National Geographic : 1930 Nov
VIKING LIFE IN THE STORM-CURSED FAEROES BY LEO HANSEN With Illustrationsfrom Photographsby the Author A MOTHERLY hen clucking to three wild ducklings strangely out of place in her landlubber flock! Such a picture Denmark presents, as she scratches vigorously for better times for Iceland, Greenland, and The Faeroes. To the last named, particularly, Denmark has given much attention because they have been made economically sick by changes in world trade. Four days out of Copenhagen, past the southern point of Norway, beyond the Shetland Islands, we came at last to Thors havn, capital and chief port of The Faer oes, for which Denmark labors. As the Tjaldur came to anchor behind the shel tering arm of a new concrete breakwater, much evidence of Danish aid was visible. I saw in the town, but out and away from the haphazard roofs of the dwellings, the new hospital and the high school. Over the barren hills went a procession of Gov ernment telephone posts bearing the wires which now make possible communication with six of the 17 inhabited islands. In deed, the Tjaldur itself is an evidence of Danish aid, since the Government helped the islanders buy the trading steamer which plies regularly between Copenhagen and Thorshavn. Still, The Faeroes remain practically unchanged by modern civilization and un touched by the tourist. Modern civiliza tion can find no foothold on their windy cliffs; there life can exist only when mod eled on ancient, primitive patterns. And so the islanders, forever wrestling with waves and winds, have little time for the tourist or his money. THE FAEROES RIDE THE STORMY ATLANTIC Like the giant battle fleet of some lat ter-day Thor, The Faeroes ride the stormy Atlantic, straining each at its ahchor. First comes Myggenaes, in the "destroyer" class, taking against her 370-foot bow the At lantic's biggest waves. At her stern is Vaago, a "battle cruiser" by comparison. Then come the "dreadnaughts" on a broad fan front: Sydero, Sando, Stroam (the largest), and Ostero, with the smaller Kalso, Kuno, Bordo, and Videro ranging along on the right. The group also con tains even smaller islands (see page 6Io). Each of these islands rises from the sea with flanks as sheer as a ship's sides and with a plateau top, flat like a ship's deck. In all The Faeroes there is only one small, sandy beach of a hundred feet or so, a beach which is considered such a remark able gift of Nature that the big island of Sando takes its name from the tiny strand. Basalt cliffs rise majestically on all the islands. Some tower nearly 2,000 feet above the restless sea, and against these black barriers the Atlantic sends her mighty waves, to break with explosive force and burst into probably the most remarkable clouds of spray and surf to be found in all the world (see page 608). SAFE HARBORS A RARITY Thorshavn I made the headquarters for nearly 200 trips to photograph the Faer oese people, the astonishing cliffs of their islands, and the populous colonies of sea birds inhabiting those cliffs. It is more accurate for me to say that I "started" on 200 trips, because many were futile. Bad weather in The, Faeroes is so very bad, tide rips are so tricky, and safe harbors such a rarity, that often my companion and I.were compelled to turn back to our base. In Carl Bech, the official Government veterinarian in The Faeroes, I found at Thorshavn a staunch assistant, who made possible my photographic survey of the archipelago. He was born in the islands and his early training was such that he swims like a seal and climbs like a moun tain goat. Education in the veterinary school at Copenhagen had, however, opened to him a world unknown to the provincial islander. His duties, which require a pro fessional visit to every inhabited island in the archipelago at least twice a year, draw on his boyhood sailing experience as well as his education.