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Hammerfest kommune
Hámmárfeastta gielda
Coat of arms of Hammerfest kommune
Coat of arms
Official logo of Hammerfest kommune
Finnmark within
Hammerfest within Finnmark
Hammerfest within Finnmark
Country Norway
County Finnmark
District Vest-Finnmark
Administrative centre Hammerfest
 • Mayor (2009) Alf E. Jakobsen (Ap)
 • Total 848.98 km2 (327.79 sq mi)
 • Land 819.80 km2 (316.53 sq mi)
 • Water 29.18 km2 (11.27 sq mi)
Area rank 129 in Norway
Population (2014)
 • Total 10,287 ( from last year)
 • Rank 111 in Norway
 • Density 12.1/km2 (31/sq mi)
 • Change (10 years) 12.3 %
Demonym(s) Hammerfesting[1]
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
ISO 3166 code NO-2004
Official language form Neutral
Website .no.kommune.hammerfestwww
Data from Statistics Norway

    (Northern Sami: Hámmárfeasta) is a municipality in Finnmark county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Hammerfest. Some of the main villages in the municipality include Rypefjord, Forsøl, Hønsebybotn, Akkarfjord, and Kårhamn.

The municipality encompasses parts of three large islands: Kvaløya, Sørøya, and Seiland. Other small islands such as Lille Kamøya and Kamøya are also located here. Most of the municipality does not have a road connection with the rest of Norway. Only Kvaløya island is connected via the Kvalsund Bridge.


  • General information 1
    • Name 1.1
    • Coat-of-arms 1.2
    • Churches 1.3
  • History 2
    • Napoleonic Wars 2.1
      • British attack 2.1.1
      • Improved fortifications 2.1.2
    • Fire of 1890 2.2
    • Electric street lighting 2.3
    • Destruction in the Second World War 2.4
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
  • Economy and tourism 4
  • Transportation 5
  • Reindeer issues 6
  • International relations 7
    • Twin towns — Sister cities 7.1
  • Foreign consulates 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

General information

The municipality called Hammerfest by og landdistrikt was established on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). It included the town of Hammerfest and the vast rural district surrounding it. The law required that all towns should be separated from their rural districts, but because of low population, and very few voters, this was impossible to carry out for Hammerfest in 1838. (See also: the towns of Vadsø and Vardø.) Eventually, on 1 January 1852, the rural district was separated from the town of Hammerfest to form the new municipality of Hammerfest landdistrikt (later renamed Sørøysund). The northern district of Maasø was separated in 1839, and the southern district of Kvalsund was separated in 1869. On 1 January 1992, the municipality of Sørøysund was merged with the town of Hammerfest to form a new, larger municipality of Hammerfest.[2]


The municipality is named after the town that was established in 1789. The town was named after an old anchorage. The first element is hammer, referring to a number of large rocks, good for mooring boats, called Hamran (Old Norse: Hamarr meaning "steep mountainside"). The Hamran were covered up in land reclaiming during the early post-war years. The last element is fest, from Old Norse festr which means "fastening" (for boats).[3]


The coat-of-arms is from relatively modern times. They were granted on 16 December 1938. The arms of Hammerfest, a polar bear on a red background, were prepared for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the town's foundation in 1939. The polar bear was chosen as a symbol for the fishing in the polar seas north of Norway. The polar bear itself is not native to mainland Norway.[4][5]


The Church of Norway has one parish (sokn) within the municipality of Hammerfest. It is part of the Hammerfest deanery in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland.

Churches in Hammerfest
Parish (Sokn) Church Name Location of the Church Year Built
Hammerfest Hammerfest Church Hammerfest 1961


Painting by Konstantin Korovin, inspired by the Aurora Borealis in Hammerfest

Many grave sites dating back to the Stone Age can be found here. This location was an important fishing and Arctic hunting settlement for a long time before it was given market town rights by royal decree of Christian VII of Denmark–Norway in 1789.

Napoleonic Wars

During the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark–Norway was attacked by Great Britain and forced into the conflict on the side of Napoleon and France. As one of the main centres of commerce and transportation in western Finnmark, Hammerfest became a natural target of the Royal Navy's blockading warships. Thus, on the request of local merchants, the town received four six-pound cannon from the central armoury in Trondheim. Subsequently, a 50-man strong coastal defence militia was formed to defend Hammerfest. A number of merchants formed the officer corps of the militia, while Sea Samis and Kvens were mobilized as gun crews and soldiers.

