It is said that when the Mongolian chief Genghis Kahn came to the western sea during his conquests to the west, he realized that this was it. This was the end of the world

The area has long been inhabited, and on all the islands and in several of the fjords you will find many traces of, and cultural environments from, previous inhabitation. These include Stone Age homesteads, traces of Sámi settlements and activities, grazing pastures, and old fishing villages and rural settlements. You can also see houses and other buildings from before the Second World War.

Photo: © The Arctic University of Norway
Photo: © The Arctic University of Norway

The Bårset boat

The Bårsetmyra bog is located in the west of Nordkvaløya. During peat extraction here in 1931, a large boat was discovered. The remains of the boat were excavated and sent to Tromsø Museum. Two reconstructions of the boat have been performed, one in 1937 and the other in 2002. These two reconstructions differ somewhat as the first one was rebuilt as a 24-footer (‘nirømming’) and the other as an early Nordland boat. A dendrochronological analysis has been performed on the Bårset boat. On the basis of this, it has been established that the boat was used in the second half of the ninth century and that it was built of pine from Northern Norway. The boat is also both sewn and clinker-built. This combination is very special as sewing was typical of the Sámi boat building tradition, while clinker-built boats were typical of Norse boat building.

The Fisherman’s Farm

When there was still farming on the islands, it was common to combine fishing with agriculture. Most farms had a fishing boat, and the men would travel to fish in Lofoten and Finnmark while the women stayed to look after the home and farm. Sheeps were the main domestic animals on the farms, with a cow or two for the farm’s own use. Old grazing pastures and stone walls can still be seen on a number of the islands. There have been settlements on all the islands where it was possible to build a house and cut a bit of grass, from Flatvær right in the north of Nordkvaløya, via Nordskaret – where the children went over to Sørskaret to attend school – to Rødgammen, where there are some well-preserved buildings from before the Second World War.

Photo: © Oddrun Skjemstad
Photo: © Baalsrud and his good helpers exhibition Furuflaten

Baalsrud – Toftefjorden and Haugland

On 24th March 1943, the MS Bratholm left Shetland for Norway with 12 soldiers from Kompani Linge on board. On 30th mars 1943, the MS Bratholm was discovered and attacked by a German minesweeper in Toftefjorden, north of Rebbenesøya. Jan Baalsrud was the only one to escape death or capture in this attack. The memorial to this event can be found in the innermost part of Toftefjorden. It is built of 11 round stones from the area, one for each of the fallen soldiers. Haugland Farm, where Baalsrud first received help in his escape from the Germans, is still standing on Hersøya.

The Nygaardsvold roads

The economic depression following the Wall Street crash of 1929 in the USA also affected Norway. This led to high levels of long-term unemployment in Norway. When the Nygaardsvold government came to power in Norway in the mid-1930s, employment measures were initiated to improve the economy. One thing that was done as part of these employment measures was the building of roads throughout Norway, including on Nordkvaløya. You can still find and walk on short stretches of the Nygaardsvold roads that were built here.

Photo: © Oddrun Skjemstad
Photo: © Troms County – Inspection report: Registration of cultural monuments and cultural environment

Egg and down harvesting sites

Fishermen’s farms were the norm for the farms out on the islands on the outer side of Karlsøy. Here have been farms that have specifically exploited the egg and down harvesting sites. Many places within the protected areas out here have a history of egg and down harvesting.

At Lille Måsvær, there is a courtyard where all the various farm buildings are still standing and are relatively intact. A special feature of this farm is the down shed used in connection with gathering down. As far as we know, this is the only one of its kind in Troms.

Many of the rocks and islets in the shallows among the islands out here have been and are nesting areas for ducks and other seabirds. Måsvær, Flatvær and Sørfugløya were preserved as egg and down harvesting sites right until 1982.