Fotograf: Brynjar Stautland. Kopargruve, Alvsvåg.

Building Continents and Societies

Geopark Sunnhordland consists of the 8 municipalities in the region of Sunnhordland, in Vestland County on the west coast of Norway.

Most of the current growth of continents are related to magmatism associated with island arcs and continental arcs.



Today, this growth takes mainly place along subduction zones within and along the margins of the Pacific Ocean. Old mountain ranges represent ancient growth zones, and within Sunnhordland Geopark two of the major ancient growth zones on Earth are juxtaposed.

Whereas the oldest zone formed by continental arc magmatism, the younger formed by island-arc magmatism and by arc-continent and continent-continent collision. The variety of plutonic and volcanic rock complexes that are exposed within these contrasting terrains display the rock types that make up the crust.


The geology of the geopark is unusually varied. Within a small area a wide range of magmatic, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks give insight into the deep crustal and surface processes that build continents. This geology is exceptionally well exposed in spectacular and contrasting landscapes shaped by glaciers. The eastern part the territory is composed of an alpine and partly glaciated terrain that is crosscut by deep fjords. Westwards the landscape transforms into a low-relief archipelago composed of several thousand smaller and larger islands. A wide diversity of rock types, landscapes and climate zones result in habitats that range from the harsh environments of the glaciated mountains and the wave-washed skerries - to the rich boreal rain forests. A national park covers the glacier and the surrounding mountainous areas, and more than 50 natural reserves have been established within the archipelago. This landscape became exposed as the ice rapidly retreated around 11.000 years ago. The territory then became colonized by life and inhabited by humans. https://www.fylkesmannen.no/siteassets/utgatt/fm-hordaland/dokument-fmho/miljo-og-klima/verneomrader/utkast-til-forvaltingsplan-for-anuglo.pdf

Stone age settlements started mining of the raw materials, and greenstone from the area became a valued commodity spread widely along the Norwegian coast. Numerous mines were later established as the demands for building materials, industrial minerals and metals developed. Today the landscape continues to sustain the society. The archipelago harbors’ fish farming, the glaciated mountainous areas support hydroelectric power production and aluminum production plants, and the sheltered deep fjords enables the construction of platforms for offshore petroleum industry and for the harvesting of wind energy.

The diversity and quality of the exposures in the territory was recognized as a gift for teaching and training almost hundred years ago: The landscape is so distinct in its form, and so varied in display, that in many ways it can be viewed as a lecture book in geology. Since then, the area has been extensively used as a training-ground for students. Several thousand geology students enrolled at University of Bergen have had their first eye-opening field experiences in this area. The territory continues to be a key area both for elementary and more advanced training, as well as for research in geology, archaeology and botany.

Rock types


Granite is a igneous rock that consists of quartz, feldspar and mica, and is a rock melt that once solidified at great depths. A special feature is that it can quite easily be divided in three directions (anisotropic). Granite is used for cobblestones, building blocks and monuments, especially around the turn of the century 18-1900 when the national feeling was extra high. The granite was counted as the "Norwegian" rock.

In the entire northern part of Bømlo, Fitjar and Austevoll, granite is the dominant rock. Extraction of granite began on Rubbestadneset in 1863 when Swedish sluices had been commissioned to extract stone here at Skoltegrunnsmoloen in Bergen. This started an industry that eventually involved many local villagers.

Until the end of the 1940s, it was Sunnhordlanders who at times lived off stonework. "Bergen built with bømlogranite" it says in a headline in The Naturhistorisk Vegbok (The book of Nature historical roads). The title refers to both the soapstone in the medieval churches and to the granite in Kjøttbasaren in Bergen, the large blocks in the front on Bryggen in Bergen, Sandvikskirken and a lot of cobblestones, stairs and curbs in the city. All this comes from Sunnhordland and especially Bømlo.

Locally in Bømlo and Fitjar still live the stories of the Finn "Taipen" (Taipale) and the Bømlings Håkon and Knut Urangsæter who carved out stones and made the most beautiful house walls, quays, stairs and tombstones. Murane sows that as an eternal monument, and in the outfields of Sunnhordland's granite municipalities are long, beautiful stone gardens that were born and jigsawed together by visiting men for food and lodging outside the fishing seasons.

