More than 1.3 million Norwegians tuned in just after Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) launched its non-stop live coverage of a Hurtigruten ship’s entire six-day voyage along Norway’s coast. Even more have been watching since, also from outside the country, and NRK’s show is exceeding all expectations.
“These are fantastic numbers,” said Rune Møklebust, NRK’s program chief for the marathon Hurtigruten show. “This project is well on its way to becoming the national event we dreamed it would be.”
Ratings showed that around 1,345,000 television viewers tuned into the highly unusual program called “Hurtigruten – minute by minute” on NRK’s TV channel 2, just from when the voyage coverage began Thursday night and 3am the next day. The program is essentially a documentary, with nine cameras mounted on the Hurtigruten ship MS Nord-Norge to capture every minute of the voyage from Bergen north to Kirkenes, from a variety of angles.
Not only have hundreds of thousands been watching at any given moment, but thousands more have been out greeting the Nord-Norge all along its route. Aided by weather that can only be described as extraordinarily good for northern Norway, Norwegians have sailed out in their own boats to escort the ship, they’ve flocked to spots along the coast as Nord-Norge sails by, waved flags from their homes and balconies, and crowded onto breakwaters and the piers in ports where the vessel calls for its customary quick stops. They’ve all wanted to greet the ship, and probably hoped to get on live TV themselves.
In some ways, the program had turned into one long celebration resembling the types of festivity usually associated with Norway’s national day on the 17th of May. By Sunday night, the passengers and crew on board the Nord-Norge had been treated to countless brass bands, speeches and enthusiastic welcome ceremonies hosted by excited locals.
One couple on board the ship told NRK that the only problem was that “we’re going to be exhausted by the time we get to Kirkenes. We can’t get any sleep.” They simply didn’t want to miss any of the constant action, and a brightly shining Midnight Sun didn’t encourage sleep either.
One woman from the UK told NRK that the voyage was “even better” than expected: “We were up at 1am to see the Midnight Sun and it wasn’t just the sun, it was all the brilliant colors in the sky. We’ve never seen anything like it. And then there’s the festive atmosphere on the docks. It’s really good fun.”
It’s also invaluable public relations and promotion for Hurtigruten, which runs ships up and down the Norwegian coast every day of the year, but its decision to allow NRK to cover an entire voyage wasn’t without risks. The weather could have been terrible, passengers could have fallen ill, or there could even be an accident. Hurtigruten has had its share of mishaps in recent years, and there was no guarantee the weather would be crystal clear, for example, when sailing towards the spectacular Lofoten archipelago on Sunday.
But it was, just as it was in the Geiranger fjord, in Molde and Trondheim, along the Helgelands coast and into Bodø, where huge crowds of people turned out to greet the ship and simply be a part of the unique documentary. Many were equipped with signs to send greetings to family and friends elsewhere in Norway, knowing or hoping they’d be watching. “Hei slekt og venner i sør” (“Hi to relatives and friends in the south”) read one woman’s sign. She didn’t want to miss the chance to get on national TV and send her message out.
NRK is continually interspersing its live broadcast, which will extend over 134 hours until it ends Wednesday morning, with reports from its vast archive of stories on northern Norway and Hurtigruten over the years. One popular report aired Sunday afternoon, while the vessel was in port for a few hours in Bodø, was a re-run of NRK’s popular old cooking show Fjernsynskjøkken, hosted by the now-retired Ingrid Espelid Høvig, Norway’s equivalent of Julia Child in the US. Høvig had reported from a galley on board one of the old Hurtigruten ships in 1983, going into some detail about how the cooks prepared local fish and seafood delicacies. NRK neglected to provide English subtitles for all the viewers tuning in from overseas, though, so it was difficult for a foreign audience to follow or make recipe notes.
Otherwise, the show was attracting interest from outside Norway as well as from Norwegians. NRK reported that as many as 20 percent of its viewers were watching from abroad via NRK’s website, with the most foreign viewers clicking in from Denmark, the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Many may well be Norwegians living abroad, but not all. By noon on Friday, NRK’s website link had been viewed 245,000 times.
Views and News’ readers are among them, with one reader in Huntington Beach, California writing to say he’d been watching for four hours and couldn’t tear himself away. Another in Scotland was also captivated by the program, saying she’d sailed on Hurtigruten herself and wanted to sail again but was worried the show would make the ships so popular that it may be hard to secure a booking.
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