The Telemark Waterway is 105km long and rises to a height of 72m through 18 locks, and eventually passes the cities of Skien and Porsgrunn in south-central Norway before flowing out into the North Sea. The waterway has been used for transportation of people and goods for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Between 2006 and 2009, while working in the historic lakes, rivers, canals and fjords of the Telemark Waterway, Fredrik Soreide from ProMare and Pål Nymoen from the Norwegian Maritime Museum located more than a dozen historic shipwrecks in a remarkable state of preservation which range in age from the Medieval/Viking Age to the mid-nineteenth century.

In August 2010, an international team from ProMare (US), the Norwegian Maritime Museum (Norway), the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (Norway), and Hafmynd EHF (Iceland) located nearly two dozen, well-preserved shipwrecks in the lakes of the Telemark Waterway in south-central Norway.

To locate the shipwrecks the team deployed a state-of-the-art, autonomous-underwater-vehicle, GAVIA, provided by Hafmynd EHF (, equipped with the latest sonar imaging and inertial navigation systems, coupled with a modular build and a depth rating in excess of 500m. The Gavia vehicle was used in several locations from a vessel during the course of three days onsite, and gathered astonishing images of ships lost for centuries. The Gavia AUV proved to be an invaluable asset during the operations in Telemark due to the very steep walls of the virtually uncharted deep lakes, which would have made surveying with a standard towed side-scan system extremely challenging.

ProMare and the Norwegian Maritime Museum, joined by ROV developers Sperre AS, returned to the Telemark in August 2012 to identify the sonar targets discovered in 2010. The team deployed a custom built ROV from a specially designed deployment barge, both of which were built by Sperre AS. Two days of exploration helped us to shed light on the identities of some of the vessels discovered in previous years. Though it was difficult to specifically date some of the targets without removing samples, we determined that there were a range of types and sizes, including some very interesting cargo vessels. Some of the most famous exports of the Telemark region are timber and whetstones. As the waterway changed over the years to facilitate the increased transportation of these goods – with locks filling in for waterfalls and canals replacing portages – so too did the vessels. We discovered two nearly identical 19th century barges, one of which was still loaded with timber, indicating a standardization of goods transport in this century. In addition, Pål Nymoen dived on an old whetstone wreck for samples. Analyzing this data will give us a better idea of the history and changes to the waterway and trade with Telemark.


TheTelemark Project in the news

Hydro International published an article here.

The Norwegian Maritime Museum published a Press Release here.