The Dream of Paradise

On a day of spring in 1897, a rowing boat entered Bekkjarvik Harbour in Austevoll, an island kingdom south of Bergen. Ashore stepped Ole Halstensen, together with his wife Karine and their three sons. Living in indigent circumstances on an islet, Steinsundsholmen, in Outer Sulen, one would expect Ole and his family to seek for new opportunities.

Most people sailed west, hoping to cross the oceans and take part of the American Dream. Karine and Ole chose differently, and settled in Bekkjarvik. They considered Bekkjarvik a paradise of opportunities: a farm consisting of 12 cows and 600 decare of land, of this 70 decare infield, a guesthouse, a general store, a granary, steamer service, a sub-post office and a telegraph. Ole had 7000 NOK in total savings and was allowed to borrow 10 000 NOK from a friend. With these resources, Karine and Ole were able to fund and take charge of one of the eldest ports along the shipping lane between Bergen and Stavanger, the E39 of that time.


Herring adventure and expansion

Karine and Ole were used to hard work. As the kids grew up, they learned from their parents.

5th of May 1909, Hans and his brother Andreas took over with aspiring plans for Bekkjarvik’s future. Throughout the 300 years of Bekkjarvik’s existence, the owners had limited their business to farming, trading and running the guesthouse. With Andreas behind the wheels, the two boys broaded their minds and took part in the Herring adventure. At this time, Herring was a popular and lucrative resource.


The hard years

Depression and financial crisis followed the period between the wars. Andreas and Hans had established a good foundation during the world war 1, but still had to slow down and run their business carefully through the hard years of 1930-1950.


A golden decade

During the 50´s, the game was back on! Western Norway – and Bekkjarvik – witnessed a decade without comparison. The old shoal of herring invaded the western coast of Norway with legions bigger than ever.


The crisis

Unfortunately, this adventure couldn’t last forever, and in 1959 it ended abruptly. With no preliminary warning, the Norwegian spring spawning herring, which had been of great value for the Norwegian coast almost since the dawn of historical time, were gone. The crisis was immense, and for Bekkjarvik even bigger. The focus of the rich herring-period in the 1950s was on the manufacturing, with the aim of renewal and efficiency. The fishing vessels were not a priority.

Good fishermen

The Austevoll community survived because of skilled fishermen. During the golden decade, they had invested in renewal and improvement of the fishing vessels. This made them competitive even in Austevoll`s great depression. Bekkjarvik was an exception. Andreas and Hans were forced to shut down the manufacturing, and stagger along with two out-dated fishing vessels. At long last, it was a question of survival for the company.

1965- 2022

The technological revolution and efficiency improvements

After five years of wandering in the wilderness, Norwegian herring-fishers reached a technological revolution. This ended the crisis. From 1965, the Norwegian fishing fleet entered a period of galloping development towards better profitability. The vessels were now able to take the seines on their own stern, and a powerful hydraulic roll was installed. The seines became longer and deeper. The changes were revolutionary, and the Halstensen company followed as best they could.


The future

Today, the Halstensen fleet counts five, ocean-going fishing vessels, and the company is among the five biggest fishing boat companies in Norway. In addition to the three pelagic vessels, the company own and run one fabric trawler of white fish and a shrimp trawler.

Back to top