The Creepy Way the Black Death Came to Norway

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In the mid 1300s, the Black Death emerged in central Asia and crept steadily across the known World.

As the Black Plague claimed people from the near east and southern Europe, the Norse in Scandinavian countries thought they were safe from it.

Until it came to them in the most creepiest way.  Creepy enough that it seems more of a cliche’ for a horror movie.

Through records and research, we know how the Black Death spread through Europe during the 1340s.

  • We know the bacteria that causes the plague lives in rats
  • and we know fleas from the infected rats spread it to humans.
  • We also know the Black Plague was spread through airborne and from contacts with infected humans.

However, in the mid 1340’s, we didn’t know any of this.

iStock_000012353780Large-H
image source: www.history.com/topics/black-death

The spread of the plague crept happily along many trade routes, finding new victims.

The many and vast trade routes spread a great many items of value, which also included knowledge. News of the Genoese merchant ships that brought the plague into Sicily in the early 1340s spread faster than the disease itself. Even though not one person had any clue how the Black Death spread in those days, as a precaution, cities set up quarantines for incoming ships. However, the people of the North thought themselves safe, being so distant from the spread of the disease. It seemed to be making slow progress up through Europe, people in the northern countries didn’t expect it to make it’s way top them.

But then the Black Death hit them from an unexpected source.

rats2

The plague came to England in the late 1340s. With England being a trading nation, ships came and went on a regular basis. In the year 1349, a ship carrying wool set out from England to a destination some place north for trade.  Tragically however, during its journey at sea the crew members aboard ship began dying from the Black Plague. Any attempts made aboard ship to quarantine the sick had failed horribly. The creeping death took one person after another, until every last crew member had died.

The ship’s crew may have died, but Black Plague lived on in the rats and fleas still aboard.

Norway was introduced to the spread of the Black Plague in the year 1349, when a unmanned ship ran aground at Askøy.

ghostship

The ship with its cargo of creeping death wrecked at the coast and was quickly discovered by locals.

Sure, the ghost ship with its deceased crew and infected critters could have drifted at the sea until it eventually sank and was forever forgotten.

But it didn’t.

The ghost ship, with its infected rodents stowaways still aboard, ran aground at Askøy, near Bergen harbor in Norway.  This was where the rats and their fleas made their way into the country. The plague quickly spread to Bjørgvin (modern Bergen) and then mercilessly made its way across Norway. It continued to make its way to the rest of Scandinavia and wiped out up to 40% of its population in some places. It is estimated that more than a third of the Norse people living in country had died from the lightning speed spread of the Black Plague.

From Norway, the plague spread into Sweden and then ruthlessly hit Russia by 1351.

Spread of the Black Death in Europe (1346–53)
Spread of the Black Death in Europe (1346–53)

A ghost ship unleashed an unimaginable horror on the country it drifted into, just like a horror movie would have play it out.

Sometimes real stories are creepier than the horror films shown at the theater.

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by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing


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