It was a miserable summer for Norway’s historic paddle steamer Skibladner. The season got off to a late start for the 166-year-old vessel, because of low water levels on Lake Mjøsa where she sails, and then came two major breakdowns.
Now a Member of Parliament and several others are seeking extra financial support for the vessel known as the “White Swan of Mjøsa.” Tor André Johnsen of the Progress Party told local newspaper Ringsaker Blad that the funding was needed because so many cruises had to be cancelled: Skibladner usually has around 20,000 passengers every summer, but this year only 1,000 could come on board. Sailings had to be delayed and then the vessel broke down twice.
The 121 passengers and crew of 17 on her last cruise in late July even had to suffer the indignity of being towed back to home port in Gjøvik after the vessel suffered what her operators called a “mechanical breakdown in the steam engines.” By August 1, the rest of the season had to be cancelled.
Hopes remain high that sailing will resume next spring, once financing is obtained, repairs carried out and more snowmelt and rain raise water levels in Mjøsa. “This has been sad for both our passengers and for the shipowning company (AS Oplandske Dampskibsselskap),” said its chairman Bjørn Blichfeldt. He’s seeking more than a doubling of state support from the government’s ministry of culture, from NOK 2.8 million this year to NOK 5 million, with backing from all seven mayors of the towns surrounding Mjøsa.