Historic fishing village
Gamvik is situated in the far northeast of the Nordkyn Peninsula, Europe's most northerly mainland. Since the Middle Ages, Gamvik has been one of the most important fishing villages out towards the Arctic Ocean. However, since the Second World War, the village has lost ground to Mehamn and Kjøllefjord due to its relatively narrow harbour. Today, peace and quiet has returned to this fishing village of 180 inhabitants, but Gamvik Museum will tell you all about its rich history.
Gamvik Museum is situated on the premises of the old fish processing factory, Brodtkorbbruket. Brodtkorb is the name of the village owner, who bought fish from the coastal people on Nordkyn, sold them everyday essentials and gave them credit when the fishing was poor. The modern factory dates from 1947, yet its method of construction is very similar to the traditional piers that were constructed before the destruction wreaked during the Second World War, leaving us to imagine the rich history of which no evidence now remains.
Reception and fishing equipment room
As Gamvik Museum is a production plant, you can follow the production process that was used as recently as the 1960s at the reception facility. At the plant, the fish were weighed, cleaned and rinsed, and their liver and eggs placed in barrels. The fish were then either hung up to dry or put on ice for export as fresh fish. "To bait the line" means to hang bait on 2–400 hooks on a long line, which was generally women's work.
Coastal heritage in the far north
From the Late Middle Ages, more and more Norwegians moved to the Finnmark coast. They fished for cod in the spring, dried it and transported it to Bergen. In Europe, there was a high level of demand for high-protein dry fish, particularly during Lent. As the fishermen had small boats that they could haul up onto dry land, the population was spread across many small communities in the outlying areas of the coast. Gamvik Museum has displays of fishing equipment, as well as the simple cattle farming, home crafts and maritime Sami culture on the outer coast and further inland to the fjords. At the now abandoned village of Omgang, several witches were burned during the 1600s.
As early as the 1500s, the Dutch hunted whales off the coast of Finnmark. However, whale hunting did not really take off as a major industry until the late 1800s when Svend Foyn introduced a more industrialised form of whale hunting. Towards the end of the 1890s, however, most whale stocks were so decimated that the catches fell sharply.
The Mehamn Rebellion
After 1900, the important spring cod fishing season failed in Finnmark for several years in a row. The fishermen believed there was a link between whale hunting and the lack of fish. When there were no whales around, the capelin and cod were not chased towards the shore. On Whit Sunday 1903, the situation came to a head in Mehamn, and the whale hunting station there was razed to the ground and soldiers were summoned from Vardø to clear up. The rebellion had political consequences too: The whale became a protected species in Northern Norway and the first parliamentary representatives from the Norwegian Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) were voted in the following autumn.
The pier is part of a wider setting. Outside the museum is a large pollack drying rack. This rack also dates from after the war, but the production of dried fish is an ancient process along the coast of Finnmark. A Nordland motor boat is also on display outside. This boat was saved from the destruction that took place in 1944. Gamvik was formerly a port of call for the Hurtigruten, but it did not have a pier. The service boat "Gamvik" therefore sailed out to the open sea to meet the Hurtigruten and loaded and unloaded passengers and cargo there. In 1990, the Hurtigruten stopped calling here and the service boat is now on dry land.
- The Gamvik Museum website provides a wealth of information. http://www.kystmuseene.no/gamvik-museum.107295.no.html
- We particularly recommend the short film on the Mehamn Rebellion of 1903: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2KWyPqH2-s
- Nordkyn's other attractions are listed at www.visitnordkyn.no