While the exterior of the attraction is beautiful the flume, or the key part of the attraction, leaves just about everyone wanting. And while a thrill ride about a Nokia manufacturing plant wouldn't be any better it's hard to explain how a lame polar bear audio-animatronic figure (one of less than 3,000 in Norway), an offshore oil platform, and a goofy leftover from the Black Cauldron's troll shop all add up to tell a cohesive story.
All griping aside, the artwork and story that adorns the entry queue is top notch. The queue itself is quite basic. In queue parlance, it's a general switchback queue but it's the murals that make it amazing. There are two large scale murals that meet your eyes once you enter the indoor portion of Maelstrom; today's post discusses the mural on your right as you enter,or the south side of the building. This mural is known as Milestones in Norwegian Exploration.
Surely greater than 60 feet in height, this mural stretches for likely double in length and depicts a map of Norwegian exploration. (The physical aspects of the mural make it difficult to capture the higher portions [not to mention, how does one see the top with their own eyes?] so most of the images are from the lower half and, as such, focus on explorations within the southern hemisphere.) Now, those of you not part of the Gen X crowd (aka the 13th generation) or before might not realize it but Norway is quite famous for its explorers. Yes; a history lesson beckons.
The mural depicts major achievements in Norwegian expeditions dating back from prior to 1000 AD to the present and one of the first to be called out are Bjarmi Herjulsson (Herjulfssonn, etc.) and his bandmate, Lief Eriksson. Mr. Herjulsson (all names are written as depicted on the mural) was a sea merchant who first saw North America when he attempted to visit his father in Greenland. Mr. Eriksson, upon learning of Mr. Herjulsson's discovery, purchased Herjulsson's boat and crew, revisited North America, spent the winter in Newfoundland, and is widely credited as the first Viking to discover the new world.
Moving on, we see the exploits of Roald Amundsen, perhaps the most famous of all Norwegian explorers. In 1903, Mr. Amundsen and a crew of six became the first to ever traverse the Northwest Passage aboard the Gjøa. (The northwest passage connects the Atlantic and Pacific above Canada.) The Gjøa, a repurposed 47-ton herring boat, took 3 years to complete the journey and served as a laboratory of sorts for Mr. Amundsen's 1910-12 first successful expedition to the South Pole. (The seafaring portion of that trip was aboard the Fram.)
Have you ever heard of the Kon-Tiki? In 1947, seeking to show that Polynesia may have been populated by persons from South America, Thor Heyerdahl and five others set out in a raft made only from material and technology contemporary to pre-Columbian civilizations. That's right: balsa wood. Mr. Heyerdahl's successful, 101-day journey spawned a book and a film that won an Oscar for best documentary in 1950 which, coincidentally, is the only Norwegian film to win an Oscar. 'Kon-Tiki' is worth a watch. (Think of a Disney True-Life Adventures mashed up with Swiss Family Robinson.) Did you know Mr. Heyerdahl was considered to be the man of the 20th century in Norway?
Not to be satisfied, Mr. Heyerdahl matched his earlier feat others: he sailed to Rapa-Nui (Easter Island) in the 1950's and then in the 1970's from Morocco to Barbados aboard a ship, Ra II, made from papyrus (reeds). Mr. Heyerdahl's work is part of the Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo and should the Imagineers even want to add a new attraction to the pavilion they should consider this as a starting point.
Well, there you have it. Humanities majors need to use their knowledge from time to time and if you ever doubt how a simple, switchback queue can be great, this is how. We hope you enjoyed it. Next up - Julie and the Love Boat or, Mural number two.
These photographs were taken by the author in October, 2010.
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