The Natural Ice Factory at Røsneshamn, Norway: How to Compete with Big-Tech by Using Nature



Since the 1880s the main preservation method onboard European fishing trawlers was ice manufactured in the fishing ports with mechanized technology based on direct or indirect use of fossil fuels. In 1929 the Norwegian entrepreneur Harald Berg opened a large-scale natural ice factory in northern Norway and challenged the artificial ice producers by providing natural ice to the trawlers, a sustainable and renewable resource. In response, the artificial ice producers tried to discredit natural ice as polluted, unhealthy, and not acceptable for food preservation, with a German district veterinarian at the fishing port of Geestemuende supporting this effort. After several local and Reich authorities became involved, the Reichskuratorium für Technik in der Landwirtschaft conducted an on-site study in Norway in 1936 that stated that there was absolutely no pollution or food safety/health concern and that the ice was safe to be used onboard the trawlers. In the end, the whole campaign by the artificial ice producers in Geestemünde needs to be understood as a campaign of a fossil fuel-based industry to push a competitor out of the market—a competitor who had found a way to manufacture an identical product in a sustainable and renewable way.

Author Biography

Ingo K. Heidbrink, Old Dominion University, USA

Ingo Heidbrink is Professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. A social and economic historian by training, he focuses mainly on fisheries and whaling history and the history of polar regions. After his studies in Hamburg and Bremen he worked with maritime museums in Germany and taught at the University of Bremen before moving to the United States in 2008. He taught two terms at the Ilisimatusarfik, the University of Greenland, was a Fellow at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Science (HWK) and a Carson Fellow at the RCC in Munich. He is Secretary of the International Maritime History association (NAFHA).

Aerial photograph of the natural ice factory in Røsneshamn. Photograph by Fjellanger Widerøe, c. 1936. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.