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"Kveithaill"

Once upon a time, in the old days, before television and radio had reached Sørøya and before the newspapers from Southern Norway were flown in daily, people here in the north had to stand the rough climate and the wind. Under such harsh conditions, people had to rely on themselves, that is their observationalskills, in order to persist.

Moreover, if one should survive, one also had to be capable of learning from the observations made over the years. That's how people understood the importance of gaining "kveithaill". This pleasant activity makes sure that a fisherman catches the fattest, biggest and most splendid halibut (kveite means halibut). The fish, in return, could be traded in for coffee, tobacco and other vital goods.

Strictly speaking, times have not changed that much, apart from the fact that the inhabitants of the remote parts of Northern Norway in those days had not yet been informed about the fatal consequences of such a life-style. Scientists and health officials were still to discover that nicotine could be lethal and that coffee could cause stomach ulcer. People in those times lived a happy life, unaware of the potential risks of their dear habits.

They even had enough energy to get themselves "haill" at biblical ages. Indeed, several oldtimer  told that they "hailled" even if they did not have plans to fish for halibut at all! This speaks volumes, doesn't it? So much for the health problems of the older generation….


Copyright © 2004, Elisabeth Kokkin

The exact origin of the term "haill" has been hidden throughout the years behind a veil of shameful embarassment which we here in the north have built up, believe it or not….

We talk liberally and open-minded about most issues these days, but if a lucky soul has been out on the sea and caught the halibut he longed for so much, everybody knows right away what this lad has done the preceeding night, no need for discussing the …eh…….. well, it.

If the fisherman is married,  then there is no further need for explanation. If  the fisherman is not married, though, one only needs to watch out for which girl will blush when the news about the successful halibut fishermen spread. There's been many a young girl in the coastal villages of Northern Norway with a face the colour of a freshly-cooked shrimp in those days --and this phenomena can still be witnessed today….

A more detailed explanation of "kveithaill" would border the obscene, but if you are as quick to perceive as the old fishermen of those days, you surely have personal experience with this topic and fishing luck in general….

There is one point I want to insist on, the fact that it is much more fun to practise these skills than to waste your time by just talking about it, that is!

So if you are heading for Sørøya to try your fishing luck with rod (and lure….), make sure you have trained your "haill" skills sufficiently. If so, you are guaranteed to hook something. Halibut, that is….

I think I will retire now. My oldster plans to fish tomorrow. Looks like I have to do my share to secure dinner. I am really keen on…..well, you guessed right: Halibut!