten’ (the express route) up north. His first successful journey north came on the ship DS Vesteraalen, and was the start of a coastal revolution. It drove new industry and inspired once-isolated communities into adventure.

DS Finmarken was a ship in regular use from 1912 until 1957.

MS Richard With - named for Hurtigruten's founder.

Fast forward more than a century and the modern-day MS Richard With – the eponymous ship was built in 1993, with a current passenger capacity of 590 people – still lives up to this legacy. It connects local travellers and intrepid adventurers from around the world alike, bringing them up close and personal with Norway’s idyllic landscapes, transporting them past more than 100 fjords and providing guests with a long list of land-based excursions. Captain Frode Simonsen has been at the helm of MS Richard With for the past two years and he says that the history of the founder, the northern coastal route and the name of the vessel defines everything for guests on board. “Richard With was at the time a great man, a ship captain, a pioneer, a businessman and politician,” says Simonsen. “People love touring Norway's coast in this vessel because of the name of Richard With, the history and the importance of our founder. My favourite time on board is March and April in the far north. It’s when the days are getting longer and you can start to see that everything is waking up after a very long winter.” True to Hurtigruten’s pioneering spirit, the ship has its own Expedition Team and serves as a sort of university-at-sea. As well as spending their days relaxing and sightseeing, guests from around the world can also devote hours to lectures, Citizen Science projects and hands-on activities run by Norwegian coastal experts.

Vivid colours are typical of autumn in Norway.

Activity Center, MS Richard With. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Interactive Table, MS Richard With. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

When asked about his favourite section along this historical route, Simonsen answers without hesitation: the journey between Lofoten and Vesterålen. While it might have once been a journey that frightened even Norway’s most hardened ship captains, Simonsen says it's not so much the navigation of the coast that challenges him now, but the winds, the islands and the many narrow ports that make this journey difficult for even today’s ships. But that touch of danger, he says, is also part of the magic. Like Richard With, you don’t get anywhere without a bit of blood on the tooth.

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Ship in Raftsundet Norway. Photo: Trym Ivar Bergsmo

Discover the magnificent Norwegian coast

In 2018, MS Richard With was significantly refurbished and upgraded with new staterooms and suites, a brand-new Activity Centre which acts as the on-board headquarters for Hurtigruten’s Expedition team, two aft-facing hot tubs and, most importantly, an upgraded Panorama Bar for front-row seats to the greatest light show on earth: the Northern Lights.

Explorer Bar, MS Richard With. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Expedition Suite, MS Richard With. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon

Taking it easy on MS Richard With.

The Northern Lights, from MS Richard With.

Hurtigruten’s iconic 12-day Classic Roundtrip Voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes retraces Richard With’s original journey, with 34 ports of call along Norway's wild and beautiful coast.

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