Location within the Faroe Islands
|State||Kingdom of Denmark|
|Constituent country||Faroe Islands|
|• Total||0.82 km2 (0.32 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||414 m (1,358 ft)|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||EST (UTC+1)|
Lítla Dímun is a small island between the islands of Suðuroy and Stóra Dímun in the Faroe Islands of Denmark. It is the smallest of the main 18 islands, being less than 100 hectares (250 acres) in area, and is the only uninhabited one. The island can be seen from the villages Hvalba and Sandvík.
The southern third of the island is sheer cliff, with the rest rising to the mountain of Slættirnir, which reaches 414 metres (1,358 ft). The island is only inhabited by Faroe sheep and seabirds. Getting ashore is difficult, and can be performed only in perfect weather. The cliffs can be climbed with the aid of ropes placed by the owners of the sheep.
Important Bird Area
The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because of its significance as a breeding site for seabirds, especially European storm petrels (5000 pairs) and Atlantic puffins (10,000 pairs).
The island has never been inhabited by humans, but sheep were kept there from ancient times, being mentioned in the 13th century work Færeyinga saga (Saga of the Faroese). The saga also features the island as the site of a battle between Brestur, father of Sigmundur, and Gøtuskeggjar. The battle resulted in the death of Sigmund's father and his men and the deportation of Sigmund to Norway, where he befriended Olaf Trygvasson.
In 1918 the Danish schooner Caspe, carrying a cargo of salt, was driven onto Lítla Dímun by a gale. The six crew were able to reach a narrow ledge just above the surf, but they had no stores, and the captain was severely injured. Eventually, they managed to move from the ledge, and found a cabin halfway up the island which had matches, fuel and a lamp. They caught two sheep and a sick bird, and were able to survive for seventeen days before being discovered and rescued by a fishing boat. One of the shipwrecked sailors eventually settled in the Faroes.
The sheep now living on the island are Faroes sheep, but until the mid-nineteenth century it was occupied by feral sheep, probably derived from the earliest sheep brought to Northern Europe in the Neolithic Period. The last of these very small, black, short-wooled sheep were shot in the 1860s. They were similar in appearance and origin to the surviving Soay sheep, from the island of Soay in the St Kilda archipelago off the west coast of Scotland. Soay is an island of very similar size and topography to Lítla Dímun, and has similarly difficult access.
The modern Faroes sheep of the island are gathered each autumn. People sail to the island in a fishing boat, towing several rowing skiffs. About 40 people then form a chain across the island, driving the 200 or so sheep into a pen on the north side of the island. The sheep are then caught, restrained by tying their feet together, put in nets five at a time and lowered by ropes to the skiffs. Each skiff then takes its load of 15 sheep to the fishing boat, which returns to the island of Suðuroy. The sheep are unloaded on the wharf in the village of Hvalba, where they are placed in rows and distributed to their owners. A few sheep escape the gathering, and from time to time these are shot.
- Fridtjof Nansen. In Northern Mists. Cambridge University Press. p. 163. ISBN 9781108071703. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Litla Dimun. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2012-02-23.
- Ryder, M L, (1981), "A survey of European primitive breeds of sheep", Ann. Génét. Sél. Anim., 13 (4), p 400.
- Website of Lítla Dímun (aerial photos)
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