British attack

On 22 July 1809, the expected British attack came when the brigs Snake and Fancy approached the town. Before reaching Hammerfest, the British vessels had looted the village of Hasvik, laying waste to the small fishing community. The following battle between Hammerfest's two two-cannon batteries and the British warships with a total of 32 cannon was surprisingly intense and did not end before the Norwegian cannons had run out of gunpowder after about 90 minutes of combat. Both attacking warships had suffered a number of cannonball hits and had at least one fatal casualty; a sailor who was buried at the local cemetery. During the battle, the local populace had been able to escape with most of the town's goods, but the raiding warships still stayed in the good port of Hammerfest for eight days. During their stay the Royal Navy sailors looted all they could get their hands on, including the church donation box and some of the church's silver.

Improved fortifications

After the raid, Hammerfest became a garrison town with some regular troops and much improved and expanded fortifications. A small flotilla of cannon-armed rowing boats also operated out of Hammerfest for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars.

Hammerfest in the late 19th century

Fire of 1890

Hammerfest was struck by a fire in 1890 which started in the bakery and wiped out almost half the town's houses. After the fire Hammerfest received donations and humanitarian assistance from across the world, with the biggest single donor being Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The Kaiser had personally visited the town several times on his yacht and had great affection for the small northern settlement.

Electric street lighting

In 1891, Hammerfest became the first urban settlement in Northern Europe to get electrical street lights. The invention was brought to Hammerfest by two of the town's merchants who had seen it demonstrated at a fair in Paris.

Destruction in the Second World War

German sign in Hammerfest in 1941.
Hauen Chapel - the only building in Hammerfest left standing after the Second World War.

After their victory in the Norwegian Campaign of the Second World War, the Germans soon fortified Hammerfest and used it as a major base. The importance of Hammerfest to the Germans increased dramatically after their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The occupiers installed three coastal batteries in and around Hammerfest, one with four 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns on Melkøya island near the town, one with three 10.5 cm guns on a hill right outside the town and a final battery with casemated 13 cm (5.1 in) pieces on the Rypklubben peninsula near Rypefjord.

The main German U-boat base in Finnmark was in Hammerfest, serving as a central supply base for the vessels attacking the allied supply convoys to Russia.[6] Luftwaffe seaplanes were based at an improvised naval air station in nearby Rypefjord.[7] The garrison in Hammerfest was also protected by around 4,000 mines and numerous anti-aircraft guns.

During their long retreat following the Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation, the Germans no longer managed to transport troops by sea further east due to intensive Red Air Force raids. Thus Hammerfest became their main shipping port in Finnmark in the autumn of 1944.[8]

Hammerfest was bombed twice by the Soviet Air Forces; on 14 February 1944 with little damage and again on 29 August 1944 with more significant damage to buildings and infrastructure and with ships sunk in the harbour.[9] The ships lost were the local transports Tanahorn and Brynilen.[10][11]

The population was forcibly evacuated by the occupying German troops in the autumn of 1944 after a Soviet offensive at the northern extremity of the Eastern Front pushed into eastern Finnmark. All of Finnmark including the town was looted and burned to the ground by the Germans when they retreated in 1945, the last of the town having been destroyed by the time the Germans finally left on 10 February 1945. Only the town's small funeral chapel, built in 1937, was left standing.[9] The Museum of Reconstruction in Hammerfest tells the story of these events and the recovery of the region. The Soviet troops in eastern Finnmark were withdrawn in September 1945.

Mines and munitions left over from the Second World War are still being found and disposed of in the Hammerfest area.[12]


The island municipality encompasses parts of three large islands: Kvaløya, Sørøya, and Seiland. Other small islands such as Lille Kamøya and Kamøya are also located here. Seiland National Park is partially located in the municipality. Seilandsjøkelen is a large glacier in the park. The Nordefjorden is a fjord that is part of the park. The mountains Komagaksla and Seilandstuva are some of the largest mountains in the municipality.

Hammerfest claims to be the northernmost city in the world, although the title is disputed by Honningsvåg, Norway (achieved town status 1996). The validity of the claim depends upon one's definition of a city; although Hammerfest is further south than Honningsvåg it has a population over 5,000, which is required by Norwegian law to achieve town status (law from 1997). In retrospect, Parliament ruled that a city should be located in a municipality with at least 5,000 inhabitants. But the provision has not retroactive. Honningsvåg is the northernmost town today, in Norway.[13] Barrow, Alaska, population c. 4,000, is further north than both the Norwegian towns, but does not lay claim to the title of northernmost town.[14] Some foreigners may find it strange that either Hammerfest or Honningsvåg claims to be cities, given the small size of both places and it may help to know that the Norwegian language does not distinguish between city and town. The closest translation for either term is the word by, meaning the translation from Norwegian to English is ambiguous. If both Hammerfest and Honningsvåg were to be defined according to old British tradition, neither of them would be considered cities, as neither has a cathedral. Both of them may, however, be considered towns, given the status of both settlements as economic hubs of the surrounding areas and the status as municipal centres.

