The long-lost wreckage of a Norwegian steam ship later seized and repurposed by the Nazis has been discovered over 80 years after it was sunk.
Originally named Solstrålen but renamed before its launch, the Nordnorge was first launched in 1923 as a cargo ship. As noted by Norwegian maritime historian Dag Bakka Jr., the ship was said to be one of the last of coastal cargo liners made in Norway.
While first serving as a cargo and passenger ship between Trondheim and Narvik, the ship was later refurbished in 1936 to be able to sail along the Hurtigruten (Norwegian for express route). This route was an important way to maintain communications along the coastline, and as noted by Bakka, it was a major breakthrough for these communities, as until the route was established, the waters were not properly charted and the voyage was considerably difficult. The route exists to this day, but while its purpose has changed, it still serves cargo and passenger needs.
However, the ship would soon find a different usage just a few years later during the Second World War, when Nazi Germany launched the Norwegian Campaign. In May 1940, the Nazis took over the ship and repurposed it.
The ship was later used as part of Operation Wildente (Wild Duck). As detailed by historian Earl F. Ziemke, the Nord Norge was sent to take German troops from Trondheim to the Hemnesøy Peninsula near Mo in order to clear the way to the North. The ship was successful in this regard, bringing the troops and successfully carrying out the operation. However, two ships in the British Royal Navy, the cruiser HMS Calcutta and the destroyer HMS Zulu, had found the ship while it was moored at Hemnesberget, unloading ammo and guns. The ships took out the Nordnorge immediately, but it capsized and tore down the quay, and the ammo unloaded onto the quay exploded. Ultimately, the ship sank stern first, like the Titanic, according to Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.
The events that followed were unique in Norwegian history and had significant impact on the Nazis' efforts to capture Norway. But the Nordnorge was unique as well for being used by the Nazis, as no other ship was hijacked by the Nazis and used this way, according to World War II scholar Alf Jacobsten, who spoke to NRK.
And it has local significance as well. In fact, the locals had planned in 2020 to commemorate 80 years since the battle, though this had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the website for the Okstindan nature and cultural park.
For decades, divers have searched the waters for the ship with no success. But all that changed on Tuesday, April 27, when divers managed to do just that.
The Visit Plura Cave Diving & Training Center had worked with the local municipality and community to raise funds to hire the help of diving company Seløy Undervannsservice to find the wreckage, Visit Plura said over Instagram.
The ship was found by an ROV to be at a depth of 280 meters, "a bit too deep for diving," according to Visit Plura.
"We have finally seen the ship!" local history association member Torbjørn Skjæran told NRK. He said he stood there "with tears in my eyes" and saw what remained of the ship.
Visit Plura has promised to release footage of the ship soon.