The nameless mountain range

The mountains in Norway and Sweden are one out of two mountain ranges in the world without a proper name. It probably sounds like a joke, but it’s true. If you don’t believe me, get hold of an atlas or map and find Scandinavia: A lot of elevated topography in Norway and Sweden, but no proper name. I made the discovery when working on my book Bergtatt (“In High Places”).

In Norway, the range stretches from the southern parts and all the way to arctic Finnmark, but very few people have thought about it as representing a unified range. Local and regional parts are named of course (like Jotunheimen and Rondane), but the range as a whole lacks a name. How is that possible?

A key reason is probably related to how Norwegians use the mountains. We go there a lot, either to private cabins or hiking, which puts the focus on specific areas and not an extended part of the range. And the mountain range is actually quite difficult to see from afar, in contrast to e.g., the Alps (like a wall rising from the plains in the North).

In addition, there used to be confusion about the relationship between the current mountains and the ca. 410 million year old Caledonian range which rocks are found in the very same mountains. Thus some called it the Caledonian range. Today we know that the mountains in Norway belong to a specific category of mountains that are present on passive margins, and mountain ranges of similar extent, altitude and origin are found around the globe (Brazil, South Africa, India, Australia, and Greenland).

In the 1940’s, the Swedish geographer Erik Ljungner suggested a name on the Swedish part of the range, the Scandes mountains. The reason was his fascination for short Alps-Andes-like names. Today, that name is commonly used in Sweden and by some Norwegian geologists as well, but is not a name that can easily be applied to Norway. 

To sum up, these are the names that are associated with the range, although none are accepted as a proper name in Norway:

Scandes: Used by some people in Sweden. It is also used by a few geologists (well, at least one) for the mountains formed during the Caledonian orogeny, about 410 million years ago.

The Scandinavian Mountains: I’m not sure if this is used as a descriptive term in Sweden, or as a proper name. It is not used in Norway as far as I know.

The Caledonides: The rocks of the current range were deformed (and partly formed) during the Caledonian orogeny, but the current topography is believed to be of an entirely different origin than the Caledonian range (at least by 99,9% of the geologists..).

Kjølen/Kjölen: Refers to the mountains along the border between Norway and Sweden, although many people think the name applies to the whole range. In my opinion, it doesn’t.

The Geological society of Norway has started the work on launching a name contest, and more info will follow soon, according to the society.

There are several independent initiatives as well:

http://www.norsk-klatring.no/Ute/Fjell/Fjellnavnekonkurranse

http://lydpoesi.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/alpane-uralfjella-pyreneane-og-fjellkjeda-utan-namn/

If you wonder about the location of the second mountain range in the world without a proper name, that story will be revealed in a later blog.

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