Couch-cruising along the coast

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Norwegians will get a unique opportunity to cruise along the scenic coast of northern Norway this summer, without getting up from their couch at home. National broadcaster NRK is mounting cameras on board the coastal voyage vessel Nord-Norge, part of the Hurtigruten fleet, and plans to air a live marathon program filming every minute of the journey from Bergen to Kirkenes.

NRK's will air its marathon voyage coverage from on board the Hurtigruten vessel 'Nord-Norge.' PHOTO: Hurtigruten

The marathon broadcast will take 134 hours and start when the Nord-Norge sails from Bergen on June 16. It will end five days later, when the vessel arrives at Kirkenes in northern Norway, not far from the Russian border.

The program will completely dominate NRK’s channel 2 for the five-day period, pre-empting other programming. NRK nonetheless is expecting high viewership, based on the huge success of a similar effort carried out in the fall of 2009.

That’s when NRK mounted cameras on board the train that runs over the mountains between Bergen and Oslo, allowing viewers to follow the entire journey with no interruptions as the line celebrated its 100th anniversary. The program proved to be wildly popular, if not downright addictive, as more than a million viewers tuned in for the ride despite the lack of scripting and dialogue.

NRK mesmerized audiences with its broadcast from on board a train over the mountains of southern Norway. Now it hopes to do the same with its live broadcast from on board a Hurtigruten ship. PHOTO: Views and News/NRK

NRK has reported that an estimated 176,000 Norwegians sat through the entire seven-hour show, with as many as 450,000 tuned in at the same time. That’s a lot, in a country of less than 5 million people. Many found the program strangely relaxing, as the cameras showed scenery from both sides of the train and straight ahead, and offered documentary-type information or interior train shots when the carriages rolled through tunnels. The main sound was simply the roll from the rails, with only muted announcements made on board the train.

NRK has also mounted cameras on the scenic Flåmsbanen that runs from the mountains down to the Sognefjord, on the new city tram line in Bergen called Bybanen and on board the newly reopened Holmenkollen metro line from downtown Oslo up to the hills above the capital. They were also popular shows, but modest productions compared to the plans NRK now has for the Hurtigruten program.

‘Wildest’ project yet
“This is definitely the wildest thing we’ve ever done, and I haven’t heard of anyone else doing anything like it either,” Rune Møklebust of NRK Hordaland told newspaper Aftenposten after the plans were announced on NRK itself. “We could have taped it, and aired that, but when we found a technical solution to do it live, we thought that would be exciting.”

The challenge was making sure the vessel would be able to carry a live signal all along the coast, despite being in remote areas. Meeting the challenge involved mounting special satellite equipment on top of the ship, and tests have showed that it worked.

The Bergen-Oslo train project covered 527 kilometers along the Bergensbane train line. Now NRK will cover a distance of several thousand kilometers along the coast, including all of the 34 harbours the Hurtigruten vessels visit on the northward voyage.

‘A feeling of standing on the deck’
The eight cameras mounted on board the Nord-Norge “will simply observe what’s happening along the way,” said Møklebust. “As a viewer, you’ll get a feeling of standing on the deck and looking down on the pier.”

Two cameras will be placed at the front of the ship, two others will cover each side of the ship while others will capture life on board. NRK is also working to mount a camera near the waterline, to give viewers a feel for how fast the ship is sailing through the cold Arctic waters.

“We have faith that this will be well-received,” Møklebust told Aftenposten. The vessel will pass the popular Helgelands coast, for example, during prime time on a Saturday evening, cross the Vestfjord over to the stunning archipelago of Lofoten on Sunday and cruise into the famed Trollfjord just before the evening news.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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