There are lots of pretty photos in this entry. Feel free to scroll down to them if you don’t feel like reading. They’re not my photos though — but you get lots of those next week!
For the rest of the week you’ll likely get more highly interesting (or perhaps boring) posts on the Faroe Islands. If you didn’t know, or you’ve only just discovered the delightfully British realm of my blog, I’m going on holiday on the 13th July — next Monday! I have to admit, when I realised I was leaving in under a week I squealed with both excitement and worry. I think you’re meant to do lot of preparatory work before flying into a cold, rainy, desolate middle-of-nowhere island. A lot of preparation which I’ve kind of skipped doing so far. Oops.
I blame this blog! I’m writing when I should be cleaning my camera lenses! I’m shoving frozen peas down my shorts when I ought to be making sure I have enough clean jumpers (sweaters) to keep me warm!
Anyway, I have done a little research into what will be my home for 17 days (which is an awfully long time to spend in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, I tell you!)
First, a more detailed map.
If you’re wondering how big these islands are, the simple answer is ‘small’; the exact answer is: from north to south it’s 70 miles (113km) and from east to west only 47 miles (75km)! There are 18 islands which have a rather grand total area of 545 square miles (1400km2) — the UK, by comparison, is 94,000 square miles. And the UK is small (the USA is 3.7 million square miles, by the way — you think you have population issues…?) If you click the map, you’ll see where I’m staying — Klaksik — in the the north east, quite close to ‘BORÐOY’. It’s only about 20 miles as the crow flies from the capital Tórshavn but it still takes 50 minutes to drive it (look for the bridges and tunnels between the islands shown by dotted lines, there’s no direct route!)
So I’ll be spending most of my time in a town with a vast population of about 4,500 (the second largest in the country!) The address of where I’m staying is simply the town name followed by a number (‘Klaksik 53′) — how cool is that?! If you’re nodding and saying ‘Cool!’ then good on you; that is why I chose the Faroe Islands! There are only a handful of locations like it in the world, and this is the only one that isn’t tropical.
Anyway, the people — they’re like Vikings, with all the braided beards, horned helmets and daunting tallness removed. I’m told I’ll be the tallest person in the country (…!) I will of course obtain photographic proof that they’re all really short (and cute, in the case of the girls, my host hastened to add). They seem to have kept their Scandinavian looks, but thanks to to the occasional rape-and-pillage by Portugese, Spanish and Turkish sailors there are a few darker-skinned and intense-looking people too. Mostly though, they’re just plain short. Probably due to the inbreeding, if you think about it: 2,000 Viking settlers started it all and almost everyone there today stems from those original bloodlines. First cousins are considered ‘quite distant’ in Faroese terms…
(Incidentally, none of these photos are mine. They all come from Ólavur Frederiksen’s site, a fantastic Faroese photographer.)
There haven’t been any celebrities of International renown (except perhaps for Teitur, a musician) — perhaps on a local or Nordic scale, or if you’re really into ancient Norse texts, you might find some. They’re famous for fishing whales (and their wind-dried sheep) — that’s about it. If you don’t believe me, here’s a list of all their famous people. Leave a comment if you recognise any of them.
On the topic of whales, apparently, if I’m very lucky, I’ll get to participate in a whale hunt! Whaling is part of their culture, their heritage and their livelihood. There aren’t a whole lot of resources in the Faroe Islands; the sea is one of them and whales have provided valuable meat (and blubber!) for centuries. It’s a little sad that it has almost been banned, even though only 950 are caught each year. Is butchering pigs or cows any worse? They’re all mammals…
If only a bloody, sanguine-saturated sea didn’t make for such an awesome photo, eh?
(It was a toss-up between a photo of them jumping jovially through the water, or one of them dead on a beach…)
I won’t actually be killing any whales (I think) — it’s more of an involved process than ‘just’ killing them: there’s a sighting (probably by some ‘official whale scouter’); then the rallying of the whole town (really, the whole town takes part). Then they all jump into boats to hunt and drive them towards the beach. And then… I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to wait and see!
Talking of boats, we’ll have one to get around with. Which is how we’ll get to the tiniest and most remote islands (some of which have a population of… 1) and also how we’ll get to rocks (smaller and less grassy than an ‘island’) that have nothing on them but thousands of puffins. Puffins like these:
It can get a little rough at sea though, which is apparently why we have to stay very close to the coast. If you check the map again and find ‘Suðuroy’ (which we will be visiting), the following video is an example of what the sea can be like during the crossing:
I have a feeling that being able to tread water for 10 minutes might not be all that helpful if we capsize. Hopefully he has life jackets…
Back to the geography: the Faroe Islands are very low-lying (the highest point is only 880m!) but incredibly craggy. Black rock juts out of the short grass and almost nothing grows well there — except for sheep. There are lots and lots of sheep.
Also, I guess because of erosion by both sea and wind, almost every coastline is a cliff. This makes for some terrifying views which I am incredibly eager to photograph. Just look at this:
(Does your stomach flip a little looking down there…?)
And soon, in just 6 days, I’ll be there! Taking photos, hunting whales and eating puffin kebab! Remember, it’s not too late to buy your very own Personalised Faroese Landscape (but it’s probably too late to order in any fancy props, so bear that in mind).