Day 10 |
Jun 08, 2012

Torshavn, Faroe Islands 

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 62° 00 ’ N – 06° 45’ W
Weather: overcast
Air temperature: 8° C
Wind: 35 km per hour
Pressure: 1007 hPa
Humidity: 80%

Having made good time overnight from the Shetland Islands we approached the Faroe Islands just after breakfast – a few hours ahead of schedule. After coming alongside in this small but busy port, the gangway was lowered, and once customs clearance was complete, everyone had the opportunity to walk into town and explore this new country at leisure.

Torshavn is the capital and also the largest town of the Faroe Islands – a self-governing dependency under the sovereignty of Denmark. The name Torshavn means Thor’s Harbour after the Norse god of thunder, or possibly after the first settler whose name was Thor – nobody is quite sure.

It was a small but colorful town with many turf or grass-roofed old houses that were quite charming to see. Red buildings, blue as well as yellow very typical of Scandinavia added color and flavor to the place, especially in contrast to the solid grey uniform buildings of yesterday in Lerwick. Small winding streets led around town, and having a bit of free time most of the naturalists ran straight to the Natural History Museum to have a look at various displays, including one of 2 stuffed Great Auks – an extinct species not unlike the penguins of the southern hemisphere and the largest of all the auk family.

Most people wandered through the streets, did some souvenir shopping and looked around, contemplated eating strange dishes in local restaurants, and most returned to the ship for lunch once the rain started spitting as us thinly and horizontally. It was cold and windy and grey, but the distance from the town back to the ship was very short.

In the afternoon those interested in the local tour climbed into buses and headed off to see the local sights of interest. The first stop was the village of Kirkjubour which included the residence of the Bishop of the Faroes, Saint Magnus Cathedral with Norwegian-Gothic style architecture, and the decaying wall of Saint Brendan’s chapel which was built in the mid-10th century. The lovely old farmhouse was beautiful on this lonely and windswept shore and the turf roofs everywhere and sheep grazing all around gave a rustic atmosphere. A cold, cold wind was blowing.

Another stop was the historical museum of Hoyvik. Here were displays of maritime, farming and religious artifacts dating back to the Viking era. Most impressive were the wooden boats as well as the wood carvings saved from the church at Kirkjubour before it was ruined.

Last on the tour was a stop at Fort Skansin, built in 1580 as a defense against pirates. It was also used in World War II as headquarters of the British Royal Navy Command and gave an excellent view back onto the town as well as our ship below.

As the Silver Explorer was staying alongside until 11pm, people had the chance to go into town in the evening as well to walk the streets, eat at a local restaurant or take in some of the local folk festival going on in town. Shops were open late into the night, and only late in the evening after everyone had enjoyed Torshavn for a full day did we depart and head off to our next day’s destination.