Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands

Coordinates: 62°00′N 06°47′W / 62°N 6.783°W / 62; -6.783

Faroe Islands
Føroyar (Faroese)
Færøerne (Danish)
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Tú alfagra land mítt
Thou, my most beauteous land
Location of the Faroe Islands in Northern Europe
Location of the Faroe Islands in Northern Europe
(and largest city)
62°00′N 06°47′W / 62°N 6.783°W / 62; -6.783
Official language(s) Faroese, Danish[1]
Ethnic groups  91% Faroese
5.8% Danish
0.7% British
0.4% Icelanders
0.2% Norwegian
0.2% Poles
Demonym Faroese
Government Parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy
 -  Queen Margrethe II
 -  High Commissioner Dan M. Knudsen
 -  Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannesen
Autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark 
 -  Unified with Norway[a] 1035 
 -  Ceded to Denmark[b] 14 January 1814 
 -  Home rule 1 April 1948 
 -  Total 1,399 km2 (180th)
540 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.5
 -  July 2011 estimate 49,267 [2] (206th)
 -  2007 census 48,760 
 -  Density 35/km2 
91/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.642 billion 
 -  Per capita $33,700 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $2.45 billion 
 -  Per capita $50,300 
HDI (2006) 0.943[c] (very high
Currency Faroese króna[d] (DKK)
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
ISO 3166 code FO
Internet TLD .fo
Calling code 298
a. ^ Danish monarchy reached the Faeroes in 1380 with the reign of Olav IV in Norway.

b. ^ The Faeroes, Greenland and Iceland were formally Norwegian possessions until 1814 despite 400 years of Danish monarchy beforehand.
c. ^ Information for Denmark including the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

d. ^ The currency, printed with Faroese motifs, is issued at par with the Danish krone, incorporates the same security features and uses the same sizes and standards as Danish coins and banknotes. Faroese krónur (singular króna) use the Danish ISO 4217 code "DKK".

The Faroe Islands (Faroese: Føroyar, Danish: Færøerne Danish pronunciation: [ˈfæɐ̯øːˀɐnə]) are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland. The total area is approximately 1,400 km² (540 sq mi) with a 2010 population of almost 50,000.

The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing dependency of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948. Over the years, the Faroese have been granted control of some matters. Areas that remain the responsibility of Denmark include military defence, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs.

The Faroe Islands were politically associated with Norway until 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden, which gradually evolved into Danish control of the islands. This association ceased in 1814 when Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden, while Denmark retained control of Norwegian colonies including the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. The Faroe Islands have two representatives on the Nordic Council as members of the Danish delegation.



The early history of the Faroe Islands is not well known, although Gaelic hermits and monks from a Hiberno-Scottish mission are believed[by whom?] to have settled in the 6th century, introducing sheep and goats and the early Irish language.[citation needed] Saint Brendan, an Irish monastic saint, who is supposed to have lived around 484–578, is said to have visited the Faroe Islands on two or three occasions (512–530), naming two of the islands Sheep Island and Paradise Island of Birds.[citation needed]

Later on (c. 850) Norsemen settled the islands, bringing the Old Norse language that has evolved into the modern Faroese language spoken today.

The Faroe Islands as seen by the French navigator Yves de Kerguelen Trémarec in 1767

These settlers are not thought to have come directly from Scandinavia, but rather from Norse communities surrounding the Irish Sea, Northern Isles and Western Isles of Scotland, including the Shetland and Orkney islands, and Norse-Gaels. The old Gaelic name for the Faroe Islands, Na Scigirí, means the Skeggjar and probably refers to the Eyja-Skeggjar (Island-Beards), a nickname given to the island dwellers. The aforementioned theories are speculative and are not supported by archeological evidence. However, the immigration of Norwegian Vikings is well documented.[3] Thus, according to the Faroe Islands Government, the Nordic language and culture are derived from the Norwegians, or Norsemen, who settled in the Faroe Islands.[4]

1904 illustration of Færeyinga Saga, depicting Tróndur í Gøtu

According to Færeyinga Saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled on the islands around the end of the 9th century. Early in the 11th century, Sigmundur Brestirson – whose clan had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands – escaped to Norway. He was sent back to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway. Sigmundur introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, which gradually resulted in Danish control of the islands. The Reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When the union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.

