September 27th 2019

Geology fun facts about the Arctic Race of Norway


New bikes have a lot of graphite in them. There is also a lot of it in the arctic districts of Lofoten and Vesterålen in Norway. Photo: Morten Smelror, NGU.
Did you know that many of the bikes used in Arctic Race of Norway are made of graphite? It's the same mineral that is found along the race route in Vesterålen. Here you can read more about this and other geological facts revealed through the four stages of the race.

The Arctic Race of Norway transverses across the spectacular scenery in Lofoten, Vesterålen and Ofoten. What shaped this landscape? Why are there human settlements here? The region’s geology is one important reason. Each stage of the race provides us with a glimpse of the nature, landscape and the settlement history in this region of Norway.

Stage 1: Beginning at Å and the splitting of the continent

View over the village of Reine in Lofoten.
View over the village of Reine in Lofoten. Photo: Ernst Furuhatt, Nordlandsmuseet.
Møysalen Mountain in Loftoen.
Møysalen mountain in Vesterålen is the second highest mountain located on any island of Norway. Photo: Rolv Dahl,NGU.
Møysalen Mountain from a distance with water and pink flowers along the shoreline in foreground.
Møysalen Mountain viewed from a distance. Photo: Rolv Dahl, NGU.

Lofoten is part of a large land mass - a bit of a continent that has split off. Some areas sunk to form the bottom of Vestfjorden. Another part become elevated, forming steep mountain sides and alpine peaks, characteristic of Lofoten. Water and ice exposed bedrock fractures, allowing the sea penetrate and divided Lofoten into several islands separated by fjords and straits.

At the finish line in Leknes, the landscape is not like the rest of Lofoten. The rocks are less hard, so they are easily worn down and contain more nutrients than the surrounding hard rocks. This has made Leknes area a green and lush "oasis" in the otherwise barren landscape. Leknes is one of the most important agricultural areas in the Nordland province.

Stage 2: The unique shoreline landscape

Grimsøya coastal brim, dominated by shrubs and trees. A mountain far in the background.
Here you see the coastal brim or “strandflaten” landscape of Grimsøya. Photo: Rolv Dahl, NGU.

The landscape is flatter in the north, especially on the island of Austvågøya. The Norwegian coastal brim or "strandflaten" is a typical landscape feature found in areas where there has been glaciation. The landscape is formed in combination with weathering, wave erosion and excavation after glaciation. 

Stage 3: Graphite in the bicycle and in Vesterålen

Black graphite in the bedrock.
Found in newer bicycles, this is what the mineral graphite looks like in its natural form. Photo: Håvard Gautneb, NGU.
A fingertip covered with a film of graphite so that the fingerprint is clearly visible.
Graphite darkens your finger when you hold it. Graphite is also used in pencils. Click the links below to find out more. Photo: Håvard Gautneb,NGU.

Newer bicycles contain a lot of mineral graphite. Graphite is used in electronics and is an important mineral for the ‘green shift’. Did you know that there are large deposits of graphite in Vesterålen? Production took place in the town of Jennestad in the 1800 century, and today there are several known deposits in the area the bicycles will pass. So, at this stage of the race, graphite bikes will travelling over graphite.

Stage 4: Ore and mining built the community

A ship docked by the main quay in Narvik alongside industrial machinery and buildings.
Malmkaia (The Ore Dock) in Narvik. Photo: Morten Smelror, NGU.
A soft sloped mountain, partially covered with snow with a dark blue sky and rainbow in the background.
The Sovande Dronning or "The Sleeping Queen" mountain is located near the town of Narvik. It’s not likely we will find gold at the end of the rainbow, but in Narvik you will find a lot of ore. Photo: Morten Smelror, NGU.

During the final stage, cyclists travel through an area where mining has been important for hundreds of years. In the Ofot region, a variety of metals and minerals have been mined for different uses. The city of Narvik is itself founded on mining. It was created as a port to facilitate the transport of iron ore from Kiruna in Sweden. The town, the harbour and the long railway from Kiruna to Narvik were major construction projects in their time. Access to iron ore was strategically important during World War II, as demonstrated by the important Battle of Narvik in 1940. Today, a substantial amount of iron ore is shipped out from Narvik to European industry.