History

A Grand Voyage

Hurtigruten Magazine looks at some of the major milestones that have shaped the 130-year history of Hurtigruten.

WORDS KATE ROBERTSON

Prior to 1893, the idea of a fast and reliable shipping service along Norway’s beautiful but treacherous coastline seemed fanciful. Fortunately, Captain Richard With disagreed.

Expeditions to sea have transformed dramatically since Hurtigruten’s original steamboat departed Trondheim for Hammerfest almost 130 years ago. On this inaugural voyage, Captain Richard With and the crew continued through the night with only lighthouses, a notebook, charts and a compass to guide them.

Richard With purchased the steam ship Arendal for 20,000 kroner in 1893.

Richard With purchased the steam ship Arendal for 20,000 kroner in 1893 - the equivalent to about $155,000 in today’s money.

Back then, there was a boom in fishermen and traders rushing to take advantage of the rich shoals of herring off the Norwegian coast. When the government called for tenders for a reliable mail delivery service, Captain With was convinced he could link northern and southern Norway with a regular steamship service. Captain With successfully pitched his idea to investors, who founded the beginnings of modern-day Hurtigruten – called Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskap. Using his backers’ financing, Captain With purchased the steam ship Arendal for 20,000 kroner in 1893 – approximately $155,000 in today’s money. This was a lot of money in 1893, but there was a clear vision behind the leap of faith.

The M.S Sanct Svithun, built in 1950, the second ship to be named after Stavanger's patron saint.

The city of Trondheim in 1910s.

From the 1910s, oil powered ships begun to replace steam ships.

Coastal pilot Anders Holte was engaged to map the route, creating the detailed notes that Captain With relied upon. These notes were so precise they included recommendations for when and where the captain could change course if required by fog or other eventualities. The SS Arendal was promptly renamed the DS Vesteraalen and sent to a workshop in Bergen to be rebuilt with a new boiler capable of making the long journey.

Here, we take a look at some of the major milestones that have shaped Hurtigruten since that original voyage.

Major milestones that have shaped Hurtigruten since that original voyage...

1893

Gamechanger

DS Vesteraalen left Trondheim on Sunday 2 July 1893 and reached its destination of Hammerfest 67 hours later. The journey was a gamechanger.

Haakon VII, the first king of Norway.

1905

Independence

Norway claimed independence from Sweden.

1910

Oil Power

Worldwide, ships started to be powered by oil as opposed to steam generated by burning coal.

1925

Comfort goes up a level

The first ship with running water was added to Hurtigruten’s fleet, increasing passenger comfort.

1898

Extension

DS Vesteraalen’s route was expanded to take in the southern Norwegian city of Bergen.

1908

Kirkenes

Kirkenes is added as the last stop on northbound journeys. The trip between Bergen and Kirkenes took only seven days, earning it the name ‘Hurtig Ruten’, or ‘The Fast Route’.

Richard With.

1922

The Risøyrenna channel opens

Richard With was instrumental in opening up this shallow channel to shipping. Hurtigruten’s ship MS Finmarken was the first to sail through it, with Norway’s King Haakon on board.

1945

Destruction

World War II saw half of Hurtigruten’s ships destroyed.

1964

Long service

Hurtigruten’s longest serving ship, MS Lofoten, starts its first sailing from Bergen to Kirkenes. MS Lofoten was part of a legendary class of ship that served on the Coastal Express route until its retirement in 2020.

1982 – 1983

New additions

The MS Vesterålen (1983), MS Midnatsol (1982) and MS Narvik (1982) came into service as older ships were retired – the biggest changes to the fleet since 1952.

1937

Roger that

All Hurtigruten ships were equipped with a radio transmitter.

1952

Building back

Hurtigruten rebuilt a modern fleet, with all new ships to run on modern diesel engines. In total, seven new vessels were added in the space of only three years.

1974

Lonely no longer

The operation of lighthouses along the coastline is handed over to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, who oversee the process of automating lighthouses across the country.

1993

Fleet development

The year 1993 and the launch of MS Kong Harald marked the start of a decade-long modernisation of the Hurtigruten fleet that saw nine of the 11-strong fleet replaced by new vessels.

2003

Hurtigruten goes global

Hurtigruten expanded its reach globally, with the MS Nordnorge cruising the southern waters around Argentina, Chile and the Antarctic.

2006

The merger

The new Hurtigruten company was born from the merger of the OVDS and TSDS shipping companies.

2023

Celebrating 130 years

As Hurtigruten approaches it's 130th year anniversary, it continues along the 'express route' carrying guests, tourists and freight along the coast of Norway, while Hurtigruten Expeditions has expanded with a fleet of custom-built expedition cruise ships that explore 15 destinations in 30 countries worldwide. Two new iconic legacy journeys - to Svalbard and the North Cape - are being added to celebrate the anniversary (see page 10).

