North Sea rower Thorseth does it again, aged 67

Veteran Norwegian rower Ragnar Thorseth arrives in Lerwick. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Veteran Norwegian rower Ragnar Thorseth arrives in Lerwick. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Last night saw the arrival of lone Norwegian oarsman Ragnar Thorseth, replicating a journey he made when he was 21 in August 1969.

His first words on reaching Lerwick were “hello people!” and he said the journey was “a rehabilitation”.

This time the 67-year-old admitted, when asked if he had rowed all the way, that he’d “had a little help from his friends”.

He confessed he had had trouble with his neck and shoulder, but had been in training for a year and half.

Mr Thorseth described the journey as a “rum shuttle”. Forty-six years ago he had berthed at the Small Boat Harbour but this time it was the pontoon at the Albert Dock.

There was a small crowd of Norwegians to meet him, some of whom had arrived earlier to be here to mark the remarkable trip for a man known as “The Last Viking”. The whole trip was being filmed for Norwegian television.

Mr Thorseth came into Lerwick at 7.35pm, just over 35 minutes after his estimated time of arrival. He had stopped off at Skerries and wished to mention the hospitality of John Anderson.

He left Utvar in Norway last Saturday (coinciding with the 4th of July US celebrations) and recalled that in 1969 he had been rowing when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. He said he could empathise with the astronauts in space as he as he found himself in the vastness of the sea.

The boat, the Brattholm Havila from Fosnavag, is an exact replica of the 15-foot vessel which he used as a much younger man, with some technological help including a small propeller powered by solar panels.

In 1969 Mr Thorseth had been met by crowds of Shetlanders and this time one of them, Lerwick butcher Frankie Grant, was back again to see him.

He recalled there were a lot of Norwegian purse netters in the harbour at the time and the fishermen pulled the boat, similar to a Shetland fourareen, up the Bressay slip.

In 1969 the intrepid rower’s visit also coincided with the visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

I have to confess I vaguely remember a hulabaloo at the Small Boat Harbour, but of course it was always hive of activity then in the summer.

I do, however, have memories as a cub scout being inspected by the Queen.

Despite Mr Thorseth’s arduous trip and appearing tired, he was good humoured and looking forward to a beer and some food with his friends at the Queen’s Hotel. Not bad considering it was 46 years since his last voyage in this kind of vessel.


Add Your Comment
  • Prue McLennan

    • August 7th, 2015 5:51

    Truly inspiring!

  • Ragnar Thorseth

    • May 8th, 2023 22:12

    I also rowed back to Norway in 2015 as I had intendedcin 1969.
    Ragnar Thorseth.
    And I am still rowing almost every day when I can.


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