Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Norwegian Wood

The Norwegian Lady, 2012

In the spring of 1891, the Norwegian sailing ship Dictator, en route from Pensacola, Florida to England with a load of Southern pine lumber, was driven ashore by a storm and wrecked less than a quarter mile off shore from what was then the small beachfront village of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Guests at oceanfront cottages watched as members of local life saving stations battled high winds and seas to save eight of the seventeen persons aboard the Dictator before she broke up.
Among the pieces of the Dictator that washed ashore later was her figurehead. A local man pulled the figurehead out of the surf and propped it up beside the boardwalk in a position facing the ocean. There it stayed until the early 1950s, when a hurricane finished off what the original wreck and more than sixty years of subsequent exposure to the elements hadn’t.
By then, the “Norwegian Lady” had become such a local fixture that she was more than a memorial to the lost ship. The small beachfront village was in the process of annexing a large adjacent rural county in order to become the largest city in Virginia. The Norwegian Lady became a token of the new city’s worldly aspirations.
When word of the figurehead’s demise made its way back Moss, Norway, the Dictator’s homeport, two bronze replicas of the original figurehead were commissioned. One was installed on the waterfront in Moss, the other facing the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach. On the pedestal of each is inscribed, “I am the Norwegian Lady. I stand here, as my sister before me, to wish all men of the sea safe return home.”
Photographing the Norwegian Lady statue isn’t hard. She’s perched atop a tall pedestal facing east. The rising sun casts warm light upon her. The challenge to the photographer who wants to do something different is that she is hemmed in between two tall hotels, one of which is painted bright yellow. An array of dark bronze statues on raised podiums, a monument to U.S. Navy aviators, is just behind her. In front of her are a water spigot and open shower for people coming up off the beach. Getting a picture of the statue without these distractions is a challenge.
What had been a sunny day was becoming overcast. Many of the features of the statue were in shadow. As the sky became grayer, the colors in the Norwegian flag caught my eye, and gave me the opportunity to catch this rear view of the Norwegian Lady with a little color to dress her up.
 The Norwegian Lady (front view), 2012


  1. Wow--love the Norwegian Lady--beautiful photos.

  2. Excellent capture, Chris! I've walked past that statue on at the Oceanfront hundreds of times and was vaguely familiar with the story. Thanks for filling me in on the rest.