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Underwater project may change the national history of Norway

Underwater project may change the national history of Norway

The Aircraft Historical Museum (Flyhistorisk museum) at Sola, 06. June 2017. During a press conference today, it was announced that an underwater project is currently being organized to determine whether the famous Battle of Hafrsfjord took place as described in the history books.

The Battle of Hafrsfjord is considered the decisive battle of the Harald Halvdanssons unification of the Western Coast of the North Way under the rule of one king, and subsequently the future nation Norway. Today, an underwater project led by the interested organization “Findings in Hafrsfjord”, plan to scan the bottom of the fjord for objects that can stem from the battle. The Organization, which is headed by Sigbjørn Daasvatn, also employed by the subsea contractor Subsea 7, has initiated close collaboration is with the viking period specialist, professor Torgrim Titlestad and Director of Jærmuseet, Målfrid Snørteland. Together they reckon with that they will find tracks on the sea bottom if the battle actually took place. If they cannot find any traces from the battle, one may need to rewrite the Norwegian history.

“I have since 2003 tried to initiate work to investigate the Hafrsfjord. It’s time to get more in-depth knowledge of Norway’s year of birth, which by the way is also the nation of Islands birth year as well”, says professor Titlestad.

Hoping to document history

The project owner is the organization Funn i Hafrsfjord, with Saga Heritage Foundation, Jærmuseet and Subsea 7 as strategic partners.

“Hafrsfjord as an important naval port has been a part of the Norwegian military history for more than 1000 years. At the same time, Sola has been a very important base for Norwegian military history in recent times. The airport has had a central role in the military after World War II and as a NATO base during the cold war. Now we have the opportunity to watch the long military historical lines and convey Norwegian military history “from Hafrsfjord to Jåtta” we want specific findings that document the history and such as the Battle of Hafrsfjord, “says Målfrid Snørteland, Director of the Jærmuseet.

Bringing in expertise from the oil industry

The organisation Funn i Hafrsfjord will be responsible for planning and conducting the underwater expeditions. To scan the ocean floor in Hafrsfjord, which is 60 meters deep at its deepest, they will use acoustic methods to try to develop a mosaic picture of signals that can indicate what can be found in the fjord bottom. With special equipment usually used in the offshore industry, they will be able to scan the sea floor all the way down to 5-6 metres below the fjord seabed, without directly touching this. This is a significant improvement compared to the 2014 survey, when the maritime surveyor performed sonar measurements of sea bottom. At this time one was only able to “see” 15 cm down into the seabed.

“With the latest generation of subsea equipment it will be possible to investigate signals from several meters down below the seabed. A small survey vessel combined with a remotely operate vehicle (ROV) is appropriate to use for surveys of the seabed “, says Sigbjørn Daasvatn, who along with several other engineers from the offshore company Subsea 7 is engaged in the organisation Funn i Hafrsfjord.

The team will search with ultrasound on the ocean floor to find metals or objects. The equipment provides an image showing objects buried under the seabed at sub-bottom depths between 0.5-3 m.

The goal is to be able to define the areas that will be worth to further investigate by manned intervention. “We do not expect to find ships, but maybe biological material, weapons or equipment that give us answers to some questions. The goal is to make the mapping through the winter and spring of next year, “says Daasvatn.

The Battle of Hafrsfjord

Hafrsfjorden is known in Norwegian history as the venue for the big ending conflict between Harald Fairhair and the other viking Kings around in “the North Way”. The battle paved the way for that could gain Harald control over large parts of Norway and rightly be able to call himself King. Most historians have traditionally considered 872 as the year of the battle, although the dating is very uncertain.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty around Norway’s year of birth. With today’s modern search technology and the oil industry’s underwater experiences in world class, we will hopefully become somewhat wiser, “says Titlestad.

Among the sponsors of the project is also Samlerhuset which in the past has collaborated with a number of museums, historians and trade environments for documentation and dissemination of history.

“As a history minded company we often get requests to support different types of research projects and expeditions. Many of these have been terribly exciting, such as when we last fall went to Normandy to dig up the viking graves of Rolv the walker (gange Rolv). But when we got the request to join this project, we almost fell of the chair. We are incredibly excited to be able to participate in this, and we will follow the process at close range,” says Ole Bjørn Fausa, who is the Chairman and founder of Samlerhuset.

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