The Titran Disaster

The autumn of 1899 was like a dream. For the first few weeks of October, herring prices rose by up to 15 kr a barrel, and on October 13th, prices peaked at as much as 40 kr! It was the autumn of opportunity and adventure.

Herring shoals were plentiful, prices were good and the weather was fair. However, the fishing fleet was worse for wear, and in great need of modernisation. The great wealth of the sea led many to invest in new machines, new tools and motorised boats.  

In the fishing village of Titran, about fifty net fishing boats and several steamboats lay ready to sail. In addition, 45 trade vessels were ready to buy. It was Friday, October 13th. The barometer was unstable and the weather uncertain. The telegraph did not reach as far as Titran, so the forecast was based on local knowledge and experience. The prospect of good profits on the high seas induced many to take risks. The fishing fleet left port in search of the silver of the sea. 

Initially, the sea was dead calm. The sound of the storm rode the ocean air like a great roar. The wind suddenly swelled from the northwest. Snow flurry and hailstones obscured the view. There was no chance of manoeuvring once the storm broke. The hurricane ravaged the sea, leaving little to no chance of rescue.

Captain Kjærstad aboard the steamboat Leif Eriksson lived through the moment when dead calm turned hurricane:

“Inside his cabin, he managed to put on one of his boots, but as he lifted his foot to put on the other, the boat suddenly tilted so sharply that he had to grab hold of his bunk to keep from falling. It was so sudden and forceful that he for a moment remained unsure about what this actually was, and a sense of dread began to manifest itself.

And then he heard it – the roar of the storm!”

The disaster was upon them. 140 people were killed. Along the coast, 27 women became widows and 80 children lost their fathers. Only three fishermen were insured, and only a handful of fishing boats. The money also disappeared with the fishermen, as tradition dictated they bring it with them as they sailed out. The merciless whims of nature had caused one of the most disastrous nights in our history.


(Quote from the book «Havet tok dem» (Taken by the Sea) by Karl H. Brox)