The Faeroe Islands—Uniquely Connected
THE Faeroe Islands, a tiny cluster of 18 islands in the restless waters of the North Atlantic, are populated by a people with their own language—Faeroese. On these breathtakingly beautiful islands, steep, rugged mountains drop dramatically toward the sea. Near the sea, houses in the villages are painted in many colors. In summer the grass-covered hilltops shine with a greenness beyond compare.
Although the islands’ 48,000 inhabitants function as a community, doing so has not always been easy. Rowboats were formerly used to carry people and commodities from island to island. Travel between villages was by foot over steep mountains and through deep ravines. Building a house when all the materials had to arrive by rowboat was a formidable task. Before construction could begin, the materials had to be carried to the site from a small natural harbor on the coast.
The Early Population
The earliest available accounts about the Faeroe Islands were written by an Irish monk about 825 C.E. He relates that there had been solitary Irish monks on the islands over a hundred years before him. However, a settlement on the islands reportedly began in the early ninth century with the arrival of Grímur Kamban from Norway.
Although the early population earned their living by fishing, these settlers also took up sheep farming. In Faeroese the name Føroyar (Faeroe Islands) means “Sheep Islands,” and sheep farming has remained important. Wool has served as protection against the wind, rain, and cold. In fact, it used to be said that ‘wool is the gold of the Faeroes.’
Even today, more sheep than people live on the islands. Sheep are slaughtered in the traditional way, with the meat being hung up to dry in sheds where the wind can freely pass through the walls. This brings a particularly desirable flavor to the meat, making it a great delicacy.
As might be expected with a small, isolated population, the Faeroese feel strongly united by the kind of bonds that form among people who depend on one another for survival. And today that feeling has remained, as modern methods of travel and communication have made contact with fellow islanders easier.
Connected by Tunnels
The first tunnel in the Faeroes opened in 1963. It was cut through a mountain on the southernmost island, Suðuroy, where it connects two villages. The tunneling, which involved extensive digging, drilling, and dynamiting, was done simultaneously from both sides of the mountain.
A tunnel constructed more recently takes traffic some 500 feet [150 m] below the sea and connects two of the larger islands. To excavate it, a 17-foot-long [5 m] drill was used to bore into the rock mass. Then dynamite was placed at the end of the hole and ignited. After the explosion, rocks and boulders were removed, thus clearing a 17-foot-long [5 m] section of the tunnel. This procedure was repeated until the tunnel reached a length of about 3.8 miles [6 km]. It was opened for traffic on April 29, 2006.
The Faeroe Islands now have 18 tunnels, two of which are below the sea and connect islands. No other nation in the world has more miles of tunnels in proportion to its number of inhabitants. Yet, new tunnels are on the drawing board. Parliament has decided to build two more between major islands. One of them, expected to be finished in 2012, will be 7.4 miles [11.9 km] long, making it one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world.
Another Unique Bond
The Faeroe Islands have one group of people united by a bond of a different kind—the strong spiritual bond that exists among Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first Witnesses to visit the islands—two devoted women who arrived from Denmark in 1935—spent the summer walking from house to house carrying the Bible’s message about God’s Kingdom. In time, some islanders embraced the encouraging message and joined in preaching it.—Matthew 24:14.
Today, there are about a hundred Witnesses who gather for their meetings in four Kingdom Halls on the islands. They zealously carry out their ministry, assisted in their work by the fine roads and tunnels that form physical connections between these fascinating islands in the restless North Atlantic.
[Picture on page 17]
This tunnel takes traffic some 500 feet below the sea and connects two of the larger islands