The Faroe Islands are built up of layers of volcanic basalt


Situated in the heart of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic at 62°N and 7°W, the Farce Islands Ile northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway. With a population of only 46,000 inhabitants - besides 3.5 million birds and 80,000 sheep - the Faroes is one of the smallest nations in the world. The archipelago is composed of i 8 rocky islands separated by narrow sounds and cover-ing 1399 sq. km (545.3 sq. miles). The largest island is Streymoy covering 373.5 sq. km in which thè capitai, Tórshavn, is situated.
The Faroe Islands are built up of layers of volcanic basalt, and the average height above sea level for the country is 300 m (982 ft). The highest mountain, Slasttara-tindur, is 882 m (2883 ft) above sea level. The glaciers of the Ice Age have transformed the originai plateau to
an archipelago with high mountains, deep valleys and narrow fiords.

Presumably, the country was discovered in the 8th century and colonized in the 9th century by Vikings from Norway or Norwegian colonies on the British or Irish isles. After a short period as an independent state in thè Chieftain Era, thè Faroes carne under Norwegian rule. They followed Norway, as did the Shetlands, Iceland and Greenland into thè Danish Union in 1380. The Faroes was run as a Norwegian tributary country, but when Norway separated from Denmark after thè peace-treaty in Kiel in 1814, the old Norwegian colonies in thè North Atlantic, remained in thè Danish Union and tho larous de-veloped close administration with Denmark. In 1948 the Faroes got a status as a self-governing unit within the framework of the Danish Commonwealth.


The Faroese parlìament Logtìng, is probably the oldest in Europe. On thè historic tongue Tinganes, which divides thè capitai Tórshavn in two parts, thè L0gting was founded over 1,000 years ago.

In 1816, the Faroese parliament was abolished by order of the King as well as thè position as Head of Government. Subsequently, no Faroese authority was on the islands, which were directly under Danish rule until 1852.

When the parliament was re-established in 1852, it was meant to be a consultative body for the Danish authorities administrating the Faroes. It was in this connection, that the present house of parliament, L0g-tingshùs/0, was built dose to Tórshavn in 1856.

According to the Home Rule constitution adopted in 1948, the Logting gained extensive power, e.g. to pass laws concerning Far­oese affairs and to impose taxes and dues in order to cover the expenses for these affairs.

The Faroese Home Rule is administrated by thè Logting and thè home government, which is appointed by thè Logting. In accordance with Nordic parliamentary practices, thè gov­ernment represents thè politicai parties that flnd common ground and have the majority of votes in Logting. There are o political parties, ranging, as regards economie policies, from left to right, and, as regards internai affairs, from those who favour closer ties to Denmark to those who want complete independence and thè establishment ot a Faroese republic.

Being a self-governing region of Ilio Klngdom of Denmark, thè Faroes are represented in the Danishi Parliament, Folke-tinget by two representatives and Iti» luroose inhabitants have to learn Danish in school. Danish loaislaturo has to be introduced to thè Faroese authorilius beforo the laws come into effect in thè Faroes. A "Rigsombudsmand" ropresents the Danish state in the Faroes. The Faroes are not a member of thè European Union, and ali trade is governed by special treaties.


With a population density of 32 per sq. km, thè Faroes is thè most densoly populated country in Scandinavia next to Den-mark. In thè last 200 years, there has been a 10-fold increase in thè population, which peaked in 1989 with about 48,000 inhabitants.

The serious economie downturn hitting thè islands in thè early nineties reversed thè developrnents and thè population de-clined rapidly. As a result of thè improved economie situation thè last couple of years, an increase in population has been noted on thè islands. The latest figures from January 2001 show a population of 46,180. However, it has to be noted that each year, a significant number of young Faroese people leave the country in order to get an higher education.

The settlements in thè Faroes are characterised by a large number of densely built-up areas of various siz-es. About 100 villages and towns are scattered around thè islands, thè largest being thè capitai Tórshavn with 18,000 inhabitants (incl. suburbs). The second largest town is Klaksvik with approx. 5,000 inhabitants.

About half of thè population lives in smaller rural villages To a rural home belongs a small patch of land and a boat. The land gives mutton and potatoes, and thè ocean provides thè family with flsh, whale meat and sea birds.

But these are only secondary means of earning one's livelihood. The relatively high standard of living requires a stable occupation and modern society offers a labour market with almost tuli employment. Naturally, most jobs are to be found within the fishing industry.


The weather is maritime and quite changeable, humid and stormy from moments of brilliant sun-shine to misty hill fog and showers. The average temperature ranges from 3° Celsius in thè winter to 11° C in thè summer. In sheltered areas, thè tempe­rature con be much higher, but thè air is always fresh and clean no matter what thè season. During thè summer thè Faroes have 19'/2 hours of daylight whereas thè shortest day in midwinter has only 5 hours of daylight. Although thè winter is mild, and thè temperature rarely falls below minus 5° C, heavy snowfalls do occur and thè snow stays for weeks.

