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Hardanger Ship Preservation Centre and the Mathilde

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Hardanger has a longstanding boat-building tradition. As early as the Viking era and the early Middle Ages, boats from this area sailed on trade expeditions. When the Viking journeys ended, the inhabitants of Hardanger continued to take part in trade and fishing activities. During the 1800s the extensive herring fishery resulted in increased demand for larger vessels, and boat-builders along the the Hardangerfjord began supplying sloops to the market. When the herring stocks were depleted in 1875, Hardanger residents concentrated on the transport of klippfish from Lofoten. Sailing vessels were made obsolete by steamboats and motorboats during the 1900s, and the construction of sloops was gradually halted. In 1984 a group of enthusiasts traced the sloop Mathilde, one of the old standbys of the Lofoten trade, and bought her. They renovated the grand 100-year-old lady, thereby founding the Hardanger Ship Preservation Centre. Today the centre is a living shipyard museum. On a guided tour of the centre you can view the renovation of old wooden boats and watch dedicated boat-builders constructing small vessels, and you can see exhibitions devoted to the history of boats. If you contact the centre you can arrange to be taken on a sea journey on the Mathilde. Photo: Olav Bjørkum

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