Høyr Martines Haldorsen frå Rubbestadneset fortelja om sitt møte med dei svenske sluskane i 1863, i eit unikt lydopptak frå 1938. Martines vart smed på Rubbestadneset i 1880-åra etter å ha lært smedkunsten av svenske granittsluskar. I smia til Martines laga den 18-årige sonen Haldor den første Wichmann-motoren vinteren 1902-‘03, motoren som skulle dominere motoriseringa av den norske fiskeflåten.


 Greenstone is a massive metamorphic rock formed by the remelting of volcanic rocks such as basalt and diabase at relatively low temperatures. The green color is due to mineral chlorite, actinolite and epidote. 

The quarry on Hespriholmen is a unique monument from the world's Stone Age culture. Ax material was fired here for a period of almost six thousand years (9500-3500 BC), and greenstone axes from Hespriholmen were during this period the identity mark for humans in southwestern Norway, I.E. between Lista in the south and Sognefjorden in the north. The quarry is considered the longest-running "industrial enterprise" in the world.

Steinen vart ført med båt frå Hespriholmen til verkstadbuplassen Sokkamyro inne på Langevåg. I førstninga vart øksene bearbeidd på same måte som flintøkser, dvs. ved å slå av stykke tildess forma var nokonlunde tenleg. Etterkvart utvikla steinsmedane i Sokkamyro ein ny produksjonsmetode der emna vart «prikkhogde» til ei smal, perfekt ellipseform og fekk ein slipt egg på eine sida.

Grønstein can be found in several places on Bømlo, but it is only on the weather-hardy Hespriholmen and in a small quarry on the west side of Siggjo (Stegahaugen) that it has been mined. This probably indicates that the stone here is of particularly good quality, but it may also have had mythological reasons.

In addition to being tools for woodworking, the axes may have had ritual or symbolic values. It is also natural to think that both subjects and finished axes were useful as a medium of exchange / currency.

Vespestad ax.

Pointed step ax (drawings: Sigmund Alsaker)

The quarry on Hespriholmen.


One hypothesis is that gold came to Earth with meteorites 4 billion years ago and was concentrated in visible amounts through volcanism on the ocean floor. In Sunnhordland, like many other places, you can find gold in or in layers with quartz.

(Aurum / Au), metallic element with atomic number 79. Gold is not affected by other substances / acids, but binds to mercury. 1 liter of gold weighs about 20 kg.

In 1862, a shepherd boy found the first nugget of gold on Lykling. From 1882-1910, gold mining was carried out on a large scale along the quarter quarters in Lyklingeberga, with a total of about 300 men employed at most and about 200 kilos as a total gold catch. Three large companies, mainly financed and run by the English, but also a number of "sole proprietorships", turned the small village on its head during the approximately 25 years of mining.

Two hotels, a hotel ship, several bakeries and a number of shops of various kinds were built around mining. The mines at Lykling are the largest gold mines in the country, even though more gold has been found as a by-product in the ironworks in Bidjovagge in Finnmark.

Gold is still found on Lykling, but the area is protected so that it is not allowed to bring stone or gold from the area without an agreement with the licensee.


Copper and pyrite occur in slow processes (black smokers) in underwater volcanism. Kis from the old Iapetus Sea were mined in Sunnhordland in periods from 1860 to 1968, and laid the foundation for large-scale industry on Litlabø.

Kis mine in Dyråsen, Ølve.

At Bømlo, it was the deposits on Lindøy (pyrite) and Alvsvåg (copperite) that proved rich enough for ordinary operation of some extent. On Varaldsøy, there was operation in Varaldsø Mining Company Ltd until the end of the 19th century, as well as in some later periods (e.g. the First World War). In the first period, the English family Barrat were both owners and operators of the mine, where the son Thomas later was the founder of the Pentecostal Church in Norway.

Copper ore was a raw material for the precious coin metal copper (Cu), while sulfur ore was a raw material for sulfur, an increasingly sought-after ingredient in medicine and industry (sulfuric acid) as well as ammunition and dynamite after the 19th century.

Sulfur pyrite (FeS2) consists of iron and sulfur and belongs to the mineral group sulphides. The kis itself is a glossy brass color and the stone around a strong sulfur color. Coparkis (CuFeS2) is a sulphide mineral and the most important copper mineral in Norway. Copper ice is yellower than pyrite and can be scratched with a knife. It oxidizes with turquoise color. The rust color comes from oxidized iron (Fe) which is found in both types of coffin.

