The first places to acquire permanent civil stations for wireless telegraphy in the Nordic countries were Lofoten’s outlying islands – and the reason of course was fish, above all cod, the basis of Norway’s most important industry ever since the Middle Ages. The Roman Catholic countries of southern Europe were a major market; people were forbidden from eating meat during Lent.
And for the cod fisheries of Lofoten, just as for the herring fisheries in western Sweden, the ability to send and receive messages about where the fish were and about changes in the weather was invaluable.
Lofoten had been provided with its first telegraph cable in 1861 – 170 kilometers long, it linked nine important fishing hamlets. The outlying islands of Røst and Værøy, where the fish often gathered, were however too far away and the cable would have had to cross the notorious Maelstrom (the most powerful ocean current in the world, for which the Norwegian name is Moskenstraumen).
The fishermen of Lofoten saw the value of Marconi’s ideas immediately. In 1901 they were already proposing the establishment of a wireless telegraph connection with the outlying hamlets. The following year the Norwegian parliament allocated funds for trials and in 1903 the first wireless messages were sent between Røst and Sørvågen via Værøy. The system opened in 1906 as a regular wireless telegraph link, the first civilian service in the world not set up by Marconi himself.
Norway’s first permanent radio link was opened here in 1928, between Hell and Sørvågen, for two-way telephony.
The fishing community here saw the benefits of a wide-ranging and efficient communications network right from the start.
Unlike the other islands in Lofoten, Røst is completely flat. The first wireless messages were broadcast from here in 1903.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn