Posted by: Sarah | July 24, 2010

Digging For Silver In Kongsberg


Oh…so many posts and not enough time.  Eliot and I have been soooo busy these past few weeks and July is supposed to be the month when everything shuts down in Norway and the Norwegians scoot off to their summer houses on the coast.   Anyway…we have moved to a different house (post coming soon).  Everything came with us again including furniture, cats and all the accumulated stuff that you tend to collect when you live in Norway e.g. bike stuff, ski stuff, thick winter coats etc. 

My Mum and Dad came over to help with the move but we didn’t want this to be a working holiday so we decided to go to Kongsberg to see the silver mines

We should have known that this was going to be an eventful journey – we were in carriage 13 on the silver mine train…unlucky for some!   We waited in line and out came the train/carriages that take you into the mine.  Well…quite honestly you wouldn’t put animals in these cages.  Not to mention the fact that 3 of the carriages de-railed as they were making their way out of the tunnel…with people in them!  The Norwegians are a nature loving well prepared nation – they just fight on through and the waiting passengers were quick to lend a hand to get these carriages back on the track so the show could go on.  Great!

We boarded the re-railed carriages and boy, was I glad that we were in a carriage with a little boy who was given a head lamp.  Eight of us were crammed into these little cargo crates with no windows…but who needs windows?  As we slowly moved into the tunnel we were plunged into darkness for 15 minutes whilst the train trundled 2.3km through to the main area of the Kings Mine.  Now and then I caught a glimpse of my Mums face and I could tell she wasn’t impressed.  Uh oh!

Once you get to the end it’s actually very interesting – the hour-long tour takes you through a number of chambers and the guide explains how silver is found and mined.  In fact, the mines were used to store Norways treasures and paintings in WW2 – the entrance was hidden so the Nazi’s couldn’t find the nations riches.   Silver was first discovered in 1623 and the mine was operational until the late 1950s…in all this time thousands of tons of silver was mined…most of which came out by hand.  

Some Facts:

  • Over 330 years of mining history are on display in Saggrenda outside Kongsberg, where the Silver Mines were in continuous operation until 1958
  • The mine train takes you 2.3 km (1.4 miles) into the King’s mine, the largest of the silver mines.
  • The bottom of the mine is 1070 metres below the ground and 560 metres below sea level
  • It was the largest pre-industrial working place in Norway, with over 4,000 workers at its peak in the 1770s
  • It supplied over 10% of the gross national product of the Danish-Norwegian union during its 335 year long history
  • Over 450,000 man-years were expended in the production of silver at the mine

Some Hints:

  • Use the ear plugs they give you
  • Don’t go if you get travel sick, don’t like the dark or feel claustrophobic
  • Wear warm clothes…it’s pretty cold down there
  • Don’t expect to get some silver…it’s all gone :-(
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Responses

  1. I’ve been to Kongsberg too but I arrived too late in the day and the mine was closed (it was in winter also). I’d love to go back and see the mines, but I’m not sure I’d be too impressed with the closeness. Kongsberg looks like an interesting town and I love the waterfall there that goes underneath the road bridge. Norway is heaven on Earth.

    • Thanks for your comment Karen. I agree, Norway is just an amazing place. The nature, the landscapes…it’s all here. My husband works for Kongsberg Group so going to the main town was a bit like going back to grass roots for him. Have you been to Tønsberg? We stopped off there for dinner on the same day. Fantastic little place


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