Faroe Islands

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Coordinates: 62°00′N 06°47′W / 62.000°N 6.783°W / 62.000; -6.783

"Faeroes" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Fårö or Fair Isle.
Faroe Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Tú alfagra land mítt
Thou, my most beauteous land
Location of the Faroe Islands in Northern Europe.
Location of the Faroe Islands in Northern Europe.
Map of the Faroe Islands
Map of the Faroe Islands
Capital
and largest city
Coat of arms of Tórshavn.svg Tórshavn
62°00′N 06°47′W / 62.000°N 6.783°W / 62.000; -6.783
Official languages
Demonym Faroese
Sovereign state  Kingdom of Denmark
Government Parliamentary constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Queen Margrethe II
 -  High Commissioner Dan M. Knudsen
 -  Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannesen
Legislature Løgting
Formation
 -  Unified with Norway[a] c. 1035 
 -  Treaty of Kiel
(Ceded to Denmark)[b]
14 January 1814 
 -  Gained home rule 1 April 1948 
 -  Further autonomy 29 July 2005[2] 
Area
 -  Total 1,399 km2 (180th)
540 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0.5
Population
 -  July 2013 estimate 49,709[3] (206th)
 -  2011 census 48,351[4]
 -  Density 35.5/km2
91/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.642 billion
 -  Per capita $33,700
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $2.45 billion
 -  Per capita $50,300
HDI (2008) 0.950[5]
very high
Currency Faroese króna[c] (DKK)
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Calling code +298
ISO 3166 code FO
Internet TLD .fo
a. ^ Danish monarchy reached the Faeroes in 1380 with the reign of Olav IV of Norway.
b. ^ The Faeroes, Greenland and Iceland were formally Norwegian possessions until 1814, as Norway was united with Denmark.
c. ^ The currency, printed with Faroese motifs, is issued at par with the Danish krone, uses the same sizes and standards as Danish coins and banknotes and incorporates the same security features. Faroese krónur (singular króna) share the Danish ISO 4217 code "DKK".

The Faroe Islands (/ˈfɛər/; Faroese: Føroyar pronounced [ˈfœɹjaɹ]; Danish: Færøerne Danish pronunciation: [ˈfæɐ̯øːˀɐnə]) is an archipelago and autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark,[6][7] situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Norway and Iceland, at about 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-north-west of mainland Scotland. The total area is approximately 1,400 km2 (540 sq mi) with a 2010 population of almost 50,000 people.

The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing country within the Danish Realm since 1948. Over the years, the Faroese have taken control of most domestic matters. Areas that remain the responsibility of Denmark include military defence, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs.[8] The Faroe Islands also have representatives in the Nordic Council as members of the Danish delegation.

The islands were associated with and taxed by Norway, then the Union of Kalmar, and then Denmark–Norway until 1814, when Norway was united with Sweden. Scandinavia was in political turmoil following the Sixth Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars, when the Treaty of Kiel granted Denmark control over the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland in 1814. The Danish trade monopoly ended in 1856.

Naming[edit]

In Danish, the name Færøerne may reflect an Old Norse word fær (sheep). The morpheme øerne represents a plural (with definite article) of ø (island) in Danish. The Danish name might thus translate as "the islands of sheep".

In Faroese, the name appears as Føroyar. Oyar represents the plural of oy, an obsolete word for "island".

History[edit]

Archaeological evidence shows settlers living on the Faroe Islands in two successive periods prior to the arrival of the Norse, the first between 400 and 600 AD and the second between 600 and 800 AD.[9] Scientists from Aberdeen University have also found early cereal pollen from domesticated plants, which further suggests people may have lived on the islands before the Vikings arrived.[10] Archaeologist Mike Church noted that Dicuil (see below) mentioned what may have been the Faroes. He also suggested that the people living there might have been from Ireland, Scotland or Scandinavia, with possibly groups from all three areas settling there.[11]

A Latin account of a voyage made by Saint Brendan, an Irish monastic saint who lived around 484–578, includes a description of "insulae" (islands) resembling the Faroe Islands. This association, however, is far from conclusive in its description.[12]

Dicuil, an Irish monk of the early 9th century, wrote a more definite account. In his geographical work De menura orbis terrae he claimed he had reliable information of heremitae ex nostra Scotia ("hermits from our land of Ireland") who had lived on the northerly islands of Britain for almost a hundred years until the arrival of Norse pirates.[13]

It is known[by whom?] that Norsemen settled the islands c. 800, bringing the Old Norse language that evolved into the modern Faroese language. According to Icelandic sagas such as Færeyjar Saga, one of the best known men in the island was Tróndur í Gøtu, a descendant of Scandinavian chiefs who had settled in Dublin, Ireland. Tróndur led the battle against Sigmund Brestursson, the Norwegian monarchy and the Norwegian church.

The Faroe Islands as seen by the French navigator Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen de Trémarec in 1767.

The Norse and Norse-Gael settlers probably did not come directly from Scandinavia, but rather from Norse communities surrounding the Irish Sea, Northern Isles and Western Isles of Scotland, including the Shetland and Orkney islands. A traditional name for the islands in the Irish language, Na Scigirí, means the Skeggjar and possibly refers to the Eyja-Skeggjar (Island-Beards), a nickname given to the island dwellers.

