Colourful place names on maritime maps

Tjøme: Norwegians go on vacation in boats like never before. Photo: Lise Åserud / Scanpix (FRB)

Colourful place names galore on Norwegian maritime maps

Fancy a trip to the Sperm Bank (Spermbanken) or a weekend in Fart Bay (Fisebukta)? There are just two examples of some unusual names found on Norwegian maritime maps. People’s imagination is without boundaries.


Often the names of islets, reefs, bays and shallows are somewhat daring.

– In older times, place names on the maps were collected by the surveyors who charted the area. It was done by the hydrograph or someone else on the team talking to residents, farmers and fishermen who had lived in the area for generations, says senior engineer in the Naval Division of the State Map Authority, Inger Tellefsen, to NTB.

The Sperm Bank

The Sperm Bank (Spermbanken) outside Nesodden was named Norway’s most hilarious place name in 2006. It is a shallow at approximately 35 metres in Bunnefjorden. It entered into the maps for the first time in 1972, but the origins are probably far older. From old, the area is known as a breeding ground for fish, and some believe that is the background of the choice of the name, while others believe that it is was frequently visited by sperm whales long time ago.

Nesodden can also boast of the Woman’s Arse Bank (Kjerringrævgrunnen). It is a 16 metres depth shallow a little north of the archipelago of Steilene and has got its name from a protruding headland which is supposed to resemble … yes, precisely! The name first entered into the maps in 1906.

Lots of feelings

– There are a lot of feelings surrounding place names. This is clearly apparent when a revised map is published and carefully studied by local seafarers. We often get more feedback regarding location names from users than on other information on the map, says Tellefsen.

Further out in the Oslo Fjord we find The Mare’s Forehead (Merrapanna). The name is located in both Sarpsborg and Fredrikstad municipalities, but it is first and foremost associated with a hill near Hankø. If the hill, viewed from the sea, resembles the forehead of a horse, that might be a probable source for the name.

The Friday Hole and Fart Bay (Fredagshølet and Fisebukta)

In the Hvaler archipelago, we also find the sheltered bay called Fredagshølet – a popular harbour on Fridays – and the Dung Heap (Møkkalasset) reef. The latter is found in other places as well, including in Bærum, Frogn and Hurum.

One can also wonder about the origins of places like The Cheese Stool Bank (Ostekrakk) outside Slevik in Fredrikstad municipality, the Ovulation Island (Eggeløysa) outside Harøy in Møre and Romsdal, as well as its namesake outside the Rabbenes in Troms and not least the Pastor’s Wife’s Hole (Prestkoneholet) in Hordaland. Worth mentioning is also the Jerk-off (Runken) reef which lies outside Brekkestø in Lillesand.

Outside Larvik, boaters can enjoy themselves in Fart Bay (Fisebukta), located at the Fart Homestead Headland (Fisebuodden). In Sande in Vestfold, we find Shit Bay (Møkkabukta), while The Hindman’s Hole (Faenshølet) at Tjøme is due to a not so cheerful event. The latter is, by the way, a common denominator for many place names.

Named after accidents

– Place names that have been collected over time, and that have ended up in a maritime map, have sometimes come as a result of an unfortunate event. This is clearly visible on the place name of dangerous reefs and shallows where an unlucky fisherman or boatman has had his vessel or equipment damaged or lost. Outside Stad in Selje municipality, there are, for example, shallows with the names Unsafe (Utryggen) and the Dirty Shallow (Skitnefluda), marked by a light-buoy called The Old Woman (Gamla), Tellefsen concludes.

All place names in Norwegian maritime maps are taken from older charts and, if necessary, the spelling is modernised, which led to large protests when the Stavanger area islands were given an “-a” ending. Names are selected in consultation with the location name service of the Norwegian Language Council (Språkrådet).


© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today