by Peter Cummins

Situated in the northwestern corner of Europe, Norway shares a common Eastern frontier with Russia, for 196 km, Finland, 716 km and Sweden for 1620 km, this boundary extending from the extreme South to the Far North of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The coastlines are pounded by the Arctic Sea in the North, the Atlantic Ocean on the West and the North Sea in the South.

His Majesty King Harald

It is no surprise then, that the Norwegians have traditionally embraced - and have always relied upon - the sea for their economic, political and social betterment. With a coastline of some 2,600 km. which, added to the fjords and myriads of islands, inlets and skerries, amounting to some 60,000 km, the Norwegians live, according to most sources, "between mountains, the coast and the waterways."

Norway, apart from its magnificent scenery, clean, healthy environment and a high level of political and social development, is a country of many "superlatives." The highest mountain peak, "Galdhopiggen" at 2,470 metres above sea level, is the highest mountain in Europe, north of the Alps.

Norway is one of the largest countries of Europe, with a total area of some 390,000 sq. km which includes the 62,000 sq km of the Svalbard Islands.

With a population of some four and a half million, Norway is one of the least-densely populated countries of Europe and its people, as has been observed by many, "do not suffer from a lack of space." On the contrary, the Norwegian’s fierce love of the outdoors allows each and every individual to enjoy the infinity of the mountains, the green, green forests, the fjords, lakes and coast-lines. The total country is every citizen’s huge open-air playground - all year round!

Norway boasts the world’s northern-most city, Hammerfest. The whole country is so far north, in fact, that the Arctic Circle divides Norway in two.

Yet, in spite of its northern latitude, Norway enjoys a relatively mild climate, because of the Gulf Stream, which propels the warm waters of the Caribbean north across the Atlantic and up along Norway’s western coast. Even in the depth of winter, then, Norway’s ports and harbours are usually ice-free.

Thousands of people flock to Aker Brygge, The Royal Palace, Akershus Castle and Oslo’s main street Karl Johan.

Each year the Norwegians observe the 17th of May as their National Day, celebrating independence. It is also a day dedicated to children who have special events, marches, dancing and singing as the procession moves towards the Royal Palace where King Harald V and the members of the Royal Family traditionally greet the crowds from the Palace balcony.

Like Thailand, Norway is a Constitutional Monarchy and the present King Harald V acceded to the Norwegian Throne after the death of his father, Olav V in 1991. King Harald, Queen Sonja and the two children Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Martha Louise are revered by the Norwegian people and share the natural splendours of the Kingdom with the people.

Due, no doubt, to the Norwegians’ propensity to preserving their remarkable lifestyle in a clean, salubrious environment close to Nature, strict legislation protects this precious resource and unlike many other developed - and developing - countries, commercial exploitation of the natural resources is subject to the environmental consequences.

In 1972, Norway, in fact, was the first country to establish a Ministry of Environment and former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as President of the United Nations World Commission for the Environment and Development. Through her tireless work, she was able to bring issues of sustainable development to the attention of the governments of the world.

Norway has always played a strong role in international foray and has been a staunch supporter of the United Nations and the world body’s goals, particularly peace-keeping operations.

The first Secretary-General of the United Nations, in fact, Trygve Lie, was Norwegian and Ms. Gro Harlem Brundtland is now Director-General of the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Message from Lars A. Wensell
Ambassador of Norway to Thailand

Lars A. Wensell, Ambassador of Norway to Thailand

Pattaya Mail has informed me that the paper plans to mark the National Day of Norway, 17th of May 2000, by producing a special supplement on Norway. In this connection I am happy to take the opportunity to congratulate the readers of Pattaya Mail in general and my fellow Norwegians among them in particular, on the occasion of our National Day, which marks the anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution of 1814.

I am honoured and privileged to take part in the celebrations in Thailand for the fourth time as ambassador of Norway to Thailand. Since we celebrated the 17th of May only a year ago, much has happened in Thailand. I would especially like to mention that I have been encouraged by Thailand’s firm commitment to political reform on the basis of the Constitution of 1997, and by its determination in resolving the economic problems. Last year times were difficult and people were uncertain about the recovery of the Thai economy. Today Thailand is about to struggle its way through the economic turmoil and regain speed and confidence. Although the situation may still be difficult, the indicators are clearly pointing in the right direction.

I am proud to state that the bilateral ties between Thailand and Norway are excellent. Official contacts between our two countries have been frequent during the last year. Among many contacts I will limit myself to mentioning the visit to Bangkok in December by HRH Princess Märtha Louise and the visit in January by Foreign Minister Knut Vollebæk. These high level visits confirm the close relationship that exists between Thailand and Norway and the mutual interests we share.

In line with the recovery of the Thai economy in general, we have during the last year seen several positive developments with regard to the economic relations between Thailand and Norway. The trade is starting to pick up, especially the export of salmon and other fish products to Thailand, which is increasing rapidly.

