Norsk Feiring, Norwegian Celebration Weekend.

Stewart Island has had a long historic association with whalers.

Chasers tied up at the wharf outside the workshop base

Chasers tied up at the wharf outside the workshop base. The slip way can just be seen at the right of the photo.  (photo Rakiura Museum)

This started with the discovery of the “Solander” Grounds to the west of the Island in the 1830’s and continued for more or less 100 years, culminating with the arrival into Paterson Inlet in 1923 of the Rosshavet Whaling Companies factory ship Sir James Clarke Ross and her 5 steam powered chasers.

Broken & Discarded props from the chasers. These are Iron, rather than bronze. It had been found that the sonds of Iron props were ignored by the whales, whereas bronze props scared them. Also Iron was far cheaper, as there was a significant number damaged each year in the ice.

Broken & Discarded props from the chasers. These are iron, rather than bronze. It had been found that the sounds of iron props were ignored by the whales, whereas bronze props scared them. Also Iron was far cheaper, as there was a significant number damaged each year in the ice.

Headed for the Ross Sea in Antarctica the company established a shipyard in Prices Inlet within Paterson Inlet to service the chasers in the winter off season. This association continued until the summer of 1932/33 with around 50 men employed through each winter.

As can be imagined this had a profound effect on the Island community, with many young Norwegian men choosing to stay on when the base closed, and also several taking local girls back to Noway as brides.

The base was dismantled in the 30’s and little remains other than the old boiler, propellers, remains of the slipway and assorted concrete building foundations. All a poignant reminder of the Islands past. But as well as the decaying remains, several of the bases buildings were relocated to Halfmoon Bay.  Islanders were and are, much into recycling.

The Assistant Managers House.. Built of Baltic Pine as a "kit set" in Norway this fine house was originally assembled at the base. The walls are solid timber with multiple tongue and grooves interlocking each 3 to 50 to 60mm thick wall plank, Corners are reminiscent of a log cabin construction. The original  construction was apparently without metal nail, rather using "trennels" (wooden pegs) where necessary. This technique was used by Norwegians in high latitude constructions where iron nails would pull out.

The Assistant Managers House.. Built of Baltic Pine as a “kit set” in Norway this fine house was originally assembled at the base. The walls are solid timber with multiple tongue and grooves interlocking each 50 to 60 mm thick wall plank. Corners are reminiscent of a log cabin construction. The original construction was apparently without metal nails, rather using “trennels” (wooden pegs) where necessary. This technique was used by Norwegians in high latitude constructions where iron nails would pull out.

Part of the slipway. The ladder like part was a roller which the cradle ran on.... works exacltly like the rollers in modern kitchen drawers.

Part of the slipway. The ladder like part was a roller which the cradle ran on…. Located directly under the keel it supported the entire weight of the chaser. It works exactly like the rollers in modern kitchen drawers.

90 Years Onwards

And so this past weekend the Island Community, with able assistance from whalers descendants NZ wide celebrated 90 years since the Norwegians arrived.

The local community centre was set up with displays and photographs, a day excursion to the base was organised for the Saturday when a plaque was unveiled together with a dedication of the area as a historic reserve, and a dinner on the Saturday evening.

The workshop boiler, abandoned on the slipway. With one of the Snekke or launches used as transport by the base staff within Paterson Inlet

The workshop boiler, abandoned on the slipway. Behind is “Arvid”, one of the Snekke or launches used as transport by the base staff within Paterson Inlet. Built out of Balick Pine, she was commissioned by a local family and bought out from Norway to be used as the families launch, as she still is by them today.

Unveiling the Plaque

Unveiling the Plaque on the site of the main workshop.

Good News !!

As a post script to the weekend, the news that the World Court had found against the so called Scientific Research Expeditions of the Japanese was greeted with quite approval by the gathering

 

 Photo Album

For a photo album put together by a New Zealand member of the whaling crew together with his commentary click here

Books

The story of the Island and the Norwegian Whalers can be found in Jim Watts excellent books :-

Kaipipi Shipyard and the Ross Sea Whalers …… ISBN 0-9597719-1-3,
and also
The Whalers Base  ……. ISBN 978-0-9597719-4-7