It is hard to imagine a piace in thè inhabitable world where daily lite is influenced by thè weather conditions to such an extent as in thè Faroes. To every decision or pian thè Faroese make, they have to add a cautious: "allowing for weather". The weather can best be characterized as enormously changeable. During thè course of one day you can experi-ence snow, sunshine and rain, wind and cairn weather, thick fog and such atmospheric clarity that mountains in thè distance of 50 km seems to be right in front of you. A storm that ranges for a week paralyses fishing activities; fishermen must go nome and soon womon working in filleting plants also must join them in waiting.

The clouds frequently hang low, sometimes, especially during summer, so low that they roll along thè ground, obscuring everything. Ali traffic at thè only airport in thè Faroes, Vagar, comes to a standstill and surly passengers often have to wait for days for clear conditions. Sometimes thè sun shines for weeks and dries up thè rivers and brooks, but thè weather is seldom completely cairn.The wind is constantly blowing from one direction or thè other; fresh sea breeze is always felt in the Faroes.

Vegetation and Animal Life

The vegetation is sparse, and characterised by the position — and clìmate in thè islands. There are no forests, but lots of grass. Only 6% of thè land is cultivated, thè remainder serves as pasture for thè 80,000 sheep as well as thè cattle and horses. Besides this, thè animai life is sparse, but thè Faroes have an exceptionally rich bird life, both seabirds and inland birds thrive well in thè islands, especially during thè summer.

Birds add life and colour to thè land in thè summer. Sea birds nest in thè cliffs, particularly on thè western and northerly coasts, and on needies and islets. Some of thè largest puffin-colonies in Northern Europe are to be found here, and there are millions of guillemots, kitti-wakes, razorbills and petrels. Another valuable source of food is thè gannet.

In the winter most birds migrate and thè joyous sounds in thè air disappear. March 12th is celebrated as a festival with gatherings and brass music in honour of thè national bird, thè Tjaldur (oyster catcher). When its richly coloured plu-mage is seen and its shrill voice heard - spring is on its way. The oyster catcher, however, also symbolizes the Faroese instinct of self-preservation and belief in economie and cultural progress.

The Sea

The sea around the Faroes is characteris-ed by the collision of cold arctic currents with Iho warm Gulf Stream. This means thal seu temperatures are subject only to minor fluctuations during the year vary-ing belween 5° and 10° Celsius. This creates an especially nutrient-rich environ-menl (or thè fishing stocks and the many birds that breed here.

Although, thè surface temperatures in tho waters around Faroes show relatively small annual and inter annual variations, thè actual flow and relative strength in each current System may vary quite sign-iflcantly. These variations might impact the ecosystem as well as thè conditions of life in the Faroes in a number of ways.


The fishing industry has been of cruciai import-ance for the Faroes since the beginning of 1800 when offshore fishing in sloops increased drastical-ly. Before that, the fishing was restricted to inshore fishing for locai consumption.

At first, dried cod and salted fish accounted for the majority of the Faroese fish exports whereas later - in the óOties and further on - frozen fillets of fish played a prominent part. The past years, the export of fresh fish

The Underground

For more than two centuries coal has been extracted from the Faroese und­erground. The coal is between the low-est and the middle of thè three basalt layers. The only piace in which the coal sediments were large enough was on Suóuroy. In thè 1950ties thè Faroese coal production represented approx. 75 % of the total fuel consumption, corresponding to an annual production of 18,000 fon. Around 1980, thè production had decreas-ed to 1.000 tons a year and today the pro­duction is only 300 tons a year.

In 1980-81 geological drillings were mode in Lopra on Suóuroy, where deposits of hydrocarbon, not descend-ing from the coal layers, were found. The drillings were so interesting that in 1996 it was decided to continue the experiment in order to unveil whether sediments of oil and naturai gas could be found under thè basalt layers. In 1995 the first seismic explorations of thè sub­marine basalt were carried out. The results of the ex­plorations so far have been so promising that oil re-serves are most likely to be found in thè Faroese subsoil.

The negotiations about the maritime boundary between thè Faroes and thè United Kingdom ended in May 1999 with thè Faroes getting a territory of 41 sq. km. The matter was on the agenda for nearly 21 years.

In January 2000, the first petroleum-licensing round was launched and international oil companies were invited to apply for licenses for exploration and production of hydro-carbons on thè Faroese Continental shelf.
The oil companies are especially interested in thè area dose to the maritime boundary between Shetland and the Faroes.

According to the Minister of Petroleum, Eyòun Bitter, it may take several years before we know whether thè Faroes will become a future oil province.


