The depopulation of the outer side of Lofoten began after 1945. Today there are no permanent residents on the outer side of Lofotodden.

The outer side overlooks the Arctic Ocean, where the heavy, wet seas and hard storms occur. Once upon a time, the fishing villages of Helle and Refsvika existed. These communities were made up of farms that lay together in bays and coves. They were both lonely and desolate – with no road connection with other communities. To get there in winter, you had to travel by boat. The waters were unclean, and in bad weather the approach to the fishing villages required good local knowledge and seaworthy people. There were no developed ports.   

Over time, the people on the outer side have been homeowners. This means that they were not subject to squires, as other fishermen in Lofoten were. The squires were overseers of all fishing, and they were landlords, traders and fish buyers for their own village. All the fishing villages on the east side of Moskenes, called the inner side, were owned by squires. Helle and Refsvika were outside the area of interest in the squire establishment – although Ellingsen established a fish reception centre at Helle and had some influence.

Fishing and agriculture

The residents on the outer side were engaged in combination use – combined fishing and agriculture. It was especially important that the farms were self-sufficient. It could take a long time between trips to Sørvågen to buy goods for the household. The people at Lofotodden could be isolated for up to six months through autumn and winter.

On the other hand, it was said that the residents on the outside had better standard of living compared to farms on the inner side that had combination use – because they were homeowners. This has not been proven, but from 1945 the conditions were very different between the farms on the outer side and the inner side.

The outer side did not join the development of infrastructure that took place after the war for much of Norway. It was not prioritised road construction for the villages at Lofotodden, nor was the construction of a port a priority – although this was planned before the war. Not all farms had running water, and there was a poor telephone connection. No streamline was added to the outer side, so the farms got power from an aggregate. In addition, they had difficulty getting a teacher to school and youth who could help out on the farms. The young people who grew up on the outer side longed for social contact with other young people on the inner side.

They agreed to move

Residents agreed to move. The collective depopulation of the outer side of Lofotodden started after 1945 and escalated in 1950. Most moved to Sørvågen. They applied for support for the move because it was costly to break up and move livestock, furniture and main houses to the inner side, and then set it up. The residents of Lofotodden received funding from the Storting and the Ministry of Fisheries for the move from Yttersida.

Today there are no residents in Helle and Refsvika, the former inhabitants took their homes to their new place of residence, where they were rebuilt. Today, only the foundations of the houses and overgrown gardens testify to the communities that once existed at Lofotodden.

Visit Norwegian Fishing Village Museum

Norwegian Fishing Village Museum

One of Norway’s best preserved and complete fishing villages. Visit various buildings; including boathouse, cod liver oil factory, husmansstua. Main theme: life in the fishing village 1840–1960 and the development of the Lofoten fishery over the past 250 years. Shop and summer café.