Stavanger Aftenblad article

"Flaggtabbe på «Anna af Sand»"

"Flag blunder on board the Anna of Sand "

by Siv Helen Kvalvåg  

August 8, 2000



"Give me a cannon. I want to shoot that flag off the ship,” exclaimed Erik Bye when he saw the flag that the Anna of Sand was flying at the Emigrant Jubilee in July.


The ship came sailing to Vågen in Stavanger harbor with the Union flag flying in the stern. Erik Bye was not the only person who reacted negatively to this. Harald Hamre, the director of Stavanger Sjøfartsmuseum (Museum of Shipping) disliked the sight.


“I am not pleased about this, no. The Union flag is not correct for the time of the emigration,” says Hamre.


“The Herring Salad”

The skipper of the Anna of Sand, Ole Emil Olsen, takes all the blame for the mistake.


“The reason is that I lacked full knowledge about this,” he says.


Olsen explains what happened when the 175th anniversary for Norwegian emigration to America was celebrated in Stavanger in July.


“We wanted the Anna of Sand to have the flag that was in use in 1825. I was in no doubt that this was the flag nicknamed 'the herring salad.' I got in touch with Thor G. Norås, and he promised to obtain a copy of the flag.


“We received it in the nick of time, as we were waiting at the Tollboden for our sailing in to the harbor. I felt puzzled, because the flag did not look like I had expected. This was simply a Swedish flag with a red and white cross in one corner,” Olsen says.


During the festival he heard a lot of critical comments about the flag.


“People from the Sailor Association scratched their heads. They did not recognize the flag. And Erik Bye was furious. He asked for a cannon,” laughs Olsen.


Two flags in 1825

The problem was not solved until last weekend, when the Anna of Sand visited Egersund. Then Harald Hamre, who had been away at the time of the festival, saw the flag for the first time. The historian Hamre reacted instantaneously.


“It is a mistake to use this flag on the Anna of Sand, the ship that was used as a stand-in for the Restauration. In 1825 there existed two different flags, the clean (red, white, blue) Norwegian flag and this Union flag. The latter was used on all public buildings and on all government-owned ships that sailed further south than Portugal. But the Restauration was not owned by the state, it was a private merchant vessel,” says Hamre.


It turned out that Thor G. Norås had borrowed the flag from the Bureau of Customs. For them this was the correct flag; the vessels of the customs were owned by the state.


“This is not a big blunder, though. The flag history of the early 19th century is complicated, and it is easy to make a wrong step,” says Hamre.


Both Hamre and skipper Olsen promise that the clean Norwegian flag will fly from the Anna of Sand when emigration again is in focus on Friday.


Legend under photo:

Fifth cousins Ernst Torkildsen from Stavanger, to the left, and Keith Wheeler from the USA met for the first time on board the Anna of Sand  at the Emigrant Jubilee in July. In the stern of the ship was the Union flag of Norway and Sweden, which should only be flown in state-owned ships, and not the clean Norwegian flag, which was the correct flag for a private ship in 1825.


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