1992

GPS invented

The Global Positioning System (GPS) was declared operational for global use with 24 satellites in orbit initially. Hurtigruten adopted the technology in the early 2000s.

2002

Hurtigruten launched two new ships

MS Finnmarken and MS Trollfjord. MS Midnatsol followed in 2003.

2006

The last lighthouse keeper

The final lighthouse keeper in Norway leaves his post at Bøkfjord, near Kirkenes. All lighthouses in Norway are now automated except at Lindesnes, where a fog signal has been kept for use on special occasions.

2019

Looking to the future

In keeping with its focus on sustainability, Hurtigruten commissioned the world’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ships to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The ships were designed by Rolls Royce and constructed by Kleven Yards specifically to handle voyages in polar waters. The first of these ships, MS Roald Amundsen, was launched in 2019, with a capacity of 530 passengers.

Major milestones that have shaped Hurtigruten since that original voyage...

1893

Gamechanger

DS Vesteraalen left Trondheim on Sunday 2 July 1893 and reached its destination of Hammerfest 67 hours later. The journey was a gamechanger.

1898

Extension

DS Vesteraalen’s route was expanded to take in the southern Norwegian city of Bergen.

Haakon VII, the first king of Norway.

1905

Independence

Norway claimed independence from Sweden.

1908

Kirkenes

Kirkenes is added as the last stop on northbound journeys. The trip between Bergen and Kirkenes took only seven days, earning it the name ‘Hurtig Ruten’, or ‘The Fast Route’.

1910

Oil Power

Worldwide, ships started to be powered by oil as opposed to steam generated by burning coal.

Richard With.

1922

The Risøyrenna channel opens

Richard With was instrumental in opening up this shallow channel to shipping. Hurtigruten’s ship MS Finmarken was the first to sail through it, with Norway’s King Haakon on board.

1925

Comfort goes up a level

The first ship with running water was added to Hurtigruten’s fleet, increasing passenger comfort.

1937

Roger that

All Hurtigruten ships were equipped with a radio transmitter.

1945

Destruction

World War II saw half of Hurtigruten’s ships destroyed.

1952

Building back

Hurtigruten rebuilt a modern fleet, with all new ships to run on modern diesel engines. In total, seven new vessels were added in the space of only three years.

1964

Long service

Hurtigruten’s longest serving ship, MS Lofoten, starts its first sailing from Bergen to Kirkenes. MS Lofoten was part of a legendary class of ship that served on the Coastal Express route until its retirement in 2020.

1974

Lonely no longer

The operation of lighthouses along the coastline is handed over to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, who oversee the process of automating lighthouses across the country.

1982 – 1983

New additions

The MS Vesterålen (1983), MS Midnatsol (1982) and MS Narvik (1982) came into service as older ships were retired – the biggest changes to the fleet since 1952.

1992

GPS invented

The Global Positioning System (GPS) was declared operational for global use with 24 satellites in orbit initially. Hurtigruten adopted the technology in the early 2000s.

1993

Fleet development

The year 1993 and the launch of MS Kong Harald marked the start of a decade-long modernisation of the Hurtigruten fleet that saw nine of the 11-strong fleet replaced by new vessels.

2002

Hurtigruten launched two new ships

MS Finnmarken and MS Trollfjord. MS Midnatsol followed in 2003.

2003

Hurtigruten goes global

Hurtigruten expanded its reach globally, with the MS Nordnorge cruising the southern waters around Argentina, Chile and the Antarctic.

2006

The last lighthouse keeper

The final lighthouse keeper in Norway leaves his post at Bøkfjord, near Kirkenes. All lighthouses in Norway are now automated except at Lindesnes, where a fog signal has been kept for use on special occasions.

2006

The merger

The new Hurtigruten company was born from the merger of the OVDS and TSDS shipping companies.

2019

Looking to the future

In keeping with its focus on sustainability, Hurtigruten commissioned the world’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ships to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The ships were designed by Rolls Royce and constructed by Kleven Yards specifically to handle voyages in polar waters. The first of these ships, MS Roald Amundsen, was launched in 2019, with a capacity of 530 passengers.

2023

Celebrating 130 years

As Hurtigruten approaches it's 130th year anniversary, it continues along the 'express route' carrying guests, tourists and freight along the coast of Norway, while Hurtigruten Expeditions has expanded with a fleet of custom-built expedition cruise ships that explore 15 destinations in 30 countries worldwide. Two new iconic legacy journeys - to Svalbard and the North Cape - are being added to celebrate the anniversary (see page 10).

Uncover the hidden highlights of the Norwegian Coast

Join the world leader in coastal travel. For detailed information, including dates and rates, visit Cruise Norway Hurtigruten Coastal.

Contact us to discuss your next voyage

In this issue

< Contents

Meet

Generations at Sea >