According to the Færeyinga Saga, more emigrants left Norway who did not approve of the monarchy of Harald I of Norway (ruled c. 872 to 930). These people settled the Faroes around the end of the 9th century.[14] Early in the 11th century, Sigmundur Brestirson (961-1005) – whose clan had flourished in the southern islands before invaders from the northern islands almost exterminated it – escaped to Norway. He was sent back to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway from 995 to 1000. Sigmundur introduced Christianity, forcing Tróndur í Gøtu to convert or face beheading and, though Sigmundur was subsequently murdered, Norwegian taxation was upheld. Norwegian control of the Faroes continued until 1814, although, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, it gradually resulted in Danish control of the islands. The Reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When the union between Denmark and Norway dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.

The trade monopoly in the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856, after which the area developed as a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. The national awakening from 1888 initially arose from a struggle to maintain the Faroese language and was thus culturally oriented, but after 1906 it became more political with the foundation of political parties of the Faroe Islands.

On 12 April 1940 British troops occupied the Faroes. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany on 9 April 1940, and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942–1943 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 home-rule was introduced, with a high degree of local autonomy. In 1973 the Faroe Islands declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now the European Union). The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the Republican Party.

Politics and government[edit]

Tinganes in Tórshavn, seat of a part of the Faroese government.

The Faroese government holds executive power in local government affairs. The head of the government is called the Løgmaður ("Law person") and serves as a prime minister. Any other member of the cabinet is called a landsstýrismaður ("national committee man") or landsstýriskvinna ("national committee woman"). The Faroese parliament – the Løgting ("Law assembly") – dates back to Viking times and is believed to be one of the oldest parliaments in the world. The parliament currently has 33 members.[15]

Today, elections are held at municipal, national (Løgting) and Danish (Folketing) levels. Until 2007, there were seven electoral districts, each comprising a sýsla, while Streymoy was divided into a northern and southern part (Tórshavn region). However, on 25 October 2007, changes were made such that the entire country is one electoral district, giving each vote equal weight.

Relationship with Denmark[edit]

Queen Margrethe II, monarch of the Danish Realm, during a visit to Vágur in 2005.

The Faroe Islands have been under Danish control since 1388. The 1814 Treaty of Kiel terminated the Danish-Norwegian union, and Norway came under the rule of the King of Sweden, while the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland remained Danish possessions. The Løgting was abolished in 1816, and the Faroe Islands were to be governed as an ordinary Danish amt (county), with the Amtmand as its head of government. In 1851, the Løgting was reinstated, but, until 1948, served mainly as an advisory body.

The islands are home to a notable independence movement that has seen an increase in popularity within recent decades. At the end of World War II, some of the population favored independence from Denmark, and on 14 September 1946 an independence referendum was held on the question of secession. It was a consultative referendum; the parliament was not bound to follow the people's vote. This was the first time that the Faroese people had been asked whether they favoured independence or wanted to continue within the Danish kingdom. The result of the vote was a narrow majority in favour of secession, but the coalition in parliament could not reach agreement on how this outcome should be interpreted and implemented; and because of these irresoluble differences, the coalition fell apart. A parliamentary election was held a few months later, in which the political parties that favoured staying in the Danish kingdom increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition. Based on this, they chose to reject secession. Instead, a compromise was made and the Folketing passed a home-rule law that went into effect in 1948. The Faroe Islands' status as a Danish amt was thereby brought to an end; the Faroe Islands were given a high degree of self-governance, supported by a financial subsidy from Denmark to recompense expenses the Islands have on Danish services.

At present, the islanders are about evenly split between those favouring independence and those who prefer to continue as a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Within both camps there is a wide range of opinions. Of those who favour independence, some are in favour of an immediate unilateral declaration of independence. Others see it as something to be attained gradually and with the full consent of the Danish government and the Danish nation. In the unionist camp there are also many who foresee and welcome a gradual increase in autonomy even while strong ties with Denmark are maintained.

As of 2011, a new draft Faroese constitution is being drawn up. However the draft has been declared by the former Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, as incompatible with Denmark's constitution and if the Faroese political parties wish to continue with it then they must declare independence.[16]

Relationship with the European Union[edit]

As explicitly asserted by both EU treaties, the Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union. Moreover, a protocol to the treaty of accession of Denmark to the European Communities stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties. Hence, Danish people living in the Faroes are not citizens of the European Union (although other EU nationals living there remain EU citizens). The Faroes are not covered by the Schengen free movement agreement, but there are no border checks when travelling between the Faroes and any Schengen country. (The Faroes have been part of the Nordic Passport Union since 1966, and since 2001 there have been no border checks between the Nordic countries and the rest of the Schengen area as part of the Schengen agreement.)[17]

Regions and municipalities[edit]

Relief map of the Faroe Islands.

Administratively, the islands are divided into 30 municipalities (kommunur) within which there are 120 or so settlements.

Traditionally, there are also the six sýslur (similar to the British "shire": Norðoyar, Eysturoy, Streymoy, Vágar, Sandoy and Suðuroy). Although today sýsla technically means "police district", the term is still commonly used to indicate a geographical region. In earlier times, each sýsla had its own assembly, the so-called várting ("spring assembly").

Geography[edit]

NASA satellite image of the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands are an island group consisting of 18 major islands about 655 kilometres (407 mi) off the coast of Northern Europe, between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between Iceland and Norway, the closest neighbours being the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. Its coordinates are 62°00′N 06°47′W / 62.000°N 6.783°W / 62.000; -6.783.

The islands cover an area of 1,399 square kilometres (540 sq. mi) and have no major lakes or rivers. There are 1,117 kilometres (694 mi) of coastline.[3] The only significant uninhabited island is Lítla Dímun.

The islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks; the coasts are mostly cliffs. The highest point is Slættaratindur, 882 metres (2,894 ft) above sea level.
The Faroe Islands are dominated by tholeiitic basalt lava, which was part of the great Thulean Plateau during the Paleogene period.[18]

The southernmost island of Suðuroy.
Sørvágur, on the island of Vágar.

Distances to nearest countries and islands[edit]

Climate[edit]

An October evening on Eysturoy.

The climate is classed as Maritime Subarctic according to the Köppen climate classification: Cfc. The overall character of the islands' climate is influenced by the strong warming influence of the Atlantic Ocean, which produces the North Atlantic Current. This, together with the remoteness of any source of warm airflows, ensures that winters are mild (mean temperature 3.0 to 4.0 °C or 37 to 39 °F) while summers are cool (mean temperature 9.5 to 10.5 °C or 49 to 51 °F). In 2012 the mean temperature of January was 4.5 °C (40.1 °F), in July the mean temperature was 10.1 and all that year it was 6.7 °C (44.1 °F). In 2012 the capital of the Faroe Islands, Tórshavn, had 195 days with precipitation and received a total of 1,262 millimetres (50 in) that year. In 2012 there were at total of 32 frost days and a total of 1032 hours with bright sunshine. The mean wind speed m/s that year was 6.8 m/s[19] The islands are windy, cloudy and cool throughout the year with over 260 annual rainy days. The islands lie in the path of depressions moving northeast and this means that strong winds and heavy rain are possible at all times of the year. Sunny days are rare and overcast days are common. Hurricane Faith struck the Faroe Islands on 5 September 1966 with sustained winds over 100 mph (160 km/h) and only then did the storm cease to be a tropical system.[20]

The registration of meteorologic data on the Faroe Islands started in 1867.[21]

Flora[edit]

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) is common in the Faroe Islands during May and June.

The natural vegetation of the Faroe Islands is dominated by Arctic-alpine plants, wildflowers, grasses, moss and lichen. Most of the lowland area is grassland and some is heath, dominated by shrubby heathers, mainly Calluna vulgaris. Among the herbaceous flora that occur in the Faroe Islands is the cosmopolitan Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre.[22]

Faroe is characterised by the lack of trees, resembling Connemara and Dingle in Republic of Ireland.

A few small plantations consisting of plants collected from similar climates such as Tierra del Fuego in South America and Alaska thrive on the islands.

Fauna[edit]

Faroese puffins are very common and a part of the local cuisine.

Birds[edit]

The bird fauna of the Faroe Islands is dominated by seabirds and birds attracted to open land like heather, probably because of the lack of woodland and other suitable habitats. Many species have developed special Faroese sub-species: Common Eider, European Starling, Winter Wren, Common Guillemot, and Black Guillemot.[23] The Pied Raven was endemic to the Faroe Islands, but has now become extinct.

Mammals[edit]

Only a few species of wild land mammals are found in the Faroe Islands today, all introduced by humans. Three species are thriving on the islands today: Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the House Mouse (Mus musculus). Apart from these, there once was a local domestic sheep breed called Faroes (depicted on the coat of arms), a variety of feral sheep survived on Little Dímun until the mid-19th century.[24]

Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) are common around the shorelines.[citation needed] Several species of cetacean live in the waters around the Faroe Islands. Best known are the Long-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melaena), which are still hunted by the islanders in accordance with longstanding local tradition.[25] Rare killer whales (Orcinus orca) sometimes visit the Faroese fjords.

Domestic animals[edit]

The domestic animals of the Faroe Islands are a result of 1,200 years of isolated breeding. As a result, many of the islands' domestic animals are found nowhere else in the world. Faroese domestic breed include Faroe pony, Faroe cow, Faroese sheep, Faroese Goose and Faroese duck.

Natural history and biology[edit]

A collection of Faroese marine algae resulting from a survey sponsored by NATO, the British Museum (Natural History) and the Carlsberg Foundation, is preserved in the Ulster Museum (catalogue numbers: F3195–F3307). It is one of ten exsiccatae sets.

Economy[edit]

Graphical depiction of Faroe Islands' product exports in 28 color-coded categories.
Klaksvík, on the island of Borðoy, is the Faroe Islands' second-largest town.

