Ølve has the oldest known mines in Hordaland. In 1642, privilege was granted by the king to build an iron works in Jernsmuget on the property of Lilledals Farm, and five years later a copper works on the same property. Operations were suspended in 1673. Mining resumed again in the municipality in the 1750s. Also this time, in the region of Ølve.
Already in the 1750s, Erik Pontioppidan fantasized about the possibility of petroleum in the North Sea, in "Forsøg til Norges naturlige Historie" (= Studies of Norway's Natural History) "The North Sea’s oiliness is, next to its saltiness, a remarkable feature. It can be expected that in the sea, as on land, there lie hidden some oil seepages or petroleum flows, naphtha, schist-oil and other bituminous and oily liquids”. More than 200 years were to pass before these predictions came true. In recent years, an unbelievable 120,000 cubic metres of oil and 70 million cubic metres of gas are pumped up from the Oseberg and Troll reservoirs every day. This fairy tale is being played out less than 80 kilometres from the coast of Hordaland, which is not further than that one could see the oil platforms from the coastal mountains on a clear day.
Hordaland er en scene for naturens mange vekslinger – i topografi, berggrunn, vegetasjon og dyreliv, gjennom klimaperioder og årstider.
Much is hidden from us, but we know some of the main features in the history behind the different rock types and minerals that surround us. The Hordaland we experience today is the result of an exciting and sometimes dramatic geological history over many hundreds of millions of years - a result that is important for Hordaland: The bedrock influences the soil types and lays down the cultural foundation, by determining the possibilities for mining, quarrying slate, building stone and gravel for roads, and, not least, where we find mountains, valleys and fjords.
The continental glacier that covered Hordaland was like a great power that had decisive influence over our natural history. The glaciers which at the beginning of the last ice age (more than 100,000 years ago) grew out from Folgefonna, Hardangerjøkulen and other mountainous areas, chased animals and birds, and most likely also humans in front of their paths. Small animals, plants and trees were mercilessly run over and crushed to powder under the thick ice. Even the hard bedrock got torn up and scoured by the ice, which did not give up before it reached the outer edges of the continental shelf. First 14,500 years ago, the climate became mild enough that the outer coastal strip of Hordaland once again became ice-free. Plants, animals and people started to migrate in to a landscape that was golden, with flecks of grey moraine and sand between smoothly polished rock outcrops - as our present warm interglacial was born.
"Humus" is a word with great meaning. It is the soil we live from, in addition to the resources we get from the ocean. This layer of earth - sometimes appearing as loose fertile organic matter; other places as scanty and acidic soil - is found in varying thicknesses over the bedrock. It is the result of 10,000 years of breakdown and erosion following the last ice age, and then several thousand years of cultivation in more recent times. The soil we can buy at the garden centre is a different product than the "natural" humus layer, formed of processes occurring far under the earth's surface. If you dig your spade into the soil where it has not been ploughed before, you will see that there is a big difference in colour, soil structure, moisture and stone content. We might say that the soil is fertile and easily worked some places, whereas other places folk might have given up trying to grow anything on their small patches of land, which then become overgrown with birch and thicket. Modern agriculture does not have room for small stumps between the piles of stone. Nowadays, machines do the job, and they require a lot of space and flat ground.
Two of Norway's - and mainland Europe's - largest glaciers, in addition to a number of smaller glaciers, lie in Hordaland. This eternal ice is easily accessible, and easy to be enchanted with. A National Day parade goes to the top of the Hardanger glacier, and Folgefonna glacier has lift assistance at the summer ski centre in Jondal.
The West Coast of Norway, with its deep fjords that carve far into the high mountains, is one of the most characteristic and - many would say - beautiful landscapes in Europe. It is not without reason that tourists come from around the world each year to see the fjords of Norway.
The development of urban settlements after 1850 is a historic process of great significance for the cultural landscape. Besides the great land reforms and the new ways of working in agriculture, the changes in the settlement pattern and the building of a road network with roads, bridges and cuttings were the single factors which have most significantly contributed to the metamorphosis of the county’s physical visage in the last 150 years.
When Professor Emeritus Knut Fægri (1909-2001) was asked to write the book's chapter about the natural science pioneers of Hordaland, he answered unequivocally, "yes". It was one of the last things he wrote before he died, at the age of 92. In typical Fægri language he presents some of the scholars who, in the time before the University of Bergen was founded, led the way in studying the natural science of The West Country.