63. The foot in the shoe *Ottar Schiøtz

Interview with Ottar Schiøtz, historian of the Lofoten, Sørvågen

« So it was the year 1879. It was a dark day. It was the beginning of the year. January, it’s relatively dark, not so dark as in December but… So they have got a maid from Røst, […] and one night, this January, she dreamt, maybe she woke up, because it was so strong wind, very very strong wind and everything –I believe– was sheering in the wind. And she knew from Røst, from her childhood, that when the wind was very strong and if fishermen were out on the sea in such weather, it will mean that somebody had to die, drowned in the strong winds, in the stream. And she knew also, this young girl, that just outside here where she slept in the blue house, the maelström went. Strong wind and strong maelström and darkness, that it’s hopeless if some boats try to go through here.
So she was very anxious about what could happen. Maybe she also had as a child seen all these fishermen come in drifting ashore from the sea, dead. She reminded that, I suppose, because I know many fishermen were taken by the sea out in Røst. So, early in the morning, she decided that… Before it became light, she decided that she should go along the seaside, this way. What she did not know, was that this night, many fishermen that came from Helgeland, south from Bodø, they had tried to cross the fjord, over to Lofoten. Because they should stay here, maybe in Sørvågen, Å or some places like Reine. They wanted to reach the harbour here.
But so I believe that the following thing happened : the wind became stronger, and it was these open sailing boats, and the wind got a direction… he comes from Northwest, it’s also possible from Northeast, I’m not quite sure, but from North that wind came. So the fishing fleet there, with many many boats, blew in the direction of the maelström. So they came over here, or over here, to Sørvågen, this places. The wind blew the fleet, these boats, that way. And in the darkness, and in the –maybe– snow and everything, they had no possibility to see where they were, they came in here in this very dangerous area, the real maelström. She of course didn’t know, but she feared it, that’s true. Because when she went out, walked out in the morning alone, in the darkness, to look, she went this way. And if the fleet came in here, so they maybe recked here, destroyed. So she went further to a big bay, some kilometers that way. And when it became so light that she could see, she saw nothing but some recked parts of boats. And…
Is it cold? Is it cold, should we fire it up?
–No, no, absolutely not. I’m just cold because of your story.
–Yes, so… But she didn’t find any body. No body lying there. But suddenly she found a boot, a skin boot, a leather boot. And it was so heavy. Maybe she guessed it was water in it, maybe she tried to pull it out, but she couldn’t pull anything out, because it was a bit of a foot, a leg in there. And it was not unexpected of course, for her.
So she took that, and she went back. Still early in the morning, she came to the houses and told and showed what she had found out. Of course it was very hard, and they understood that many, many men had disappeared. »

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