Already from around 1870 the population in Fjørå were aware of the fact that a long fracture parallel to the fjord in a mountain area called Langhammaren, on the northeast side of Tafjorden, was widening. This was, however, not common knowledge to the population in Tafjord.
By Geologist Christer Hoel, M.Sc.
Read more about Rock Avalanches in the Fjords
Every year it became a little wider, and in 1930 it was as wide as 1.5 meter. Furthermore, a fracture perpendicular to this in the NW had developed. Even more often rock falls took place from Langhammaren, particularly in March and the beginning of April in 1934.
Langhammaren had fallen down
Among the population in Tafjord and Fjørå it was expected that Langhammaren would fall down some day, but the full consequences of this were not foreseen.
At 03.10 in the night on the 7. of April 1934 the population in Tafjord woke up by the sound of a gigantic boom as from an enormous explosion, and the ground was shaking.
What had happened was that Langhammaren had fallen down from 730 meters above sea level, pushing a large scree called Heggurda in front of it downwards and into the fjord. In all 3 million cubic meters of rock went into the fjord, creating a wave which reached 63.5 meters height on its highest, and then split into one tsunami moving inwards and another tsunami moving outwards the fjord.
In the darkness people were confused, but after a while large waves of sea water flowed with tremendous force inwards land in Tafjord and Fjørå. Three waves occurred, of which the last was the largest. It has been estimated that the last wave reached Tafjord with the speed of 160 kilometers per hour.
In Tafjord the waves were up to 17 meters high, reaching up to 300 meters inwards land, crushing houses and other buildings, moving large boats inwards land and killing 23 people.
A complete chaos was created with high-voltage electric lines breaking together, people and animals screaming in desperation in the waves and houses, and even the nerve-racking continuous sound from a short-circuited hooter onboard a boat which had been lifted a long distance inwards land.
In Fjørå the waves were up to 13 meters high, crushing houses and other buildings and even removing the soil almost totally. 17 people lost their lives.
Widespread material damage
The waves created material damage up to 50 kilometers away and could be noticed on a distance of up to 100 kilometers, that means in large parts of the Sunnmøre district.
In Tafjord only eight out of the 23 casualties were ever found, in Fjørå only three out of 17. Divers were sent down, but could not achieve much.
Only one person was seriously injured and was sent to hospital.
The Tafjord accident in 1934 was the first accident of its kind in Norway that was covered by broadcasting and newspapers from not only different parts of Norway but also many other countries in the world. Planes which could land on water arrived with journalists.
The covering by media contributed to the high level of sympathy from the world around. Many wanted to help, both officials, institutions and ordinary people.
Geologic research in the fjord Tafjorden has revealed that several rock avalanches have taken place along this fjord during the thousands of years since the last Ice Age, as is also the case in e.g. the fjord Geirangerfjorden. An avalanche as big as the 1934 avalanche had also happened before in Tafjorden and could possibly happen again. Therefore the adjacent mountain area Heggurdaksla is now under continuous surveillance.
The settlements in Tafjord and Fjørå
The settlements in Tafjord and Fjørå recovered after the accident. Even soil was bought, transported with boat to the settlements and distributed out over the areas where the waves had washed the soil away.
These efforts were expensive and time-consuming, but showed the will people had to repair the damages and go on in life.
The road to Tafjord was opened in 1982. Before that, ferry was used for transport of people and vehicles.
This article is written by Geologist Christer Hoel, M.Sc. – Linkedin
- Furseth, A.: Dommedagsfjellet. Tafjord 1934. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag A/S. 1985.
- Furseth, A.: Dommedagsfjellet. Tafjordulykka 75 år etter. Samlaget. 2009.