Co-ordinates: 61°39.466 N 004°50.673W
Today we awoke to a rolling sea and overcast skies with a slight drizzle at 13°C temperatures. With the rolling seas overnight, everyone came to breakfast with stories of belongings strewn across their suites/staterooms. However, all slowly filtered into The Restaurant to start the day, having gained their sea legs! After breakfast, guests made their way to The Theatre where Tony was giving his lecture, “What is a Marine Mammal?” In this, he broke down the various species including Cetaceans, Pinnipeds, Bears/Otters and Sirenians. The Cetaceans consisted of Mysticetes (Baleen Whales), Odontoceti (Toothed Whales), Dolphins and Porpoises. Pinnipeds included, Harp Seals, Hooded Seals, Ringed Seals, Gray Seals, Harbor Seals and Walrus, while the Bear/Otter family consisted of the Polar Bear, which we are all very keen to see in the coming days.
As the morning progressed, the drizzle stopped and the seas, to everyone’s delight, began to calm. Several of us spent a few minutes on deck looking for Cetaceans before our briefing with our Expedition Leader, Brad, in The Theatre on tomorrow’s landing at Mykines. He discussed our Zodiac operations and hikes to town and the Puffin colony. As our briefing ended, Tórshavn, our afternoon landing, came through the mist into view. Everyone chattered during lunch in The Restaurant in anticipation of this afternoon’s adventures.
The Faroe Islands themselves are an autonomous state of the Kingdom of Denmark, a status they received in 1948. The islands were first settled in the 6th century by Irish Monks, and later inhabited by Vikings from the settlements in the Shetlands and Orkney. Tórshavn originally was a meeting place for the Vikings. Slowly a market grew, and then they needed buildings for the market. Eventually homes were built and the town began.
After the Prince Albert II had been skillfully docked by our Captain and given clearance, our afternoon excursions began. While some chose to remain onboard for the afternoon, most commenced on either a walking tour of the city or a coach tour that took them to several destinations on the islands.
Upon boarding the coach, all guests were greeted by our local guide, Lynn, who herself has lived in Tórshavn for the past ten years, having moved from the United States. With local knowledge and fluency in the Faroese language, we couldn’t have had a better guide! Our first stop was the National History museum, which was originally built in the 1970s as a storehouse, and converted to the museum in the 1990s. Here, there were exhibits from around the Faroese including sailing, fishing, local life and religion. Of special interest were a group of coins that had been excavated from beneath a church in Sandur Village in 1863. Among this collection there were four coins from Germany that dated back to the year 1060! In the open-air section of the museum, we visited an old homestead that was built in the early 1800s showing us how people would have lived in these times.
After a short hike, we boarded the coach again for a quick trip to Kirkjuboe, which, when translated, means “Church Fields”. Here we visited St. Olaf’s Church, the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral and the Roykstova farmhouse. Roykstova is the world’s oldest inhabited house having been built 700 years ago. Inside, Lynn treated us to stories of the family who still lived there. However, they keep portions of the house open to the public so it can be visited. Back on the coach, we had a quick look at Tórshavn before returning the Prince Albert II.
We were met by the local guide and first shown the lighthouse that overlooks the town and harbour. We then headed across to Tinganes, which originated as the meeting place for the ancient assembly of free men. Known as ‘Ting’, this assembly was held on this rocky spit of land. The buildings in this area were originally built as warehouses for the King’s trade, but now many of these well-preserved traditional buildings with grass roofs are administrative offices of the Faroese Government. The Faeroes, although isolated, lie between Scandinavia and Iceland and Greenland, and was therefore right in the middle of a major trade route within the North Atlantic.
We then visited the nearby Lutheran Cathedral, which has several interesting large-scale ship replicas hanging from the ceiling. One of these replicas is of the Norwegian Lion, a ship that was wrecked in the Faeroes and whilst the sailors were awaiting other ships to take them home, one of them built the replica and gave to the local people as a show of thanks for their aid. We then finished the tour by walking through the more modern centre of town, being given the opportunity to see and purchase Faeroese woolen products, and other local specialties.
Back onboard, we attended a cultural presentation at 1915 in The Theatre. A local group came onboard to perform a traditional dance for us called the “chain dance”. Everyone was in attendance and seemed to enjoy the performance, having given the dancers a resounding cheer and round of applause at its completion!