Hammerfest is, together with Vardø, the oldest town in Northern Norway. The town of Hammerfest is situated on the island of Kvaløya, with road connection to the mainland using the Kvalsund Bridge.


In spite of the extreme northern location, there is no permafrost, as the mean annual temperature is approximately 2 °C (36 °F), about the same as Anchorage, Alaska which is located at a latitude of 61° North. Monthly 24-hr averages range from −5 °C (23 °F) in January to 11 °C (52 °F) in July. Mean annual precipitation is 820 millimetres (32.3 in). The driest months are May, June, and July; with on average of 50 millimetres (2.0 in) of rainfall each month. The wettest period is October through December.[15]

Hammerfest often experiences heavy snowfall in winter, and on some occasions, avalanches or risk of avalanches have forced some inhabitants to be evacuated from their exposed homes until the danger was over.[16]

During the summer, there is continuous daylight, while during winter, the sun does not rise above the horizon.

Economy and tourism

The LNG site on Melkøya at dusk seen from the Storsvingen Tourist center.

The construction of the large liquefied natural gas site on Melkøya (island) just off Hammerfest, which will process natural gas from Snøhvit, is the most expensive construction project in the history of Northern Norway. This project has resulted in an economic boom and new optimism in Hammerfest in recent years, a stark contrast to the economic downhill and negative population growth most other municipalities in Finnmark are experiencing.[17][18][19][20] After the opening of natural gas production on Melkøya there have been some problems with significant smoke and soot pollution in the initial production phases.[21] Snøhvit is Europe's first export facility for liquefied natural gas.[22]

Station of the Struve Geodetic Arc in Hammerfest

Hammerfest offers sport and commercial fishing, both sea and freshwater, as well as scuba diving. The northernmost glacier on the Norwegian mainland is a popular hiking destination. The town is a popular starting point for northern tours. There is a daily boat to the North Cape (Norwegian: Nordkapp). One chain of the Struve Geodetic Arc, now on the World Heritage List, is located at Fuglenes in Hammerfest.

Hammerfest is also a centre of Sami culture. Hammerfest is home to the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society (Norwegian: Isbjørnklubben); a museum displaying the history of Arctic hunting.

American author Bill Bryson begins his European travels, documented in his popular book Neither Here Nor There, with a visit to Hammerfest in order to see the Northern Lights, stating that he found the town "engrossing" and that it "grew to feel like home".[23]


Hammerfest is connected to the main road network by Norwegian national road 94 which branches off from European route E6 at Skaidi in the neighbouring municipality of Kvalsund. The town is a port of call for the Hurtigruten ship route. Hammerfest also has Finnmark's third largest airport, Hammerfest Airport, opened 30 July 1974. Before the opening of the airport, the only air link to Hammerfest was by seaplane, the first route established in 1936.[24]

Reindeer issues

Reindeer grazing outside Hammerfest's town hall.

During the summer, massive reindeer herds migrate from their winter pastures in the inner parts of Finnmark to the coast. Among the islands inhabited by reindeer during the summer months is Kvaløya, the island on which Hammerfest town is located. For years many of the 2,500 to 3,000 reindeer in the area have been coming into the town itself, wandering in the streets and among the houses. Although very popular with tourists, this has been less favourably received by the town's population, with people complaining of traffic disturbances and the dung and urine left by the animals. For hygienic reasons large sums of money have to be spent every year to clean up after the animals.[25] In response to the complaints the town authorities built a 20-kilometre-long (12 mi), 1.2-metre-tall (4 ft) fence encircling the town to keep the animals out.[26] However, as of the 2008 reindeer season, the fence had proven ineffective, with reindeer managing to pass through on road crossings, despite the presence of electrified grates embedded in the ground.[27] The problem continues – the mayor, Alf E. Jakobsen, joked during the local election in 2011 that he was contemplating a career as a reindeer herder if he lost the vote.[28]

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

The Rypefjord suburb in Hammerfest

Hammerfest is town twinned with the following foreign settlements:

Foreign consulates

Denmark,[35] Sweden,[36] Finland[37] and the Netherlands[38] have honorary consulates in Hammerfest.


