NORWAY: Death in a Fjord

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One of the thousands of fissures in the wrinkled western shore of Norway is the Stor Fjord, an S-shaped water that snakes through the wall-sided mountains for 35 mi. before it branches into two smaller fjords. One of these is the Nordals Fjord and 15 mi. farther inland, on the narrow sills of shore, are the two tiny villages of Tafjord and Fjoraa. For months the villagers have looked up at a great overhanging jut of rock that was beginning to crack of its own weight. Some day, they knew, it would fall and splash into the fjord. But no one guessed how big that splash would be.

At 3 a. m. one day last week the great mass of rock cracked decisively and fell, with awful deliberation. The roar of its slide woke the villagers in their beds, a few fishermen in their sloops offshore, and the operator in the power station who threw on his switch and lit the two villages and the moving mountainside. Splash! A small piece fell in the water, sent a six-ft. wall of water up the fjord, inundated the power station and plunged the villages into darkness again. The villagers rushed out of their houses toward the slopes. Splash! A bigger piece of mountain descended, heaving a loft. wall of water after the first. It picked up the fishing boats, smashed them against the shore. SPLASH! The rest of the crag fell and a mighty 20-ft. wall of water, white-crested in the dark, roared terribly up the canyon. It picked up whole houses, roared over the two villages and, diminishing slowly with its cargo of tossing bodies, receded toward the sea. Said the pastor of Tafjord's tiny church: "The dead here include twelve women, eleven men and 17 children. Several whole families were wiped out. including one family of the two parents and seven children." Fjoraa. across the fjord, lost 17 inhabitants.