The New International Encyclopædia/Lofoten

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LO'FOTEN, or LOFODEN. A chain of islands extending about 175 miles in a southwest direction from the northwestern coast of Norway (Map: Norway, E 2). It comprises the Lofoten proper and the Vesteraalen Islands, to the north. The archipelago consists of several large islands and innumerable small islets and rocks. The largest islands are Hindö, Langö, Andö, Oest-Vaagö, Vest-Vaagö, and Moske-næsö, of which the first three belong to the Vesteraalen group. Hinnö, which lies nearest to the mainland, has an area of 850 square miles. They are extremely irregular in outline, being indented with numerous narrow and winding fiords, and consist of masses of rocks torn asunder to an extraordinary degree, rising abruptly from the deep water in precipices and needle-shaped crags often over 1000 feet high. The mountains rise in Hindö to a height of 3600 feet. The tidal currents in the narrow channels separating the islands are in some places so swift as to make navigation difficult even for steamers. (See Malström.) The interior of the islands is mostly barren and uninhabited, though the eastern portions of Hindö are covered with forests, and some of the sheltered valleys support a little agriculture and sheep-raising, as the climate is not severe in spite of the high latitude (68°-69°). The inhabitants, who in 1900 numbered 42,817, live along the coasts in isolated farm-houses or in small fishing villages. The cod-fisheries are the main support of the islands, as well as of thousands of fishermen from the mainland who brave these dangerous waters every year from December to March. These fisheries have been famous for centuries; they are an important source of national wealth, and are among the richest in the world.