  1. ^ "Personnemningar til stadnamn i Noreg" (in Norwegian). Språkrådet. 
  2. ^ Jukvam, Dag (1999). "Historisk oversikt over endringer i kommune- og fylkesinndelingen" (PDF) (in Norwegian).  
  3. ^ Kortner, Olaf; et al. (1993). Aschehoug og Gyldendals store norske leksikon (in Norwegian) 6. Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. p. 354.  
  4. ^ "Kommunevåpen". Flags of the World. 30 April 2002. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  5. ^ Norske Kommunevåpen (1990). "Nye kommunevåbener i Norden". Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  6. ^ Knudsen, Svein Aage (2006). Ubåtkrig - tyske ubåtmannskaper i norske farvann 1940-1945 (in Norwegian). Arendal: DANOR Forlag AS. p. 133. 
  7. ^ Hafsten, Bjørn; Larsstuvold, Ulf; Olsen, Bjørn; Stenersen, Sten (1991). Flyalarm - luftkrigen over Norge 1939-1945 (in Norwegian) (1st ed.). Oslo: Sem og Stenersen. p. 319.  
  8. ^ Gamst, Thorbein (1984). Finnmark under Hakekorset - Festung Finnmark (in Norwegian). Arendal: Agdin Forlag. pp. 137–141. 
  9. ^ a b  
  10. ^ Lawson, Siri Holm. "D/S Tanahorn". Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  11. ^ Lawson, Siri Holm. "M/S Brynilen". Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "300 kg German mine blown up".  
  13. ^ Byer i Norge (in Norwegian).
  14. ^ Mellgren, Doug ( 
  15. ^ "Hammerfest" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Meteorological Institute. 
  16. ^ "Avalanches in Norway" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. 
  17. ^ Blask, Sarah (4 December 2007). "Boomtown on the Barents". The Smart Set. 
  18. ^ Mouawad, Jad (9 October 2007). "A Quest for Energy in the Globe’s Remote Places".  
  19. ^ Krauss, Clifford (10 October 2005). "As Polar Ice Turns to Water, Dreams of Treasure Abound".  
  20. ^ Duval-Smith, Alex (27 November 2005). "Arctic booms as climate change melts polar ice cap". The Observer (London). 
  21. ^ Berglund, Nina (31 August 2007). Snow White' opening clouded by soot over Hammerfest"'".  
  22. ^ "Scheduled shutdown on Snoehvit". The Norway Post. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  23. ^  
  24. ^ "North to Hammerfest".  
  25. ^ Fouché, Gwladys (26 June 2006). "The rampaging reindeer of Hammerfest". London:  
  26. ^ Purvis, Andrew (25 September 2007). "Reindeer Games in Norway". Time Magazine. 
  27. ^ Palm, Eirik (2 May 2008). "1-0 til Rudolf". Finnmark Dagblad (in Norwegian). 
  28. ^ "Reindeers still visiting town in 2011". 
  29. ^ "Cities in the counties of Norrbotten and Västerbotten and their twin-cities in Finland, Norway and Russia" (PDF). The Barents portal. April 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 9, 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  30. ^ a b "Vennskapsamarbeid" (in Norwegian). 
  31. ^ "Welcome to Kola village". Kola Travel. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  32. ^ Hammerfest, Norway
  33. ^ "Alaska's Sister States & Sister Cities". Gov.state.ak. 
  34. ^ "Tornio Twin Cities". 
  35. ^ "Danish consulates in Norway, A-K" (in Dansk). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. 
  36. ^ "Honorary Consulate of Sweden, Hammerfest". Government Offices of Sweden. 
  37. ^ "Finland´s Honorary Consulate, Hammerfest". Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. 
  38. ^ "Dutch Consulate in Hammerfest, Norway". Embassies/Consulates in Norway. 

External links

  • Webcam Hammerfest
  • Hammerfest travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Information from Statoil about the Snøhvit LNG construction
  • Tromsø University Museum: Maritime hunter - fishers through 10,000 years at Melkøya
  • Hammerfest official tourist information
  • Finnmark University College
  • Arctic booms as climate change melts polar ice cap
  • Power station using tidal current as energy in Kvalsund
  • New oil field discovered only 45 km off the coast
  • Goliat oil field larger than previously thought
  • Information about the planned natural gas power plant with CO2 reduction (Norwegian)
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