This morning, after breakfast, we sat in a lecture by our host here from the Raulandsakademiet, Laura Ellestad. She is originally from Calgary, Canada, but she fell in love with the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle and came to Norway to get her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Hardanger fiddle performance.
After our introduction to Norwegian Folk Music, we set out for Rjukan. A town of not more than 3,500 people, it is best known for its falls and canyon gorge, as well as its heavy water plant. Initially built to harness the power of the waterfalls and aid Sam Eyde in producing fertilizer by providing a large amount of electricity, a new isotope was discovered: D2O which is water that contains more than the normal amount of the hydrogen isotope deuterium. This “heavy water” is literally heavier than normal H2O. Eventually, when the Nazi’s took over, they discovered that this substance would significantly help their efforts in building an atomic bomb.
It became the paramount for the allies to impede the Nazi’s progress toward the bomb. However, the problem was that the plant sits upon a cliff naturally protected by high cliff walls, and waterfalls, which are ice walls in the winter, with one suspension bridge connecting the two sides of the gorge. The allies needed the help of Norwegian skier/soldiers to aid in their plan to stop the forward progress of this plant’s creation of heavy water.
We learned about the Norwegian heroes who attempted to destroy the plant. Their first attempt was met with disaster when the British team they were supposed to meet in the mountains crashed their plane, and then the survivors were summarily executed. Eventually helped allied bombers fly in and bomb the plant. Unfortunately that didn’t solve it- the Germans were back at it six moths later. The Germans, spooked by the constant attempts to sabotage the project, decided to pack it all up and take it back to Germany. One step of the way included a ferry, so the Norwegians decided to set charges in the bottom of the ferry. They blew it up and sank the collection of equipment and the sought-after heavy water.
We left the water plant, and headed to the Hardangervidda National Park Center for a tour. It reminded me of being in Healy, Alaska, and even further up into the Denali National Park. It is the biggest National Park in Norway, and it aims to allow collaboration between other countries seeking to protect and understand their environment as well as provide a proper habitat for the many wild caribou that Norway still has.
We headed back to our digs for our last night at the Raulandsakademiet with another full day of activities tackled. Tonight, the students here at the academy have organized a dance/folk music mixer with our choristers! We head to Notodden tomorrow for our final concert and recording in the Notodden Blues House.