Economic troubles caused by a collapse of the Faroese fishing industry in the early 1990s brought high unemployment rates of 10 to 15% by the mid-1990s.[26] Unemployment decreased in the later 1990s, down to about 6% at the end of 1998.[26] By June 2008 unemployment had declined to 1.1%, before rising to 3.4% in early 2009.[26] Nevertheless, the almost total dependence on fishing and fish farming means that the economy remains vulnerable. Petroleum found close to the Faroese area gives hope for deposits in the immediate area, which may provide a basis for sustained economic prosperity.[27]

13% of Faroe Islands' national income comes as economic aid from Denmark.[28] This corresponds to roughly 5% of GDP.[29]

Since 2000, new information technology and business projects have been fostered in the Faroe Islands to attract new investment. The introduction of Burger King in Tórshavn was widely publicized as a sign of the globalization of Faroese culture. It is not yet known whether these projects will succeed in broadening the islands' economic base. The islands have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, but this should not necessarily be taken as a sign of a recovering economy, as many young students move to Denmark and other countries after leaving high school. This leaves a largely middle-aged and elderly population that may lack the skills and knowledge to fill newly developed positions on the Faroes. In 2008 the Faroes made a $52 million loan to Iceland, in light of that country's banking woes.[30]

On 5 August 2009, two opposition parties introduced a bill in the Løgting to adopt the Euro as the national currency, pending a referendum.[31]

Transport[edit]

The road network on the Faroe Islands is highly developed. Shown here is the road from Skipanes to Syðrugøta on the island of Eysturoy.
The new ferry MS Smyril enters the Faroe Islands at Krambatangi ferry port in Suðuroy, 2005.

Vágar Airport has scheduled services from Vágar Island. The largest Faroese airline is Atlantic Airways. All civil aviation matters are controlled from the Civil Aviation Administration Denmark.

Because of the rocky terrain and relatively small size of the Faroe Islands, its transport system was not as extensive as in other places of the world. This situation has now changed, and the infrastructure has been developed extensively. Some 80% of the population of the islands is connected by tunnels through the mountains and between the islands, bridges and causeways that link the three largest islands and three other larger and smaller islands to the northeast together, while the other two large islands to the south, Sandoy and Suðuroy, of the main area are connected to the main area with fast ferries, the small islands Koltur and Stóra Dímun have no ferry connection, only helicopter service. Other small islands: Mykines in the west, Kalsoy, Svínoy and Fugloy in the North, Hestur west of Streymoy and Nólsoy east of Tórshavn have smaller ferries and some of these islands have even helicopter service. In February 2014 all the political parties of the Løgting agreed on making two subsea tunnels, on between Streymoy and Eysturoy (Eysturoyartunnilin) and one between Streymoy and Sandoy (Sandoyartunnilin). The plan is that both tunnels should open in 2021 and they will not be private.[32]

Demographics[edit]

The vast majority of the population are ethnic Faroese, of Norse and Scottish descent.[33]

Recent DNA analyses have revealed that Y chromosomes, tracing male descent, are 87% Scandinavian.[34] The studies show that mitochondrial DNA, tracing female descent, is 84% Scottish.[35]

The fertility rate of the Faroe Islands is currently one of the highest in Europe.[36]

Of the approximately 49,500 inhabitants of the Faroe Islands (16,921 private households in 2004), Faroese are 91.7%, Danes 5.8%, Greenlanders 0.3%. The largest group of foreigners is Danes, comprising 5.8%, followed by Greenlanders, Icelanders, Norwegians and Poles. The Faroe Islands have people consisting of 77 different nationalities.

Faroese is spoken in the entire area as a first language. It is difficult to say exactly how many people worldwide speak the Faroese language, because many ethnic Faroese live in Denmark, and few who are born there return to the Faroes with their parents or as adults.

The Faroese language is one of the smallest of the Germanic languages. Written Faroese (grammar and vocabulary) is most similar to Icelandic and to their ancestor Old Norse, though the spoken language is closer to Norwegian dialects of the west coast of Norway. Although Faroese is the main language on the islands, both Faroese and Danish are official languages, and Danish is universally spoken.[1]

Faroese language policy provides for the active creation of new terms in Faroese suitable for modern life.

Population trends (1327–2004)[edit]

Historical population
Year Pop.   ±%  
1327 4,000 —    
1350 2,000 −50.0%
1769 4,773 +138.6%
1801 5,225 +9.5%
1834 6,928 +32.6%
1850 8,137 +17.5%
1880 11,220 +37.9%
1900 15,230 +35.7%
1925 22,835 +49.9%
1950 31,781 +39.2%
1975 40,441 +27.2%
1985 45,749 +13.1%
1995 43,358 −5.2%
2000 46,196 +6.5%
2006 48,219 +4.4%
2012 49,483 +2.6%
2013 49,709 +0.5%
[3]
Faroese stamp by Anker Eli Petersen commemorating the arrival of Christianity in the islands.

If the first inhabitants of the Faroe Islands were Irish monks, then they must have lived as a very small group of settlers. Later, when the Vikings colonised the islands, there was a considerable increase in the population. However, it never exceeded 5,000 until the 18th century. Around 1349, about half the population perished in the Black Death plague.

Only with the rise of the deep-sea fishery (and thus independence from agriculture in the islands' harsh terrain) and with general progress in the health service was rapid population growth possible in the Faroes. Beginning in the 18th century, the population increased tenfold in 200 years.

