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The cave in Nordsandfjord

If you want to visit the cave in Nordsandfjord, you have to drive from Hasvik to Breivikbotn and further on to Sandvika. Here you will find an information board and a parking lot. Follow the marked path over the mountains to Nordsandfjorden. The march takes about one hour in easily-accessible terrain.

Copyright © 2003, Anne Olsen-Ryum

The cave is located on the western side of the fjord, about 1 km along the rocky and slippery shoreline. The entrance to the cave is about 30 m above the sea level. During high water, the cave can not be accessed on foot, so make sure you come there when the tide is low!

The entrance of the cave faces towards the sea and can be difficult to find without the knowledge of a local.  It is rather easy to get there, but the stones are covered with kelp and algae which makes them very slippery! Be careful! The entrance is about 40 m long, 12 to 15 m wide and about 3 m high. Behind the entrance area, the cave is divided into two parts, each of which about 100 m long. Those who come here today can hardly imagine how entire families found their way to the cave in late autumn in 1944….

The evacuation and burning of Finnmark began in autumn 1944 after the eastern part of Finnmark was liberated by Russian forces. The Germans started to evacuate the area and burned anything that could be of use for the Russians. After efforts to evacuate on a voluntairily basis, the order demanding evacuation by force came on October 28th. Obedient and anxious inhabitants of Finnmark were transported to southern Norway by the thousands, and many witnessed how their villages and hometowns were burned down to the ground. Only one building on Sørøya was not burned- the church in Galten.

The Norwegian exile government in London encouraged the people of Finnmark to hide in remote areas, since everybody expected the liberation of the entire Finnmark within weeks.

The island of Sørøya, with its deep fjords, steep mountains and numerous caves offered lots of hiding places. The people fled to remote farming and boat houses, cabins and mountain caves. From their hideouts they helplessly witnessed the burning of their houses and the slaughtering of their cattle.

About 1650 people lived on Sørøya in 1944. More than 1000 people were forced to leave for southern Norway, while about 500 people fled to caves and remote cabins. By and by, people from Sørøysund, Hammerfest and the Alta area fled to Sørøya, too. Altogether 1100 people spent the winter 1944/45 in hiding places on the island.

133 people had headed for the large cave in Nordsandfjord in the beginning of November. The families built shelter and sleeping places on the rocky ground inside the cave. Right at the entrance, a latrine was raised (see picture) and each family had stored their food in one part of the cave. The food was cooked on a petrol cooker; this could be smelled all over the place. The sanitary facilities were rather primitive, even if freshwater was available from a river in the inner part of the fjord.

During the stay in the cave, a child was born. A midwife happened to be among the people in the cave and took care of both mother and child.

Primitive toilet inside the cave
Copyright © 2003, Anne Olsen-Ryum

Leftovers from times of war
Copyright © 2003, Anne Olsen-Ryum

Copyright © 2003, Anne Olsen-Ryum

The "freedom" inside the cave was not to last for long- after about two weeks, a German warship came into the fjord and headed right for the entrance of the cave. Nobody ever doubted that a local must have been onboard the ship. Eight to ten German soldiers came  directly into the cave and ordered the people to come out.