Tönsberg canal

Canal in the sound of Skjeljastein between Nöttöy and the mainland in Tönsberg.

The sound between Husöy and the mainland

The approach to Tönsberg

The eastern quay with the bridge in the background

The sound between Husöy and the mainland

The approach to Tönsberg

The eastern quay with the bridge in the background

The bridge viewed from east

The canal west of the bridge

The bridge seen from the west

The bridge viewed from east

The canal west of the bridge

The bridge seen from the west

© All pictures by Bosse Arnholm, 2001

History:
Tönsbergs is the oldest town i Norway, known since at least 871. It is located at the mainland side of Skjeljasteinsundet. On the south side of this sound is Nötteröy. During long periods Tönsberg has been the capital of Norway.
During the Viking period the Sound of Skjeljastein was wide and deep enough for shipping, but landrizing and the fact that boats and ships were built bigger and bigger finally made it too shallow. During the 13th century king Håkon Håkonsson dredged the sound to a canal so that all of the ships of that time could pass through from Tönsberg into the Oslo fjord.
From then on the canal was good enough until in the early 16th century. There was an uprizal against king Hans and the defenders of Tönsberg and a fully loaded ship was sunk in the midst of the canal to stop enemies from reaching Tönsberg from the Oslo fjord.
This sunken ship stopped traffic long after the war was over. In 1598 king Christian IV decided to dredge the canal. But nothing was done.
During the war against Sweden in the early 18th century the Norwegian fleet was stationed in Tönsberg during the winters. Now they wanted to get food and other stuff through the canal, but they also wanted to have the canal as a save way out of Tönsberg. But no dredging was done.
During the 1730ies the pilot captain for southern Norway, Gabriel Christianssön, was the man to do it. He obtained a royal privilege to dredge the canal and as payment he was allowed to charge all passing ships as well as all those who used the lifting bridge across the canal.
However this work ruined the poor captain as it was much more difficult than expected to get rid of the sunken ship from the 16th century and after that the traffic was not enough to pay his debts for the work. Christianssön could not fully finish the work as planned.
During the mid 19th century the canal was dredged once again to the depth it has today.
Todays bridge across the canal was built in 1957. It is a lifting bridge with a free height of just over 3 meters.


Sources: Arve Johannesen, Kysten vår, part 1, 1999, and touristbrochures, charts and my own experiences in situ.
Do send comments or further information to Bosse Arnholm!

 

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This page was modified at 12-08-06