At the beginning of the 1990s the Faroe Islands entered a deep economic crisis leading to heavy emigration; however, this trend reversed in subsequent years to a net immigration. This has been in the form of a population replacement as young Faroese women leave and are replaced with Asian/Pacific brides.[37]

Urbanisation and regionalisation[edit]

The Faroese population is spread across most of the area; it was not until recent decades that significant urbanisation occurred. Industrialisation has been remarkably decentralised, and the area has therefore maintained quite a viable rural culture. Nevertheless, villages with poor harbour facilities have been the losers in the development from agriculture to fishing, and in the most peripheral agricultural areas, also known as the outer islands, there are few young people. In recent decades, the village-based social structure has nevertheless been placed under pressure, giving way to a rise in interconnected "centres" that are better able to provide goods and services than the badly connected periphery. This means that shops and services are now relocating en masse from the villages into the centres, and slowly but steadily the Faroese population is concentrating in and around the centres.

In the 1990s, the old national policy of developing the villages (Bygdamenning) was abandoned, and instead the government started a process of regional development (Økismenning). The term "region" referred to the large islands of the Faroes. Nevertheless the government was unable to press through the structural reform of merging the small rural municipalities in order to create sustainable, decentralised entities that could drive forward regional development. As regional development has been difficult on the administrative level, the government has instead made heavy investment in infrastructure, interconnecting the regions.

In general, it is becoming less valid to regard the Faroes as a society based on separate islands and regions. The huge investments in roads, bridges and sub-sea tunnels (see also Transport in the Faroe Islands) have bound the islands together, creating a coherent economic and cultural sphere that covers almost 90% of the population. From this perspective it is reasonable to regard the Faroes as a dispersed city or even to refer to it as the Faroese Network City.[citation needed]

A stamp commemorating V. U. Hammershaimb, a 19th-century Faroese linguist and theologian.

Religion[edit]

According to the Færeyinga Saga, Sigmundur Brestisson brought Christianity to the islands in 999. However, archaeology at a site in Leirvík suggests that Celtic Christianity may have arrived at least 150 years earlier.[citation needed] The Faroe Islands' Church Reformation was completed on 1 January 1540. According to official statistics from 2002, 84.1% of the Faroese population are members of the state church, the Faroese People's Church (Fólkakirkjan), a form of Lutheranism. The Fólkakirkjan became an independent church in 2007; previously it had been a diocese within the Church of Denmark. Faroese members of the clergy who have had historical importance include V. U. Hammershaimb (1819–1909), Frederik Petersen (1853–1917) and, perhaps most significantly, Jákup Dahl (1878–1944), who had a great influence in ensuring that the Faroese language was spoken in the church instead of Danish. Participation in churches is more prevalent among the Faroese population than among most other Scandinavians.

In the late 1820s, the Christian Evangelical religious movement, the Plymouth Brethren, was established in England. In 1865, a member of this movement, William Gibson Sloan, travelled to the Faroes from Shetland. At the turn of the 20th century, the Faroese Plymouth Brethren numbered thirty. Today, approximately 10% of the Faroese population are members of the Open Brethren community (Brøðrasamkoman). Approximately 3% belong to the charismatic movement, which started somewhere late around 1920s, but had their golden days in 1970s–1980s. There are several charismatic churches around the islands, the largest of which, called Keldan (The Spring), congregation (approximately 200 to 300 members). About 2% belong to other Christian groups. The Adventists operate a private school in Tórshavn. Jehovah's Witnesses also number four congregations with a total of 118 members. The Roman Catholic congregation comprises approximately 170 members. The municipality of Tórshavn has an old Franciscan school. There are also around fifteen Bahá'ís who meet at four different places. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was established in the Faroe Islands in 2010. Unlike Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland with Forn Siðr, the Faroes have no organised Ásatrú community, but there is a fair share of pagan lore, song and ritual performed in individuals' houses or in public spaces, rather than in church buildings.

The best-known church buildings in the Faroe Islands include Tórshavn Cathedral, St. Olaf's Church, and the Magnus Cathedral in Kirkjubøur; the Vesturkirkjan and the Maria Church, both of which are situated in Tórshavn; the church of Fámjin; the octagonal church in Haldarsvík; Christianskirkjan in Klaksvík; and also the two pictured here.

In 1948, Victor Danielsen (Plymouth Brethren) completed the first Bible translation into Faroese from different modern languages. Jacob Dahl and Kristian Osvald Viderø (Fólkakirkjan) completed the second translation in 1961. The latter was translated from the original Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) into Faroese.

Culture[edit]

The culture of the Faroe Islands has its roots in the Nordic culture. The Faroe Islands were long isolated from the main cultural phases and movements that swept across parts of Europe. This means that they have maintained a great part of their traditional culture. The language spoken is Faroese and it is one of three insular Scandinavian languages descended from the Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavia in the Viking Age, the others being Icelandic and the extinct Norn, which is thought to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation in 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents. Although a rich spoken tradition survived, for 300 years the language was not written down. This means that all poems and stories were handed down orally. These works were split into the following divisions: sagnir (historical), ævintýr (stories) and kvæði (ballads), often set to music and the mediaeval chain dance. These were eventually written down in the 19th century.

Ólavsøka[edit]

The annual Ólavsøka parade on 28 July.

