Norges Bank

New banknote series

On "The sea that gives us prosperity", the theme for the 500-krone banknote

The rescue lifeboat – obverse motif

Rescue lifeboats

Based on a text by Jo van der Eynden

For centuries, shipwrecks along Norway's rugged coastline were daily tragedies, claiming thousands of lives over the years. As international trade increased in importance, the need for an organised rescue service along the coast became more urgent. It would be modelled on the local lifeboat stations and the teams of volunteers aiding shipwrecked sailors and vessels in distress established in England, Holland and other European seafaring nations in the 1800s.

A government lifeboat service, Statens Redningsvesen, was established as a department under the lighthouse directorate in 1857. Government lifeboat stations were established at Lista and Jæren, two stretches of coastline that were exposed to the open sea, with no archipelago. The technological solution of land-based stations was not a good fit for the rest of the Norwegian coast, and although rescue equipment was deployed at some lighthouse stations, this was found to be inadequate. Because of the large number of drownings in the fishing and shipping industries, a private initiative was taken in 1891 to form the Norsk Selskab til Skibbrudnes Redning [Norwegian society for rescue at sea].

The most important contribution to the newly formed society was establishing the principle that Norway had to have a marine rescue service based on vessels that could operate in the roughest conditions and crews that were capable of meeting the challenge when lives were at stake. In 1892, the rescue service held a competition for the design of a suitable type of fishing smack and funded the construction of the first two boats. Boat builder and designer Colin Archer was one of the competition judges. He was actively involved in the issue of maritime safety. Archer's decked pilot boats had proved successful and he wanted to construct a lifeboat that was designed to withstand the most extreme weather conditions. The winning entry did not completely satisfy the jury, and Archer was commissioned to modify the design.

Construction of the first three lifeboats was begun before the competition and Archer's modification of the winning design had been completed. The first boat built to the design modified by Archer was given the number RS 1 and named the Colin Archer at its launch in August 1893. The Colin Archer now belongs to the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo and is still sailing.

A total of 35 rescue lifeboats were built over the next 30 years. Thirty of these were designed by Colin Archer and, owing to their sailing performance and achievements at sea, Archer lifeboats gained an international reputation as some of the best and safest sailing vessels in existence.

The rescue lifeboats' most important quality and advantage was their sailing performance and seaworthiness. Before the era of radio communications, the main job of the "sailing rescue service" was to accompany the fishing fleet out to sea and assist sailors and their vessels as needed. Not least, it was important to be able to tow fishing vessels safely to harbour when a storm blew up, especially in off-shore winds. Without the help of a rescue lifeboat, the small, open, square-rigged fishing vessels risked being blown out to sea.

Because of the superior seaworthiness of the lifeboats compared with the more primitive fishing fleet, motorised rescue lifeboats were not a priority until technological advances changed the service itself. Radio communication came into use in fishing vessels in the 1920s. As a result, rescue lifeboats could remain in harbour to a greater extent, ready to respond when needed.

Solely sail-driven rescue lifeboats were gradually replaced by fully motorised, high-speed vessels with the same excellent sailing performance and high level of operational reliability. Throughout the history of the service, rescue lifeboats have been designed and built to the highest standards. Today, the maritime history of the rescue service is a vital part of Norway's maritime heritage.

Ship's doctor Oscar Tybring (1847-1895) is regarded as the father of the Norwegian lifeboat rescue service. From its inception and until his death, Tybring worked tirelessly as organiser, lobbyist and educator. The service evolved rapidly, as a professional rescue service and as an idealistic popular movement. Not least, Oscar Tybring enlisted the help of coastal women, who knew what it meant to have loved ones at sea. They became the backbone of an initiative to build an organisation by recruiting members and establishing local branches. The local branches ran educational programmes and raised money to keep the service itself in operation. In time, the government became an important source of funding, but the work done by volunteers is still crucial to maintaining a high-quality nationwide sea rescue service.

Today, the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue operates from more than 50 stations around the country. More than 40 rescue lifeboats are on stand-by 24 hours a day, all year round. Over the past decades, rescue callouts to the large number of pleasure boats in Norway have become an important part of operations. The service now has a very varied fleet of modern, high-speed and technically advanced vessels of different sizes and types, depending on the type of waters and the kind of rescues the lifeboat will be involved in. Our lifeboat stations perform more than 6 000 lifeboat launches a year. Since its inception, the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue has saved the lives of more than 6 000 people. Around 3 000 vessels have been recovered, and more than 100 000 vessels and almost half a million people have received assistance.

The oil platform – reverse motif

The petroleum industry is very important as a source of government revenues, in terms of investment and as a share of total GDP. The extraction of oil and gas has been a crucial contributor to welfare and prosperity in Norway.

The Norwegian oil era started in earnest with the discovery of the Ekofisk oil field in 1969. The day before Christmas Eve, 1969, the US oil company Phillips Petroleum informed the Norwegian authorities of the discovery of an enormous oil field in the southern part of the North Sea. Ekofisk would prove to be one of the largest subsea oil fields ever discovered. The oil field was brought on stream on 15 June 1971 and was to be followed by a number of other major oil discoveries in the years to come.

In the 1970s, exploration activity was concentrated around the areas south of Stadt (latitude 62⁰ North). The shelf was opened up gradually – only a limited number of blocks were announced in each licensing round. The areas that seemed most promising were explored first. Discoveries were made on a global scale, and oil from the Norwegian continental shelf has mostly been produced by large fields such as Ekofisk, Statfjord, Oseberg, Gullfaks and Troll. Several of these fields are still important to the petroleum industry in Norway. In 1979, the go-ahead was given for petroleum activity north of 62⁰ North. Subsea exploration in parts of the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea started in the early 1980s, and the areas of exploration were gradually expanded. Production in the Norwegian Sea started in 1993 and in the Barents Sea in 2007.

The Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), popularly known as the oil fund, was set up in 1990. The fund's main task is to save government petroleum revenues for future generations. The revenues are invested abroad. The fund's market value in 2018 is more than NOK 8 000 billion.

Activity on the Norwegian continental shelf is expected to remain a key element of the Norwegian economy for several decades to come. This means that the economy will continue to be exposed to oil and gas price volatility – conditions we can do little to influence. Price falls have on several occasions posed challenges for the country's economy. At the same time, periods of low prices have also had numerous positive effects: new technology, standardisation and improvements in efficiency. The development of world-leading technology on the Norwegian continental shelf has made the oil industry one of Norway's most important export industries. At its peak, in 2013, the oil service industry exported goods and services worth more than NOK 200 billion, four times more than in 2003, and has been an engine of growth and prosperity in numerous coastal communities, above all in western and southern Norway.

The text was retrieved from the websites listed below.

  • The Norwegian Petroleum museum
  • Norway's oil history in 5 minutes
  • Norwegian Energy Partners
  • The Government Pension Fund Global
Published 5 October 2018 10:39