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As winter settles on Norway’s Lofoten islands, its inhabitants wait for the arrival of the fish that made the nation. We join them to discover how the humble cod still bewitches this beautiful, far-flung archipelago
A fishing boat returns to harbour near Hamnøy after a long day at sea searching for the year’s frst Arctic cod




IT APPEARS INDISTINCT AT FIRST, A LIGHT smudge behind a grey bank of clouds. As the wind whips in off the ocean and races howling across the valley, small puddles of clear sky appear, briefy revealing the Milky Way and the smooth arc of a satellite far above. The smudge starts to glow and build, lashing across the heavens in a series of tormented twists, before pouring down to Earth in a last spasm.

It’s not so long ago that the people of Lofoten believed the northern lights to be the visible form of angry gods, eager to scoop unsuspecting souls into the sky to roam across the darkness for all eternity. Even today, to prevent an untimely disappearance, local superstition dictates that one mustn’t whistle when the aurora comes to town.

The northern lights, visible on clear nights for many of the winter months, swish across the sky near Reine

But death takes many unexpected forms in this remote string of islands in northern Norway, and if humans aren’t safe on dry land, they’re certainly no better off on the rolling seas. Legend tells of the draugr, a headless fsherman slathered in seaweed who sets out on stormy nights to ride the waves in a broken boat. The frst a mortal seafarer will know of his presence is the sound of his screams carried in on the wind. They are soon dragged to the bottom of the ocean, doomed never to return to shore.

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