July 2 1893

In her song about the Hurtigruten from 1989, Kari Bremnes sings; “It was a celebration that arrived”, and never was that more true than at the beginning of July 1893 when the little steam ship Vesteraalen sailed north from Trondheim and up towards Hammerfest in Hurtigruten traffic for the very first time, with specially invited guests on board

On 2 July 1893, the steamship DS Vesteraalen called for departure from Trondheim. With that, she went down in history as the first ship in what in all years since has simply been called the ‘hurtigruta’.
The ship was built at Aker mechanical workshop, and was handed over to Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab in 1891. When it became clear that she was to go on the Hurtigruten route, she was rebuilt for increased passenger numbers and, crucially, a postal cabin. She was equipped with electric lights, something few ships had at this time, but they may not have come into their own in the bright summer nights north of the Arctic Circle.
The new Hurtigruten route was to take place with night sailings. This happened at a time when there were minimal beacons and markers along the sea, and it was still difficult to find good charts. The voyage in July took place through balmy, bright summer nights, but the tender for the voyage had been won for the entire dark winter. Director of Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab Richard With and his pilots had prepared well.
This voyage through the bright summer nights would revolutionize transport in Norway, and constituted an ever so small democratic revolution. Previously, in the worst case, it could take several weeks to transport mail between the south and the north. With the establishment of the Hurtigruta route, this time was reduced to just a few days. Fixed departures, fixed times, safe as clockwork delivery of goods and mail. Newspapers could now bring news from the capital and from the continent all the way up to Hammerfest in just a couple of short days.
We know that the new Hurtigruten was well received, because people raised flags along the lay as the ship worked its way north. They arrived in the middle of the night at Hammerfest four days after leaving Trondheim, and people had gathered on shore to welcome them.
Once there, crew and passengers lined up for photographs on deck. They had proved that it was possible, that night sailing was the future.
And the rest, as you say, is history

Sources:

Bakka, Dag Jr. Lifeline and adventure travel The story of the Hurtigruten. Bodoni. 2017

Rydheim, Per. Vesteraalske -Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab 1881-1988. Fusa Steamship Expedition. Stokmarknes. 2015

Read more about the history of the coastal route

A Royal coastal steamer

Many Hurtigruten ships have had royal names, but some ships have been more royal than others.

Hurtigruten at war

As many as 17 Hurtigruten ships went down during World War 2. Between 1941 and 1944, small boats hired by the shipping companies operated in replacement routes between Tromsø and Kirkenes. Read more about Hurtigruta’s war sailors here.

SS Prinsesse Ragnhild, Norwegians and Germans in the same boat

SS Prinsesse Ragnhild became the first ship in ordinary Hurtigruten shipping to be wrecked during World War II

Visit Hurtigruten Museum

Hurtigruten Museum

A monument to Norway’s Transport history: Visit the bridge, engine room and cabins on the Finnmarken express route (1956) in its iconic barley. Feel the atmosphere in the lounges from the steamship Finmarken (1912). Activities for children and families. Hurtigruta’s importance is told in modern exhibitions. Food and drinks are served in the dining room anno 1956. Welcome aboard!