Lofoten is a group of islands in the Northern part of Nordland County. It stretches from the mainland in the South-West direction far into the North Atlantic Ocean. The administrative center is Svolvær. There are three main islands, separated by narrow waterways. Also, many long fjords are cutting deep into the terrain, creating good, sheltered harbours.
The area is very scenic, and has over the later years become a very popular tourist destination. A number of pictures from well known landscape photographers attest to this.
The waters around the islands are the main fishing field for pelagic cod - called skrei in Norwegian (as distinguished from the costal cod). The cod is migrating south from the Barents sea to spawn during the months of January through March. The cod is preserved by drying in the air suspended from wooden rods, resulting in "tørrfisk" - "dried fish", or by salting and then drying. The result is "klippfisk", the basis for the Spanish and Portuguese "bacalo" dish, which is the Spanish name for - you guessed it - cod. The export of "tørrfisk" and "klippfisk" has been an important source of income for centuries.
Fisheries is the all important business, and the areas for agriculture is very limited. Therefore, you will find small communities supporting the fishing business in every "nook and cranny" on the South-Eastern coast. On the North-Western side of the islands the arctic weather may be very harsh indeed. But in spite of that, several smaller settlements are dotting the bays here.
Fishermen from most parts of the Western Norwegian coast congregate in Lofoten during the high cod season. During earlier times before modern fishing boats, open boats with sails and oars were used. During bad weather, it could be a gamble between getting en even better catch, or not returning to port at all, resulting in many widows and fatherless children.