Ólavsøka, is on 29 July, and commemorates the death of Saint Olaf. The celebrations are held in Tórshavn, starting on the evening of the 28th and continuing until the 31st. The 28 July is half working day for the members of some of the labour unions while Ólavsøkudagur (The Saint Olaf's Day) of 29 July is full holiday for most of the members of most of the unions,[38] but not all of them.[39]

The official celebration starts on the 29th, with the opening of the Faroese Parliament, a custom that dates back 900 years.[40] This begins with a service held in Tórshavn Cathedral; all members of parliament as well as civil and church officials walk to the cathedral in a procession. All of the parish ministers take turns giving the sermon. After the service, the procession returns to the parliament for the opening ceremony.

Other celebrations are marked by different kinds of sports competitions, the rowing competition (in Tórshavn Harbour) being the most popular, art exhibitions, pop concerts, and the famous Faroese dance in Sjónleikarhúsið and on Vaglið outdoor after the midnight singing on 29 July (30 July when after midnight). The celebrations have many facets, and only a few are mentioned here.

Many people also mark the occasion by wearing the national Faroese dress.

The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands[edit]

The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands (Faroese: Norðurlandahúsið) is the most important cultural institution in the Faroes. Its aim is to support and promote Scandinavian and Faroese culture, locally and in the Nordic region. Erlendur Patursson (1913–86), Faroese member of the Nordic Council, raised the idea of a Nordic cultural house in the Faroe Islands. A Nordic competition for architects was held in 1977, in which 158 architects participated. Winners were Ola Steen from Norway and Kolbrún Ragnarsdóttir from Iceland. By staying true to folklore, the architects built the Nordic House to resemble an enchanted hill of elves. The house opened in Tórshavn in 1983. The Nordic House is a cultural organization under the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Nordic House is run by a steering committee of eight, of whom three are Faroese and five from other Nordic countries. There is also a local advisory body of fifteen members, representing Faroese cultural organizations. The House is managed by a director appointed by the steering committee for a four-year term.

Faroese literature[edit]

Main article: Faroese literature
Rasmus Rasmussen (writer who wrote the first novel in Faroese language, poetical name: Regin í Líð) and Símun av Skarði (poet, who wrote the Fareose national hymn).

Faroese written literature, has only really developed in the past 100–200 years. This is mainly because of the islands' isolation, and also because the Faroese language was not written down in a standardised format until 1890. The Danish language was also encouraged at the expense of Faroese. Nevertheless, the Faroes have produced several authors and poets. There was a rich oral tradition for centuries with folk tales and Faroese folk songs which accompanied the Faroese chain dance. The people learned these songs and stories by heart and told or sung them to each other, teaching the younger generations too. This kind of literature was gathered in the 19th century and early 20th century. The Faroese folk songs, in Faroese called kvæði are still in use although not is so large scale as earlier. Some of the Faroese folk songs have been used by the Faroese Viking metal band Týr, i.e., Ormurin Langi.[41] The first Faroese novel, Bábelstornið by Regin í Líð, was published in 1909, the second novel was published 18 years later. In the period 1930 to 1940 a writer from the village Skálavík on Sandoy island, Heðin Brú, published three novels: Lognbrá (1930), Fastatøkur (1935) and Feðgar á ferð (English title: The old man and his sons) (1940). Feðgar á ferð has been translated into several other languages. Martin Joensen from Sandvík wrote about life on Faroese fishing vessels, he published the novels Fiskimenn (1946)[42] and Tað lýsir á landi (1952).

Well known poets from the early 20th century are amongs others the two brothers from Tórshavn: Hans Andrias Djurhuus (1883-1951)[43] and Janus Djurhuus (1881-1948),[44] other well known poets from this period and the mid 20th century are Poul F. Joensen (1898-1970),[45] Regin Dahl (1918-2007)[46] and Tummas Napoleon Djurhuus (1928–71).[47] Their poems are popular even today and can be found in Faroese song books and school books. Jens Pauli Heinesen (1932-2011), a school teacher from Sandavágur, was the most productive Faroese novelist, he published 17 novels. Steinbjørn B. Jacobsen (1937-2012), a school teacher from Sandvík wrote short stories, plays, children's books and even novels. Most Faroese writers write in Faroese, two exceptions are William Heinesen (1900–91) and Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen (1900-38). The women were not so visible in the early Faroese litereature except for Helena Patursson (1864-1916), but in the last decades of the 20th century and in the beginning of the 21st century female writers like Ebba Hentze (born 1933) wrote children's books, short stories etc., Guðrið Helmsdal published the first modernistic collection of poems Lýtt lot in 1963, which at the same time was the first collection of Faroese poems writtens by a woman.[48] Her daughter, Rakel Helmsdal (born 1966), is also a writer, she is best known for her children's books, for which she has won several prizes and nominations. Other female writers are the novelists Oddvør Johansen (born 1941), Bergtóra Hanusardóttir (born 1946) and novelist/children's books writers Marianna Debes Dahl (born 1947), and Sólrun Michelsen (born 1948). Other modern Faroese writers include Gunnar Hoydal (born 1941), Hanus Kamban (born 1942), Jógvan Isaksen (born 1950), Jóanes Nielsen (born 1953), Tóroddur Poulsen and Carl Jóhan Jensen (born 1957). Some of these writers have been nominated for the Nordic Council's Literature Prize two to six times, but have never won it. The only Faroese writer who writes in Faroese who has won the prize is the poet Rói Patursson (born 1947), he won the prize in 1986 for Líkasum.[49] In the 21st century some new writer had success in the Faroe Islands and abroad. Bárður Oskarsson (born 1972) is a children's book writer and illustrator, his books won prices in the Faroes, Germany and the West Nordic Council's Children and Youth Literature Prize (2006). Sissal Kampmann (born 1974) won the Danish literary prize Klaus Rifbjerg's Debutant Prize (2012) and Rakel Helmsdal has won Faroese and Icelandic awards, she has been nominated for the West Nordic Council's Children and Youth Literature Prize and the Children and Youth Literature Prize of the Nordic Council (representing Iceland, wrote the book together with and Icelandic and a Swedish writer/illustrator). Marjun Syderbø Kjelnæs (born 1974) had success with her first novel Skriva í sandin for teenagers, the book was awarded and nominated both in the Faroes and in other countries. She won the Nordic Children's Book Prize (2011) for this book, White Raven Deutsche Jugendbibliothek (2011) and nominated the West Nordic Council's Children and Youth Literature Prize and the Children and Youth Literature Prize of the Nordic Council (2013).[50]