At Karmøy (in Sunnhordland's neighboring region), the copper arch deposits laid the foundation for what was to become one of northern Europe's largest copper works at the end of the 19th century. 70% of the Norwegian export revenues then came from the copper plant at Vigsnes. At Litlabø on Stord, the local community on Litlabø grew in step with Stordø Kisgruber, which under German owners from the early 1900s m.a. produced sulfur for the cellulose industry in Europe. Locally in Sunnhordland were rust-colored gravel from the production at Litlabø, «macadam», a very useful product in road construction etc.

Stordø Kisgruber, under the auspices of Venelaget, has become a visitor mine of the very rare. Both production premises, office buildings, travel cupboards, mining tunnels, a transport train and a dwelling house have been restored and are available for guided tours. In total, there are about 90 km of mining tunnels on Litlabø, with the deepest mining tunnels 700 meters below ground level. The community that was built around the mining industry stood out from the rest of the Stordsamfunnet, and when the mines were closed in 1968, labor from here was important for the growing shipbuilding industry on the island, both on the "floor" and in the engineering offices.


Kisarbeidslag in Dalen, anno 1911.


Soapstone is a transformed rock consisting of talc, serpentine and magnesite. It is nature's softest rock, can be cut into and can withstand heat without cracking. Is useful for powders, pots, spinning wheels, sinks, ovens, building blocks and sculptures. 

Hordaland's largest soapstone quarry can be found at Lykling, Bømlo. Here it was probably first to take out stone blanks for urns and pots (grjotstein »), sinks and weights from the Neolithic, but it is as a source of block stone for the medieval churches in Bergen that Austavindhaugen on Lykling is best known. "Squares" are blocks of approx. 1 × 0.5 × 0.5 meters.

It is also useful soapstone from Lykling in Mostrakyrkja, built approx. 1100, but then as botnsville under the coffin wall as well as some places in the wall itself. It is uncertain whether Mostrakyrkja was built before or after the medieval churches in Bergen (Korskirken, Domkirken, Mariakirken and Nonneseter Kloster).

No source tells us today who drove the quarry here in the Middle Ages. It may be our local workforce that has learned the technique abroad or from foreigners, perhaps in connection with the construction of Mostrakyrkja. If you walk over the ground and towards the rock wall on Austavindshaugen today, you will find piles of rejections from the production. In the rock wall you will soon see a number of blocks that stand as large Lego bricks, more or less ready for wedging. If you listen carefully on a quiet evening, you may still hear hammering, laughter and talking… And by the quays along the beach you may see the sailing ships lying with busy gangways outside. There was guaranteed to be a lot of life here in the 12th and 14th centuries!

Soapstone is the softest rock we have, and is a metamorphic rock that mainly consists of the mineral talc with varying amounts of chlorite and amphibole. It is very heat resistant and soft.

The professional community is on sight experience in the soapstone quarry at Lykling.


Marble is a transformed limestone that mainly consists of the mineral calcite (CaCO3). The limestone is originally remnants of thick layers of dead limestone algae on the seabed that were later compressed. 
From the construction of Mostra church in the 1000s, we have broken out marble in Sunnhordland, both for lime cement and building blocks. 

«Søndhordlehn is known for its marble species, the most beautiful in the country ». Topographical-Statistical Description of Norway», J. Kraft, 1829

Ever since the 11th century and the construction of Mostrakyrkja, marble has been broken out on Moster, somewhat later on the small island of Hidle between Stord and Halsnøy and on Storsøy just north of Huglo. Locally, marble prefers to be called «kalkstein»(Limestone) or «limstein»(Gluestone). Since marble is metamorphic limestone, ie it is heated an extra time and has become more crystallized, it works just as well as a raw material for limestone burning as the softer limestone. The content is the same; amounts of calcareous algae that have sunk to the bottom and formed thick sediments that over time and pressure have turned to rock (CaCO3).

The marble in Sunnhordland has first and foremost for almost 1000 years been used as a raw material for the production of lime cement a necessary ingredient e.g. in the coffin wall of Mostrakyrkjas.

For about 120 years from the early 18th century, however, beautiful marble blocks were exported to the Danish-Norwegian king's castle and monument in Copenhagen and the Caribbean (St. Croix).

The person responsible for these exports was first "den grusomme Montanjen", then the Finn priest Peder Harboe Herzberg who excelled as a great enlightener for the people in both the region and the country.

On the streets of Copenhagen you walk on marble from Sunnhordland.