Despite the geography and topography of the Faroes com-plicating the traffic and communication, the infrastructure in the islands is extremely well-developed.

The total road network, incl. tunnels, in the Faroes is approx. 456 km and consists mainly of asphalted two-lane roads. A high-level bridge connects the largest two islands, and a dam connects two of the small islands. The road network is developed and modernised throughout the country in which you find a total of more than 15,000 motor vehicles.

The transport of freight and passengers between the islands is operated by the public-owned Strandfaraskip Landsins serving 11 routes by means of 8-10 ferries. The passenger and freight traffic to and from the Faroes is operated by private Danish, Icelandic and Faroese shipping companies. The air-line company Atlantic Airways operates a helicopter service to the most isolated islands and villages. 12 helipads have been constructed for this purpose.

The inter-town bus System operates daily to most areas. Harbours for traffic and fishing industry have been built or en-larged, and the ferry service has been extended with frequent connections be-tween ali the islands.

The remote position of the islands has been of great importance to the continued existence of old traditions and culture in today's modern society.

Despite the low number of inhabitants, the Faroese society has produced an astonishing number of artists. The pictorial art plays a prominent part in today's art; about a dozen painters and sculptors live exclu-sively by the income of their art. The Faroese language is frequently enriched by collections of poems, novels, short stories and plays.

The theatre is characterised by a long tradition of amateur dramatics. Originai Faroese plays and translat-ed plays are being performed in ali the many amateur theatres around the islands and also in the professional experimenting theatre in Tórshavn.

Orchestras and choirs thrive very well throughout the country. The summer arrangements include e.g. the Faroese Cultural Nights in Eysturoy where you can experience a combination of Faroese music, theatre, literature and chain-dance. "Summer Tones" is a li musical festival with concerts around thè islands of II classical and modern music.

One of the greatest events is the 'Art held in August, with a two-week-pro gramme filled with Faroese, Scandinavian and also internationally well-known groups and individualists.

National holidays

On 28th and 29th July, the Faroese celebrate their national festival, Ólavs0ka - St Olav's Day. This day is celebrated in commemoration of the Norwegian king Olav the Holy who died on 29th July 1030 in the battle at Stiklestad. Nowadays, the two-day festival is character-ised by the national identity and culture of the Faroes.

On thè 29th, Saint Olav's Day itself, there is a ceremonial procession from thè parliament building in the centre of the town to the church service in the Cathedral. The members of parliament, the government, the clergy and ali the leading civil servants take part. After the church service they go back to the parliament building, where a choir sings outside. They then enter thè parliament building and the Faroese prime minister delivers his opening speech. A new politicai and parliamentary year commences.

During these days the streets of Tórshavn are filled with mingling crowds of elegantly dressed people from the entire country in order to join the festivities of various cultural kinds. The tightly packed programme in-cludes among other things various expositions, sporting events, theatri-cal performances, traditional and modern dancing and singing.
At Ólavs0ka, graduation ceremonìes and other festivities, you can admire proud men and women in the elegant national costumes. S: Fortunately, women's aprons and shawls as well as the distinctive

The faroese chain-dance

The outstanding cultural heritage of the Faroes is thè so-called Faroese chain-dance and the enormous repertoire of poems and "kvceói" (epic poetry), which accompanies the dance. In this remote corner of Europe you can experience an authentic piece of the Middle Age.

All participants join hands and form a closed chain, which, if the participants are numerous, wriggles, twists and turns in labyrinthine movements. Everyone joins in evoking the heroic atmosphere of the "kvcedi" - accompanied by the unifying rhythm of the dance steps.
A leader Pegins the verses and sets the pace of the dance; others join in and sing the ever-recurring refrain. Most "kvceói" are of ancient origin, as is the chain-dance itself. Puf "kvceói" nave been composed in the traditional style until quite recently.

The melodìes represent by far the oldest form of folk music existing in Northern Europe today. Traditional Faroese folk music is exclusively vocal; it does not know the use of instruments.
The Faroese language belongs to the Nordic language group. It is closely related to Icelandic and certain Norwegian dialects, but has developed its own characteristics. Through the centuries it has unifled the small nation. A rich epic-lyrical and narrative tradition, in combination with the isolation of the small villages, has been the decisive factor for the preservation of the language.
Most Faroese understand Nordic languages without any difficulties, and English is also widely spoken, especially among the younger generation.


The Faroese are keenly interested in sports. Various forms of bali games are popular, as ìs horse-back riding. The national sport is rowing, which of course has to be done in genuine Faroese boats. On the National Festival, Ólavs0ka, the flnals in the summer's rowing-competition are held.

Football also holds a special piace in thè hearts of most Faroese; especially since the national football team has entered interndtional competitions. The national football team has reached reasonable results in several qualifying rounds for both the European Championship and thè World Cup.

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