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Norway - Geography

The countries north of the Baltic (as Sweden and Norway), were called Scandia or Scandinavia, and were very imperfectly known to the ancients. Norway, Norrick, or the Northern Way, affords a plausible derivation.

Norway is perhaps the most mountainous country in Europe; but in the south there are tracts of great fertility, and though often rocky, the soil is rich. The face of the country is agreeably diversified by numerous lakes and rivulets, and thickly dotted with cottages, rudely, though not unpleasantly, situated on rocky eminences, in the midst of luxuriant forests. The Norwegian mountains are frequently covered with dark forests of pines and firs; and the perpetual snow of the peaks is not accompanied with the glaciers and other terrors of the Alps.

Norway's northern regions lie within the Arctic Circle, where there are borders with Finland and Russia, while much of the long border with Sweden runs through the Scandinavian mountains. This range, sloping to the south-east, is 1,530 km in length and has its highest areas in the south of Norway, where Galdhpiggen, Norway's highest point, reaches a peak of 2,469 m (8,100 ft). Almost all of Norway is high ground; in the north the country becomes narrower, with mountains overlooking the fjords and the islands along the coast, and in the center and south the mountains form a high plateau, where there are permanent ice fields. The only area of low ground is around the Oslo fjord and along the coast to Stavanger.

The fjords form one of the most distinctive features of the physical geography of Norway. They generally run between perpendicular rocks of great height, penetrate, often, far into the land, and in many cases send out branches in all directions. For long distances the mainland does not come into direct contact with the sea, girdled as it is by a belt of islands, holms, and skerries, more or less thickly set, which forms the so-called "skjeergaard " (fence of skerries) or outer coast. Between this wall of islets and the mainland, accordingly, extends a connected series of sounds "leder" (roads), as they are called of the greatest importance for coastal navigation, since they admit of the employment of smaller and weaker vessels.

The surface of Norway is mountainous, and rugged, and so elevated that nearly a third part of the whole country is covered by perpetual snow. The most salient surface features are the mountains, which run throughout the country from N. to S., not in a regular and continuous chain, but in a succession of mountain blocks which are connected together by lower elevations. The tops of these blocks form tablelands, which are called "Fjelds" (plains or fields). The chief divisions of these mountains, going from N. to S., are the Kiolen Mountains, which extend N. and S. as far as the 63rd parallel. They form the watershed between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Their highest point is Siilitelma (6,152 ft.). Dovre Fjdd, running S. and W. of the Kiolen Mts. Its chief summit is Snahatten (7,566 ft.). Jotun Fjeld which lies S. of the Dovre Fjeld and embraces Galdhopigg (8,546 ft), the culminating summit of Norway. Hardanger Fjeld, running S.W. from the Jotun Fjeld. Its loftiest point teJoklen (6,533 ft.).

The principal rivers are the Glomma, the Lgen and Tanaelv. Some 6% of Norway's area is inland water--mostly long, thin lakes. Two-thirds of the country is tundra, rock or snowfields, and one-quarter is forested, so good agricultural land is rare. Less than 3% of Norway is cultivated, and these areas are in the south-east and in the river valleys. The mountains of Norway are rich in minerals; there are deposits of iron ore, copper, titanium, coal, zinc, lead, nickel and pyrites, and large offshore reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Although Norway crosses the Arctic Circle, the climate is not as cold as might be expected, since the North Atlantic Drift brings warm, damp air to the whole country. The geographical conditions give rise to great climatic variation: it is cooler inland and to the north, where winters are long and dark with much snow, but where the sun shines day and night for part of the summer. It is wetter on the west coast, where about 2,000 mm (78.7 inches) of rain falls annually on Bergen; the mean annual rainfall in the capital, Oslo, is 730 mm, most of which falls during the summer. Temperatures in Oslo are highest in July, when the average is 17.3C (64F), and lowest in January, when the average falls to -4.7C (24F).

North of the Arctic Circle, in summer there is the midnight sun, a period during which the sun shines 24 hours a day. Similarly, there is polar night during the winter, a few weeks which does not see the sun at all. Both these phenomena are quite fascinating, and both have undoubtedly contributed towards forming the local way of life. People cultivate the outdoor life in summer, and enjoy life indoors during much of the winter unless theye are outside watching the northern lights, that is, an event which never ceases to fascinate.

The Moskostrum, or Maelstrom, is a remarkable whirlpool offthe shore of Nordland, which will involve boats, and even ships; nay, the struggles of the whale have not always saved oirn from the danger: the bottom is full of craggy spires, and the noise truly tremendous. About 20 miles to the north of Bergen, the rocks abound with singular petrifactions. The farm of Borre, in the province of Christiana, was in l703 swallowed up with all its buildings, and there now remains only a chasm full of ruins and sand.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2018 12:19:10 ZULU