In the 20th century, much of the marble, especially from Moster, was useful as a raw material in the industrial production of carbide at Odda Smelter and ferrosilicate and silicon at Bjølvefossen in Ålvik. Until 1969, however, burnt lime was sold both as fertilizer in Hardanger and as a binder in burning bricks etc in the Sandnes area.

From the end of the 19th century, the marble mines laid the foundation for a freight boat industry which in the 1960s counted 75 boats based on Moster. Most of the family then owned a boat that went with lime and marble crushed stone or other freight on a route along the coast.

Moster Amfi is in a disused marble mine, and marble is easy to find both around the amphitheater and other places on Moster, e.g. in Notlandsvågen.

Marble is a metamorphic rock that mainly consists of the mineral calcite (CaCO3).


Ryolite is a volcanic rock that consists of the same mineral as granite, but since ryolite often solidifies on the earth's surface during volcanic eruptions, the mineral grains are smaller. In Sunnhordland, the rhyolite originates from the eruption of volcanic archipelagos 470 million years ago.
Five or six thousand years ago, people sat on Siggjo and made arrowheads for their hunting books from these old lava traumas.

Take a trip to the rhyolite quarry next time you are at Siggjo. Imagine that people sat here five thousand years ago and made arrowheads for their hunting books, arrows that have been found all the way north in Trøndelag! The quarry is on a hillside just west of the pond at the northern end of Siggjatoppen.

The city was ideal in many ways; here the rhyolite was glassy and perfect for arrowheads, and in the pond just above they could fetch water in leather sacks to empty on the rock which they first heated with an oak fire. The large drop in temperature in the stone then did its part to cause the rock to crack into planed blanks, and which they further processed there on the hillside. The remnants of the arrowhead production can be found in the heather if you look!

The ryolite on Siggjo is a fine-grained rock formed by explosive volcanism 470 million years ago. It has sharp breaking edges and was used for arrowheads in the period 5000-4500 before the present (approx.).

Pillow lava

At Finnås you will find birthmarks from when our bedrock appeared in the seabed south of the Equator. The lava flowed out on the seabed 495 million years ago, and solidified like pillows in the encounter with the cold sea water. The pillows were later ground down to the surface they have on Helgeneset on Finnås.

The Pillow lava field at Finnås is one of the most spectacular geo-localities in Geopark Sunnhordland.

This lava part, which once broke up at the bottom of the ancient Iapetus sea, happened when the ancient continents Laurentia and Baltika drifted towards each other on their way to the creation of the huge Caledonian mountain range. The thinner seabed between Laurentia and Baltika cracked due to. the pressure, and one side was pressed down under the other. Lava bubbles pushed up from the earth's interior through the cracks, and solidified into "sausages" in the encounter with the seawater.

Originally, the surface was "sausage" or "bubbling", but is now sanded down to a relatively smooth surface and seen on a high edge. Remember that this party has followed the 8-9,000 meter high Caledonian mountain range that sails on the continental plate mostly from the South Pole and up to us. It has really run its course, and been sharpened, turned and turned!

These processes take place continuously out in the oceans, as the continents are constantly moving towards or from one another. The soil changes, a few cm per. years but over huge time spans. The pillow lava field at Finnås is a reminder of the unimaginable transformation our landscape is a result of. And after the pillow lava party found its place where it is now, it has been refined and polished by 30-40 ice ages over the last 2.6 million years (the Quaternary period).

Chlorite shist

Volcanic ash from the Iapetus sea was a source of freshly baked flatbread. Ølve supplied Norway and the North Sea islands with baking trays in the Middle Ages.

Chlorite shist is a type of soapstone, "easy" to chop into baking slabs, but unsuitable for pots.

The geological origin of the chlorite shist dates back to the time when Norway lay south of the equator. Submarine volcanism created volcanic islands in the ocean between "Norway and Greenland" (Baltica and Laurentia).

The geological origin of the chlorite shist dates back to the time when Norway lay south of the equator. Submarine volcanism created volcanic islands in the ocean between "Norway and Greenland" (Baltica and Laurentia).


At the top of the Grutle break at Bømlo you can see traces of spectacular lava currents, similar to the red-glowing currents we can see today in Hawaii. At Grutle they are charred and over 470 million years old. Brexit is formed when the lava flow solidifies on the outside but is floating inside. The solid parts eventually break up (break) and fall back into the lava as lighter pieces.