Music[edit]

Although Danish-born, Kristian Blak is one of the most influential people in Faroese music.

The Faroe Islands have an active music scene. The islands have their own symphony orchestra (the classical ensemble Aldubáran) and many different choirs; the best-known of these is Havnarkórið. The best-known Faroese composers are Sunleif Rasmussen and Kristian Blak. Blak is also head of the record company Tutl.

The first Faroese opera was by Sunleif Rasmussen. It is entitled Í Óðamansgarði (The Madman's Garden) and was premiered on 12 October 2006 at the Nordic House. The opera is based on a short story by the writer William Heinesen.

Young Faroese musicians who have gained much popularity recently are Eivør (Eivør Pálsdóttir), Anna Katrin Egilstrøð, Annika av Matras, Lena (Lena Andersen), Teitur (Teitur Lassen), Høgni Reistrup, Høgni Lisberg, HEIÐRIK (Heiðrik á Heygum), Guðrið Hansdóttir and Brandur Enni.

Well-known bands include Týr, Gestir, Hamferð, The Ghost, Boys in a Band, ORKA, 200, Grandma's Basement, SIC, and the former band Clickhaze.

The festival of contemporary and classical music, Summartónar, is held each summer. The G! Festival in Gøta in July and Summarfestivalurin in Klaksvík in August are both large, open-air music festivals for popular music with both local and international musicians participating.

Traditional food[edit]

Main article: Faroese cuisine

Traditional Faroese food is mainly based on meat, seafood and potatoes and uses few fresh vegetables. Mutton is the basis of many meals, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjøt, well aged, wind-dried mutton, which is quite chewy. The drying shed, known as a hjallur, is a standard feature in many Faroese homes, particularly in the small towns and villages. Other traditional foods are ræst kjøt (semi-dried mutton) and ræstur fiskur, matured fish. Another Faroese specialty is Grind og spik, pilot whale meat and blubber. (A parallel meat/fat dish made with offal is garnatálg.) Well into the last century, meat and blubber from a pilot whale meant food for a long time. Fresh fish also features strongly in the traditional local diet, as do seabirds, such as Faroese puffins, and their eggs. Dried fish is also commonly eaten.

There are two breweries in the Faroe Islands. The first brewery is called Föroya Bjór and has produced beer since 1888 with exports mainly to Iceland and Denmark. The second brewery is called Okkara and was founded in 2010. A local specialty is fredrikk, a special brew, made in Nólsoy. Production of hard alcohol such as snaps is forbidden in the Faroe Islands, hence the Faroese aqua vit, Aqua Vita, is produced abroad.

Since the friendly British occupation, the Faroese have been fond of British food, in particular fish and chips and British-style chocolate such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, which is found in many of the island's shops, whereas in Denmark this is scarce.

Whaling[edit]

Atlantic White-sided Dolphins on a concrete-floored dock in Hvalba.

There are records of drive hunts in the Islands dating from 1584.[51] It is regulated by Faroese authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission as there are disagreements about the Commission's legal authority to regulate cetacean hunts. Hundreds of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melaena) could be killed in a year, mainly during the summer. The hunts, called "grindadráp" in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organised on a community level; anyone can participate. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. Then they drive the whales slowly into a bay or to the shallows of a fjord. When a whale is in shallow water a hook is placed in its blowhole so that it may be dragged ashore. Once on land or immobilised in knee-deep water, a cut is made across its top near the blowhole to partially sever its head. The dead animals are then dragged further to shore after the remaining whales have been likewise killed.[52]

This "grindadráp" is thought to be legal and provides food for many people in the Faroe Islands.[53][54][55]

Some Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture and history. Animal-rights groups, such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, criticise it as being cruel and unnecessary, while the hunters claim in return that most journalists do not exhibit sufficient knowledge of the catch methods or its economic significance.

