FLATHOLMEN

  
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Just outside Tananger, in-between all the other islands, lies a flat and narrow piece off rock with small patches of turf on it. The name of this small island is Flatholmen (flat-island).

On it lies one of Norway's 202 lighthouses, some manned others not.

The station here was built in 1862, when the northern part of the island was bought for 80 specidaler, and the southern part was rented for 12 spd pr. year.The first building was a small house with the light in a tower on top of the roof. It was lit for the first time September 1. 1862 (100 years and 14 days before I was borne). The station was soon expanded, with a boathouse in 1863 and then a new one in 1894 together with a pier. That same year a big freestanding tower was built, with "cut" and "colored" lighting. The "clipping" of the light, so that the sailors could identify that individual lighthouse, sort of like Morse code. The coolers identified the danger-sectors in the area around the lighthouse. Red for danger and green for safe.

There was a freshwaterwell on the northeastern side of the island, but the water in it wasn’t too good. After storms and high swells the freshwater would taste salty for long periods. Then finally in 1908 a concrete watertank was built, to collect and store rainwater.In 1931/32 many was approved for a total refurbishing of the lighthouse-station. A house was built for the lighthouse keeper with an outhouse. The old one was turned in to livingquarters for his assistant, which was needed now that also a foghorn was installed. This horn also known as a "Typhoon"-foghorn was built in Malmø, Sweden. It was first of it’s kind in Norway. A separate building was set up for it’s machinery, while the horn itself was mounted outside on a tall mast. Further more, a new boathouse with a crane was built by the landing. The place got it’s own electrical wire and the intensity of the light increased enormously.

Before W.W.II three families lived on Flatholmen and in stormy weather it could be tricky landing a boat. At that time it was Nikolai Rott that brought the mail to Flatholmen and the bigger island further out, Rott.When the weather was nice, no problem, but come storm and rain, then it was to risky to get too close to the rocks, where the water went foaming white. At times like that, the lighthousekeeper went out on the barefaced rocks with a long bamboo-pole with a net. Then the mailman had to sail as close as he dared, and throw the mailbag into the net at just the right moment. This method was used for years and never once did the mail end up in the drink.

When the station was in operation the families lived on the island all the time. Right after the WW II, the kids went to school in Tananger and had to be rowed in and out each day. With no electricity or phones there was no way of informing teachers of student’s no-show in stormy weather. The teachers however knew where they lived, and understood.

One of the last lighthouse keeper, Karsten Hellestø remembers his own childhood on Flatholmen. They were lucky enough to get schooling on the island. The "school" was on the second floor, where all the children gathered, with their own teacher. Karsten got 7 years of schooling that way.

During the war, mines often washed ashore on the little island.
People hid in their basements until the mines blew. And blow they did! You can still find marks on the bare rock-face after the explosions.

The family held chicken, did a lot of fishing and baked their own bread. Never a dull moment for the kids.

The most famous kids from this tiny island got their fame after a very tragic episode. In their memory, a beautiful statue was erected in "Habn" (the name of one of the oldest places in Tananger.) in Tananger.

It all started on the morning of January 24th 1894. The lighthouse-keeper’s wife and one of their six children, a boy was going to Stavanger. The father thought this good training for the elder boys, so he brought two of them for the trip in to Tananger. The weather wasn’t too bad and the kids needed training in maneuvering the sailboat in rough weather. Left back on the island were the two oldest daughters, 12 and 15 years old and the youngest of them all, a boy. After doing some shopping, the father and his two sons Torvald and Ansgard, 10 and 8 years old, left the safe harbor of Tananger and set sail for Flatholmen. Passing the point "Tangen" he must have noticed the increased wind and bigger waves. Still, three of his children were left on the island and the light had to be lit. After all, he had done this in worse weather than this. Good training for his boys.

The daughters followed their progress from the kitchen window. A shower off hail approaches the sailors, and gusts from that shower is big enough to capsize the little boat. All three of them fall into the freezing cold water. The two sisters watching with terror, the drama not to far from their warm kitchen. Bertine and Ester react immediately. Closing the door for their youngest brother, they hurry down to the boathouse. After a hell of a job they get a rowingboat on the water. With blisters starting to develop in their small hands they reach the spot where the sailboat overturned, they can only find one of the shipwrecked. It’s their younger brother Ansgard and when they after a lot of work get him in to the boat, he is lifeless. After rowing for what seems an eternity, they reach the boathouse, get the unconscious kid ashore and try to bring him back to life.

Earlier one of the smaller children had fallen into a swampy pond on the island and they had watched how their father had revived him. They started up by doing what their now dead father had done. During this work, they still remembered the duties of a lighthouse-keeper, so the light got lit. The sailors passing the island couldn’t have imagined the drama taking place on the island.
The girls succeeded again and brought their brother back to life. Four frightened fatherless children alone on this dark and isolated island, and still the light shines from the lighthouse.
The next day they get the attention of some lobsterfishers and help is sent for.

For their incredible courage and feeling of duty they received a gold watch from the Freemasons and 50 kroner from the government. The story about these two brave girls circulated in all of the countries newspapers and the story ended up in the Nordahl Rolfsen readingbook used by the schools in Norway. Thirdgraders all over the country learned the story about two brave girls from Tananger. A song was even written by Elias Kræmmer with music by Ingebrigt Håland, the sisters brother. You can see the song scrolling on the bottom of your screen.(as soon as I can get my wife to write it.)

It took many years before Tananger showed any gratitude for what the girls did.
Not before 1990 did we do anything special for the two girls.

As earlier mentioned, a beautiful statue was erected in "Haben" close to the hotel "Hummeren" (The lobster). It was sponsored by the SR-bank and unveiled 8th. of December 1990. The statue was made by Svein Magnus Håvarstein.
If you ever visit Tananger, which should be the first stop, on a trip to Rogaland, "Haben" is the place too see. Then you can tell your travel companions about the tragic but brave story behind the statue and the two little girls it depicts.

A new lighthouse was also built in 1957 and that was the last new building to be put up on the island. The reason for that, is that in 1984 the station was automated and deserted.

You should take time to visit this beautiful little island just outside Tananger.