International Call-Sign: Lima-Echo-Charlie-November
D/S HESTMANDEN was built by Laxevaags Machine & Jernskibsbyggeri in 1911. The construction period was approximately one year. The ship type is often called a breech-loader, - a new type which was developed by the turn of the century. Having both the wheelhouse and engine-room astern gave her a large continuous deck area for various types of transport assignments.The vessel was delivered to Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab on 23 September 1911 and went shortly after this on her first tour of coastal freight route from Bergen to Tromso. Besides goods of various kinds, HESTMANDEN could take up to 100 passengers. Hestmanden followed different timetables the coming year. Common to them very many ports of call up the coast. Already in 1913 HESTMANDEN had her first tour in foreign trade, - specifically, to Halmstad in Sweden with pyrite from Finneid in Salten.
At the outbreak of the 1st World War went HESTMANDEN was on her coastal route. The war came rapidly became a total war which also included neutral countries' merchant ships. By September 1915 46 Norwegian ships were sunk by German submarines. On January 4 1915 HESTMANDEN left on her first trip to the war zone with lumber destined for Hull in England. Two other of Vesterålen ship was put into international shipping at this time. Of these three ships only HESTMANDEN survived, despite several very dangerous episodes. During a convoy home from Archangel in 1917 10 of 15 vessels were lost. HESTMANDEN was among the five that came home. On one occasion when HESTMANDEN was in a convoy on a dangerous coal route between northern France and England, the ship was the only one to arrive at her destination. A number of other episodes came to strengthen HESTMANDENs reputation as an extremely lucky ship. HESTMANDENS voyages during WW1 contributed greatly to Vesterålen solid economy by war's end.
HESTMANDEN sailed a coastal freight route between Oslo and Finnmark throughout the interwar period - with an occasional trip to Petsamo (Pechenga) in Finland. Coastal freight route between Oslo and Kirkenes runs along a twisting and exposed coast. Over 20 consecutive years the vulnerable vessel stayed on this route with many with many close calls. A number of repairs and improvements were made, in the twenties the characteristic top bridge was added to the ship. In the thirties, the cargo rig got a powerful upgrade,doubling her lifting capacity to 24 tonnes. Thus, the ship was more self-reliant with heavier loads in places where crane capacity was small. HESTMANDEN transported goods of all kinds, from bulldozers and rail cars to chocolate and liquor, as well as fish and fish products, of course, in large quantities.
On April 9 1940 (When Germany invaded Norway) HESTMANDEN heading north on her coastal route was requisitioned by the Norwegian Navy to transport soldiers and military equipment further North within Norway. After a month under military command HESTMANDEN was returned to Vesterålen administration again, when it became clear that the Germans also came to take North Norway. All merchant vessels that were in northern Norway were sent to Britain. Among those who arrived were HESTMANDEN. The remainder of the war she sailed in UK waters except for some side trips, including to Ireland and Iceland. On several occasions it was very close on the ship would be lost.
But in June 1945 HESTMANDEN could head home, and was immediately put into her coastal freight route. HESTMANDEN was the first ship to leave Oslo with materials for the reconstruction of Finnmark.
Summer 1946 HESTMANDEN was taken to the yard for major remodeling and repair. The coal boiler was rebuilt to oil operation. Crew quarters was moved aft. The bridge was rebuilt and furnished with a captains cabin, saloon and two passenger cabins. New wheelhouse was built on top of the old. After modernization the ship went back to her coastal route, as well as foreign trade in the Baltic Sea and the North of France. Her greatest role in rebuilding Norway after the war was her coastal route.
Chief ship-breaking bought the ship in 1955, and DS HESTMANDEN was renamed to DS VEGA FJORD. Chief had bought rights to both German and Norwegian war wrecks and former German-owned cargo in sunken ships off the coast. DS VEGA FJORD participated in a number of salvage projects in the coming years. Among the most famous German wrecks was U 843 which was a goldmine for Chief. VEGA FJORD also participated in the recovering of steel from a number of other German wrecks.
Having been laid up since 1965, the ship was bought by Norwegian Veteranskibsklub in 1979, and in 1982 began restoration work. The work stopped however until 1995 when public funds became available and the resatoration got under way again. In 1996 DS "Hestmanden" was declared a part of Norway's Cultural Heritage.
The ship represents both Norwegian maritime history and war history from the first half of last century. In September 2011 the ship was launched after being restored by Bredalsholmen Dock and Warf in Kristiansand . Restoration of DS 'Hestmanden' costing 80 million alone for Cultural Heritage budget. With all grants from the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, ministries, counties and municipalities have total price tag for the entire restoration work of nearly 140 million, making Hestmanden the largest ever Norwegian ship preservation project.