Norway – Imposing beauty of spray-enshrouded Rjukan Fos

See how the crash of the fall shatters the water into infinitesimal particles so light as to be blown hither and thither by the draught through the gorge ! The cloud of spray looks almost like smoke—indeed that is the literal meaning of the name—Rjukan (reeking or smoking) Fos (fall).

Does this seem a dizzy perch from which to overlook the roaring water? Yet it is secure and commonplace in comparison with the ground from which venturesome tourists used to view the same dramatic sight years ago, before that narrow shelf was blasted out of the mountain-side to make the present highway.

Fifty and sixty years ago, when Bayard Taylor, and Du Chaillu and Madame Pfeiffer made their famous Scandinavian journeys, there was only a rough and perilous footpath to the spot, and a pilgrim assumed some exciting risks in making the excursion at all. Du Chaillu in his Land of the Midnight Sun records his wonder and admiration over this very sight before Us now. Taylor’s Northern Travel says of the author’s visit here fifty years ago :

“The path was impracticable for horses. We walked, climbed or scrambled along the side of the dizzy steep, where in many places a false step would have sent us to the brink of gulfs whose mysteries we had no desire to explore.

All at once patches of lurid gloom appeared through the openings of the birch thicket we were threading and we came abruptly upon the brink of the great chasm into which the river falls.

“The river first comes in sight, a mass of boiling foam, shooting around the corner of a line of black cliffs which are rent for its passage—and then drops in a single fall into a hollow caldron of bare, black rock.”

More than one innovation marks the place today. Beside that fine roadway with the guard-stones and iron rail protecting the edge of the narrow shelf, there runs a telegraph line. It is really amazing how those magic wires have spread over the wildest parts of Norway. From the small posting-stations of Telemarken to the fishing towns within the Arctic circle, the telegraph and telephone are almost everywhere available, to help messages leap long intervals of weary riding up and down and over and around the endless hills.

Would you like to watch those turbulent, tumbling, roaring waters from a point nearer still? Our next outlook is to be from that cliff which now shows so dark just at the right of the descending waters.