The Sun Mirrors of Rjukan
Deep in the narrow Vestfjord valley in Telemark lies the tranquil industrial town of Rjukan. Rjukan was created to serve the needs of Norwegian industry and much of its development, which took place mainly at the beginning of the last century, is thanks to the vision and dedication of engineer and industrialist Sam Eyde. Rjukan remains the home to a thriving community and is a special place to visit.
It can also be, given its valley position, a very shady place to visit. Rjukan manages without the sun for almost six months of the year (September to March). Luckily, for ice climbers, this creates the cold temperatures for great climbing opportunities on the frozen water courses of the deep sided gorge and its surrounding hillsides.
Rjukan formed around the hydro electric plant that was initially used for fertiliser production and a leading figure in the communities development was plant owner Sam Eyde. He built houses for the employees working in the plant and was aware how important it as to keep the workforce fit and happy. To this end Eyde conceived various initiatives to help them find some sunshine during those shady winter months. Some projects came to fruition in his lifetime and some of his other ideas have been followed through since.
In 1928 a gondola was constructed, known as Krossobanen, to transport locals and visitors to the sunnier mountain areas above the town and this still carries thousands of people every year. He also conceived the idea of adding a Solspeil, or sun mirror, to reflect sunlight into the valley.
The sun mirror (there are actually 3) wasn’t completed in his lifetime, but it is good to see that others later brought the idea to fruition. The project was taken up again in 2005 by Martin Andersen, an artist and resident of the town and it is great to now see the mirrors in action. The computer-driven ‘heliostats’, which sit on a steep mountain wall 450 metres above the town, follow the movement of the sun and direct the captured rays into the town’s market square.
At the time of their construction there was considerable opposition to the high cost of what many considered to be a frivolous project, but it is now recognised that the mirrors bring considerable tourism to the town. They are certainly a unique feature and so, if you are in Rjukan and need a sunshine fix, head to the market square and you’ll be able to sit with other locals soaking up the winter sun.
Posted by Paul