It is also worth mentioning that the 4th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Economic, Industrial and Technical Co-operation and Trade took place in June last year. During the meeting, which was successful, both sides reiterated their willingness to give high priority to economic co-operation between our two countries. Other very positive events that should be mentioned are the grand opening of Jotun Thailand’s brand new manufacturing unit in Bang Pakong, Chonburi, in December and the inauguration ceremony of Hjellegjerde, Asia’s new factory for production of furniture in Rayong, in January. Taking into consideration the good bilateral environment and the positive trend for the Thai economy, I am optimistic about the future of bilateral economic co-operation between Thailand and Norway.

Equally important for the development of our bilateral relations are the increasing people-to-people contacts between our two countries. In 1999 more than 50.000 Norwegian tourists visited the "The Land of Smiles" to enjoy the lonely beaches, the extreme beauty of the countryside and the friendliness of the people. I would like to take this opportunity to express - on behalf of all Norwegians living in or visiting Thailand - our appreciation for the friendliness and kind hospitality that we are met with by the Thai people.

More and more Thai people are also visiting Norway. Norway is widely known as the "Land of the Midnight Sun", and many Thai citizens go to Northern Norway in the summertime to see the midnight sun. It is especially visible at the North Cape in the high north of Norway, which is a particularly interesting place for Thai people to visit, as the great king, King Chulalongkorn visited this place on his second Royal trip to Europe in 1907.

Norway and Thailand have a lot in common in spite of many differences in climate and culture, and the geographical distance between our two countries. Both countries are constitutional monarchies, and the Royal Families in both countries are very much liked and respected by their peoples. In Bangkok we saw this very clearly during the auspicious celebration of the Sixth Cycle birthday anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol last year, when thousands after thousands of Thai people assembled on the royal ground in front of the Grand Palace on the evening of the 5th of December with candlelight in their hands, paying tribute to their great king.

In Norway the affection of the people for the Royal Family is especially evident on the 17th of May, when thousands of Norwegian school children and students march in parades through the streets of Oslo up to the Royal Palace, paying tribute to Their Majesties, King Harald and Queen Sonja as well as Their Royal Highnesses, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus and Princess Martha Louise, who are standing on the palace balcony for many hours greeting them as they pass by.

In my opinion it is safe to say that the relationship between Thailand and Norway is better and closer than ever, and I sincerely hope that the close ties and strong bonds of friendship which exist between the two countries since Norway got its independence in 1905, will continue to grow even stronger in the years to come.

Needy children pin their hopes on a medal

The 17th of May is a special day in Norway, with celebrations all over the country commemorating their Constitution, which was ratified in 1814. For many Norwegian folk, this day signifies the commencement of Norway as we know it today. That Constitution was for a free and independent kingdom of Norway.

In that cold land, so far away in the northern hemisphere, it has also become a day for children. Some Norwegians who have settled here in Thailand have decided that the children here should also benefit from the May 17th celebrations.

But first, a little history. A part of the May 17th events was a parade to Akershus Fortress, that protective building facing the Oslofjord. Beginning in 1881, to join in the celebrations inside the fortress you purchased and wore a medal. Those who could afford it wore medals struck in silver, but the ordinary people purchased medals cast in less expensive metals. But to join in the celebration, you wore your medal with pride.

As tradition continued, people began to collect these medals, and like all things collectible, they began to have a value, in some cases quite considerable, and in all cases, much more than the original purchase price.

In our midst, here in Pattaya, there is a sizeable Norwegian community, and a sizeable Norwegian traditionalist in the form of Jan Olav Aamlid. He remembers with pride his involvement in the festivities of May 17th when he was a small child himself. However, just because he is in Thailand for the celebrations was no reason not to follow the traditions, so Jan Olav, using his connections with the Royal Norwegian Mint, together with Tove Bjerkan and Bjorn Naglestad arranged for the striking of a special medal for the year 2000.

On one side are King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway, and on the other side of the medal, a scene depicting the historic visit of Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn to the North Cape of Norway in 1907.

This official May 17th medal for the year 2000 is also being produced in a limited minting - only 2000 medals, with half of the production remaining in Norway and the other 1000 for Thailand.

With a ribbon in traditional Norwegian colours, this special commemorative medal is being sold for 450 baht, and this is where the children and May 17th come together. The 17th of May Medal Committee of Aamlid, Bjerkan and Naglestad is donating the profits from the sale of these medals towards clothing for local needy school children. This special day for children is now being celebrated here as well as in Norway.

If you would like to assist some poor children, while at the same time getting yourself a very collectible item that will be worth much more than 450 baht in the years to come, contact Ruen Kasap Thong (the House of the Golden coin) on Pattaya Tai (almost opposite the international telephone exchange). You, too, could wear the 2000 medal on your shirt with pride, knowing that you have just helped put a shirt on some needy child’s back.

