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In the late 19th century, the 780-mile coastline from Bergen to Kirkenes was a busy route for transportation of goods and people, operated by all types of vessels from steamers to the single-sailed 'jakts'. Read more...
Services on that route were unreliable, infrequent and ships rarely sailed at night, making a journey between north and south a long and arduous one.
The authorities wanted to improve the situation and invited shipping companies to submit tenders for operating an express route between Trondheim and Tromsø, or Hammerfest, depending on the season. At that time there were only 28 lighthouses north of Trondheim, making nighttime sailing very risky. But the owner of a newly formed company showed an interest in the route despite the hazards.
This man was Richard With, from Stokmarknes, in northern Norway. In 1893, Captain Richard With’s steamer, DS Vesteralen, was brought into service along the coast of Norway, and a regular sea link was established. The service offered weekly departures, at first from Trondheim to Hammerfest and later from Bergen to Kirkenes, the latter in only seven days. With named this important connection “hurtigruten,” - "the fast route".
Richard With's eagerness to explore did not stop at the Norwegian coast. His ambitions were significantly higher. As early as 1896, he transported a prefabricated hotel from the mainland to Svalbard. He placed it outside Longyearbyen on what is still called “Hotellneset” ("Hotel Point"). The same year, Richard With established the "Sportsman's route" from Hammerfest on mainland Norway to Svalbard, serviced by the steamer DS Lofoten. Its captain was Otto Sverdrup, who later became Fridtjof Nansen's legendary commander of the polar vessel Fram.
This marks the beginning of Hurtigruten's adventurous and unique explorer operations. Our destinations are no longer limited to Spitsbergen, but include Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica. Hurtigruten’s eleven coastal ships still carry freight and guests along the coast of Norway to 34 daily ports of call. Our captains have extensive maritime expertise and experience and bring guests and goods safely from port to port. Every day one of our ships departs Bergen heading north to Kirkenes. The full round trip lasts 12 days and is of many called “the world’s most beautiful voyage”. Today, as they have been more than 120 years, our ships are the best way to explore the Norwegian coast, its nature and culture.