Sport[edit]

The Faroe Islands compete in the biennial Island Games, which were hosted by the islands in 1989. Ten football teams contest the Faroe Islands Premier League, currently ranked 51st by UEFA's League coefficient. The Faroe Islands are a full member of UEFA and the Faroe Islands national football team competes in the UEFA European Football Championship qualifiers. The country is also a full member of FIFA and therefore the Faroe Islands football team also competes in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The country won its first ever competitive match when the team defeated Austria 1–0 in a UEFA Euro 1990 qualifying. The Faroe Islands are a full member of FINA and compete under their own flag at World Championships, European Championships and World Cup events. The Faroese swimmer Pál Joensen (born 1991) has won one bronze medal at the World Championships[56] and two silver medals at the European Championships, all medals won in the men's longest distance the 1500 meter freestyle, short and long course. The Faroe Islands compete in the Paralympics and have won several gold, silver and bronze medals there. Two Faroese athletes have competed at the Olympics, but under Danish flag. The Olympic Committee does not allow the Faroe Islands to compete as a nation. The two Faroese who have competed are the swimmer Pál Joensen (2012) and the rower Katrin Olsen (2008).

Faroese people are very active in sports, they have domestic competitions in football, handball, volleyball, badminton, swimming, outdoor rowing (Faroese kappróður) and indoor rowing in rowing machines, horse riding, shooting, table tennis, gymnastics, cycling, triathlon, running and other competitions in athletics.[57]

Handcrafts[edit]

Faroese handicrafts are mainly based around materials available within local villages which is mainly wool. Products include jumpers, scarves and gloves. Faroese jumpers have distinct Nordic patterns with each village having some regional variations handed down from mother to daughter. There has recently been a strong revival and interest in Faroese knitting with young people knitting and wearing updated versions of old patterns emphasized by strong colours and bold patterns. This appears to be a reaction to the loss of traditional lifestyles and as a way to maintain and assert cultural tradition in a rapidly changing society. Many young people study and move abroad and this allows them to maintain cultural links which identifies their specific Faroese heritage.

There has also been a great interest in Faroese jumpers from the TV series The Killing, where the popular main actress wears a different Faroese jumper for each series (two so far). This has greatly increased the profile of the Faroe Islands, particularly within the fashion industry as jumpers are now sold in places such as Harrods.

Lace knitting is a traditional handicraft. The most distinctive trait of Faroese lace shawls is the center back gusset shaping. Each shawl consists of two triangular side panels, a trapezoid-shaped back gusset, an edge treatment, and usually shoulder shaping. These are worn by all generations of women particularly in relation to the Traditional faroese costume as an over garment.

Faroese national dress[edit]

Faroese folk dancers, some of them in national costume.

The traditional Faroese national dress is also a local handicraft which people spend a lot of time, money and effort to assemble. This is worn at weddings, traditional dancing events and on feast days. The cultural significance of the garment should not be under-estimated both as an expression of local and national identity and a passing on and re-enforcing of traditional skills that bind local communities together.

A young Faroese person is normally handed down a set of children's Faroese clothes that is then passed from generation to generation. Children are confirmed at age 14 and normally start to collect the pieces to make an adult outfit which is considered as a rite of passage. Traditionally the aim would have been for the outfit to be completed by the time a young person was ready to marry and would have been worn at the ceremony, although it is mainly only men who do this now.

Each piece is intricately hand-knitted, dyed, woven, or embroidered to the specifications of the wearer. For example the male waistcoat is put together by hand in bright blue, red, or black fine wool. The front is then intricately embroidered with colourful silk threads, often by a female relative. The motifs are often local Faroese flowers or herbs. After this, a row of Faroese made solid silver buttons are sewn on the outfit.

Women wear embroidered silk, cotton, or wool shawls and pinafores that can take months to weave or embroider with local flora and fauna. They are also adorned with a handwoven black and red ankle-length skirt, knitted black and red jumper, a velvet belt, and black 18th Century style shoes with silver buckles. The outfit is held together by a row of solid silver buttons, silver chains and spectacular locally made silver brooches and belt buckles, often fashioned with Viking style motifs.

Both men's and women's national dress are extremely costly and can take many years to assemble. Women in the family often work together to assemble the outfits, including knitting the close-fitting jumpers, weaving and embroidering, sewing and assembling the national dress.

This tradition binds together families, passes on traditional crafts, and re-enforces the Faroese culture of traditional village living within the context of a modern society.

Public holidays[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Irvine, David Edward Guthrie. 1982. Seaweed of the Faroes 1: The flora. Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (Bot.) 10(3): 109–131.
  • Miller, James. The North Atlantic Front: Orkney, Shetland, Faroe and Iceland at War (2004)
  • Tittley, I., Farnham, W.F. and Gray, P.W.G. 1982. Seaweeds of the Faroes 2: Sheltered fjords and sounds. Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (Bot.) 10: 133–151.
  • Alexander Wachter: Färöer selbst entdecken. Edition Elch, Offenbach am Main 2002. ISBN 3-85862-155-2. (German Travel Guide Book about the islands.)

External links[edit]

Government
Tourism
Other
  • Faroe Foraminifera, an image gallery (with descriptions) of 56 specimens of deep sea fauna from the Faroe shelf and Faroe-Shetland Channel.