The Sun God Shines Anew
Accolades and coins mark 50th anniversary of
Thor Heyerdahl’s daring Kon-Tiki expedition

by Michael Brady

Kon-Tiki. The ancient Inca Sun God. Thor Heyedahl, the daring young Norwegian anthropologist who, in 101 days in 1947, repealed received academic wisdom and proved the South Sea Islands were most likely peopled from Peru. A balsa raft adrift for 8,000 kilometres in the currents of the Pacific, manned mostly by landlubbers. And it all worked, to be written in the annals of exploration in letter of fire as bright as the spirit of the sun god symbol painted on the sail of the Kon-Tiki raft.

As a boy, I knew. Torstein Raaby, the wireless operator on the Kon-Tiki raft, was one of my heroes, along with the leader of the expedition, Thor Heyerdahl. Radio was my all-consuming hobby. Every evening during the expedition, I tuned my amateur radio receiver to pick up Raaby’s signals, at frequencies published in QST, the member magazine of the American Radio Relay League. I read up on Raaby, and learned that when he was just 24, he and fellow commando Karl Rasmussen had been undercover at Alta in occupied Norway and had radioed the reports to England that enabled the Royal Air Force to find and permanently disable the mighty German battleship Tirpitz in April 1943. For that and other daring undercover operations during the war, Raaby was one of the 147 countrymen to be awarded the Royal Norwegian Olav Military Cross medal.

I read all I could on Norway, at school and on my own. Thor Heyerdahl’s book, The Kon-Tiki Expedition, was first published in Norwegian in 1948, and then in an English translation in 1950. My mother gave one of the first copies available for my birthday that year. It was a tale equal to any by Joseph Conrad, and it was real life, not fiction.

A dozen years later, in 1962, I was in Norway, where I have been since, my boyhood penchant intact. Though I never met him, I likened Raaby to a kindly adopted uncle, who from his remote location had guided me in my choice of a career in electronics. In reading, I learned that remoteness was his calling in life. He seemed to seek solace in hardship, first on the mainland in Northern Norway, and then as a lone wireless operator on Bear Island, far north of the Arctic Circle. In 1964, when he perished on an ill-fated arctic expedition, I felt that I had lost a long-time friend.

Now, 50 years after the expedition, Kon-Tiki skipper Thor Heyedahl is still going strong, his theories now embodied in the academic circles that once reviled his findings. The documentary film of the expedition won an Academy Award "Oscar" in 1951, the only Norwegian film thus to be so honoured. The original Norwegian book of 1948, The Kon-Tiki Expedition has been translated into more than 230 other languages, a record outstripped since only by Jostein Gaarder’s Sofie’s World, the international best-seller of the 1990s. Arguably more than any other Norwegian feat of this century, the Kon-Tiki expedition has fired imagination world-wide.

And on my desk there are durable mementoes of the historic expedition, 50th anniversary official commemorative one dollar copper-nickel, ten dollar silver and one hundred dollar gold coins, issued by Liberia, a seafaring nation. The one-dollar coin is in a neat first-day cover, with commemorative Norwegian stamps, postmarked on the anniversary day, 28 April, at Bygdøy, the location of the Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo.

(left to right) Jan Olav Aamlid, museum director Oystein Koch Johansen, Gunnar These, Jaqueline Beer and Thor Heyerdahl. (Photo by Frits Solvang)

The Kon-Tiki raft under full sail is depicted on the obverses of the one dollar and one-hundred dollar coins, whilst the Inca Kon-Tiki mask adorns the obverse of the ten dollar coin. The numismatic workmanship of the coins reflects the high level of aspiration of the expedition. And in one respect, the coins bespeak the way of the expedition leader. Thor Heyerdahl’s letter of invitation to join the expedition was just 58 words long, a marvel of brevity for so daring an undertaking. The coins are also few in number, just 6,000 of the one-dollar coins in philatelic covers, 25,000 of the ten-dollar coins, and 7,500 of the one-hundred dollar coins, low quantities for a commemorative issue, "and they will go entirely to support the Kon-Tiki Museum."

As the museum prepares for the second half century of preserving the record and artifacts of the expedition, I wonder what will happen in the span of 101 days from July 28 to August 7 or maybe thereafter. Will some young boy wander through the museum, view the real life raft, marvel at the full size replica of an Easter Island statue, and leave with a memory that will endure for 50 years? Will he see the re-released Kon-Tiki film, be given a copy of the re-printed book or safely put away some of the commemorative coins and feel changed by the experience? My bet is a definite yes, by the dozens, by the thousands. Decent daring does not tarnish.

