On the surface
Water is to ferries what the sky is to airplanes. During its trip, or crossing, a ferry stays on the surface while an airplane must depart from it. A number of other things differentiate the two even further from one another: one is fast and one isn’t, one has great load capacity and one doesn’t. Et cetera. Then they have quite a few things in common.
Personally, I’m fascinated by both means of transportation and could spend hours on and around them.
Boarding and unboarding a ferry is somewhat less of a hassle than flying. More stuff can be brought on board, I have yet to drive a car into a plane (and sincerely hope I won’t ever experience it), and I can’t remember the last time I went to an airport without a pre–purchased ticket expecting to be able to travel on.
In all fairness, the ferry is also quite a bit more restrictive. From a ferry dock you get to that other ferry dock whereas from an airport you’d normally have a number of destinations to choose from. Disregarding international routes, the distance between one ferry dock and another usually isn’t great either, because of the simple fact that the ferry is but a solution to a certain barrier within a larger infrastructure. You would come driving to it and after crossing, drive from it. Or riding your bicycle, in a more ideal world. I know there are train ferries too, only never experienced one myself.
What they do have in common, the ferry and the airplane, in addition to transferring people and goods from one place to another, is that both follow a schedule (in most cases) and they put complete strangers together in the same physical space for as long as the trip takes. This is the interesting bit, I think. And although you could always sit in your car with the seatbelt on, on the car deck, the lounge really is the place to be. The space where complete strangers spend their time, together or alone in the presence of each other or something in between, for as long as it takes the ferry to cross.
Something tells me that a lot could be learned by buying a round trip ticket with the local ferry—or any ferry—about a dozen times or so. And just sit there, in the lounge, sipping on cheap coffee pretending to read the newspaper while secretly absorbing just about every gesture in the room. Eavesdrop in on people’s conversations. And, if I was able to dig up the necessary courage, engage in conversations with perfect strangers that might have as little in common with me as the space we were sharing and the transit destination. Providing that more people passed through than the photographs here indicate.
In order to not distract such a learning experience I would have to do something about my urge to operate a camera (because a camera in the hands of a stranger is potentially scary, or offending, invasive). At least until up on deck, where landscape grants its no–questions–asked acceptance to such a device. That, or to greatly improve the combination that includes strangers, myself and photography, on a social level.
Of course, improving on that particular trait would be much more rewarding than yet another insipid photograph with Hardangerfjorden in it.
At times I hear people complain about ferries, about the queue and how they’re never on time, how one is always out of order and the time it takes crossing a fjord, and how there should be a bridge or a tunnel instead.
Personally I find them hard not to love. To me they offer much of the same that airline travelling does, by taking away some of the control we like to think we have over our own time, and making us share space with random strangers. Bringing us physically closer to other people and not because we chose to, after all we’re just crossing the waters. On a ferry we’re neither there—place of departure—nor here—our destination—the ferry is but an in–between point on our trip from an A to a B.
My affection is largely tied to the fact that being on the road has a great appeal to me. The micro cultural/community aspect they offer, goofy as it can be, is also intriguing on a number of levels. I have yet to make more than a fleeting connection with stranger on a ferry, but I see no reason speaking against it. If one finds the necessary courage that is.
The on the road aspect of it is a bit of a puzzle—still.
Eivind Senneset has this to say about svele. Consider yourself warned.