Norway’s historic affinity to the sea from the Vikings to King Harald

by Peter Cummins

From the infamous ‘Norsemen’ and Vikings of the mid-ninth century, to explorers such as Leif Ericson who discovered North America in 997, to the rule of King Cnut in the eleventh century, to the fearless voyagers Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen who raised the Norwegian flag at both Poles, Norwegians have always had a close affinity to the sea.

The Viking ships of the ninth century were excellent examples of the early Norwegian boat-building and sea-faring skills. Sturdy and well-finished, these ships were able to sail great distances, not just for pillage and plunder but also to seek new territories, markets and economic gains for the homeland.

A Viking Ship in The Norwegian Viking Ship Museum, Bygdøy, Oslo.

Some eleven centuries later, there was the incredible voyage of the "Kon Tiki", the balsa-wood raft on which Thor Heyerdahl and his team re-enacted the crossing of the Pacific from Peru to Polynesia in 1947, to establish the origins of the Polynesians who, it was mooted, had migrated from Peru centuries before.

Two decades after that brilliant maritime research, the Norwegians were "at it again", with the historic crossing of the Atlantic in a papyrus boat, "Ra II", which in 1970 sailed from Morocco on Africa’s north coast to Barbados in the Caribbean. That was to prove another epic sea transmigration. "Ra I", built earlier to model the rafts of the intrepid Phoenician sea-traders, became waterlogged and sank.

The Norwegians have thus nurtured these seafaring traditions throughout the centuries, right up to the present time - albeit in different types of vessels and sometimes for different purposes to those of the ancient Vikings.

It is no surprise then, that the Norwegians have traditionally embraced - and have always relied upon - the sea for their economic, political and social betterment. With a coastline of some 2,600 km which, added to the fjords and myriads of islands, inlets and skerries amounting to some 60,000 km, the Norwegians live, according to most sources, "between mountains, the coast and the waterways."

The Norwegian Royal Family is one of the many Royals households world-wide who seek solace from their public duties on the sea. King Harald is a very accomplished sailor, competing with much success in international regattas when his royal duties allow it. His father, in fact, when Crown Prince Olav, won an Olympic yachting Gold Medal in the 1928 Olympiad in Amsterdam.

A recent book, entitled "King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great: Monarch for the Millennium", written by Pattaya Mail correspondent Peter Cummins and published by the Mail, sketches some of the Royals, including Thailand’s own King Bhumibol, who alleviate the strain of their public duties by sojourns on the sea.

The Kon-Tiki Raft on display at Thor Heyerdahl’s Kontiki Museum in Bygdøy, Oslo.

"It is little wonder that many of the world’s Royals have sought solace in the marvellous endowment of unfettered Nature: the wind, the sea and the open spaces," the writer points out in Chapter 12;"The King the Sailor".

"Norway’s King Harald and Thailand’s King Bhumibol are two such Monarchs who revel in the freedom of sailing, of being released - if only temporarily - from the demands of protocol, security and constant, pressing engagements in the public domain," the writer contends.

Over the years, the Thai King, particularly, has found in sailing a panacea for the stress of the land’s highest office. Affairs of state are left aside for the precious times spent sailing or racing a dinghy.

As with the Norwegians, members of the Thai Royal Family have, at one time or another, been sailing enthusiasts. King Bhumibol, in fact, shared a yachting Gold Medal with his daughter Princess Ubolratana, when they won the OK dinghy section of the Fourth South East Asia Peninsular Games - now the South East Asian Games - in December 1967.

Elsewhere, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has been a renowned International Dragon Class helmsman and he visited Thailand in October, 1996, to pay respects to the King on the Golden Jubilee of his accession to the throne.

The Duke recalled during that visit, the time that he sailed against the King - and lost - in a dinghy race on Pattaya Bay in 1965.

Closer to Norway - in Denmark - Prince Henrik, the Danish Royal Consort, is also a skilled Dragon Class helmsman, leading the Royal Danish Yacht Club to victory on several occasions in inter-port Dragon races between old rivals, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Royal Cowes Yacht Squadron on the Isle of Wight.

Prince Henrik has participated in four Phuket King’s Cup Regattas and is a most ardent enthusiast for sailing in Phuket, which he regards as one of the world’s best sailing arenas.

Back in Asia again, Tengu Idris Shah (Prince Idris Shah), the Raja Muda of Selangor, two years ago became the first Malaysian Royal to circumnavigate the globe.

Among other notable sailing Royals are Spain’s King Juan Carlos, ex-King Constantine of Greece and the Netherlands Royal Consort Prince Claus.

As Norway celebrates her National Day, with this special publication of the Pattaya Mail, Thailand’s sailing fraternity salutes the Norwegian Royal Family who have continued the precious heritage of the Vikings.

We particularly acclaim the Kings of Norway and Thailand who treasure the last unfettered frontiers of their respective Kingdoms: the seas and the waterways.