The trade monopoly in the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856, after which the area developed as a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was initially based on a struggle to maintain the Faroese language and was thus culturally oriented, but after 1906 it became politically oriented, with the foundation of political parties of the Faroe Islands.

On 12 April 1940, the Faroes were occupied by British troops. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942–1943 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 home-rule was introduced, with a high degree of local autonomy. In 1973 the Faroe Islands declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union). The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the Republican Party.


Tinganes in Tórshavn, seat of the government

The Faroese government holds executive power in local government affairs. The head of the government is called the Løgmaður (literally 'law person') or prime minister in English. Any other member of the cabinet is called a landsstýrismaður ('national committee man'). Today, elections are held in the municipalities, on a national level for the Løgting ('law assembly'), and for the Danish Folketing. For the Løgting elections there are seven electoral districts, each one comprising a sýsla, while Streymoy is divided into a northern and southern part (Tórshavn region).

The Faroes and Denmark

The Faroe Islands have been under Danish control since 1388. The 1814 Treaty of Kiel terminated the Danish-Norwegian union, and Norway came under the rule of the King of Sweden, while the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland remained Danish possessions. The Løgting was abolished in 1816, and the Faroe Islands were to be governed as an ordinary Danish amt (county), with the Amtmand as its head of government. In 1851 the Løgting was reinstated, but served mainly as an advisory body until 1948.

Queen Margrethe II, the monarch of the Danish Realm, during a visit to Vágur in 2005.

At the end of World War II some of the population favored independence from Denmark, and on 14 September 1946 an independence referendum was held on the question of secession. It was a consultative referendum: the parliament was not bound to follow the people's vote. This was the first time that the Faroese people had been asked whether they favored independence or wanted to continue within the Danish kingdom. The result of the vote was a narrow majority in favor of secession, but the coalition in parliament could not reach agreement on how this outcome should be interpreted and implemented; and because of these irresoluble differences, the coalition fell apart. A parliamentary election was held a few months later, in which the political parties that favored staying in the Danish kingdom increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition. Based on this, they chose to reject secession. Instead, a compromise was made and the Folketing passed a home-rule law that went into effect in 1948. The Faroe Islands' status as a Danish amt was thereby brought to an end; the Faroe Islands were given a high degree of self-governance, supported by a substantial financial subsidy from Denmark.

At present the islanders are about evenly split between those favoring independence and those who prefer to continue as a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Within both camps there is a wide range of opinions. Of those who favor independence, some are in favor of an immediate unilateral declaration of independence. Others see it as something to be attained gradually and with the full consent of the Danish government and the Danish nation. In the unionist camp there are also many who foresee and welcome a gradual increase in autonomy even while strong ties with Denmark are maintained.

In 2011, a new draft Faroese constitution is being drawn up. However the draft has been declared by the former Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, as incompatible with Denmark's constitution and if the Faroese political parties wish to continue with it then they must declare independence.[5]

The Faroes and the European Union

As explicitly asserted by both Rome treaties, the Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union. Moreover, a protocol to the treaty of accession of Denmark to the European Communities stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties. Hence, Danish people living in the Faroes are not citizens of the European Union (although other EU nationals living there remain EU citizens). The Faroes are not covered by the Schengen free movement agreement, but there are no border checks when travelling between the Faroes and any Schengen country. (The Faroes have been part of the Nordic Passport Union since 1966, and since 2001 there have been no border checks between the Nordic countries and the rest of the Schengen area as part of the Schengen agreement.)[6]

Regions and municipalities

Relief map of the Faroe Islands

Administratively, the islands are divided into 30 municipalities (kommunur) within which there are 120 or so settlements.

Traditionally, there are also the six sýslur ("regions": Norðoyar, Eysturoy, Streymoy, Vágar, Sandoy and Suðuroy). Although today sýsla technically means "police district", the term is still commonly used to indicate a geographical region. In earlier times, each sýsla had its own ting (assembly), the so-called várting ("spring assembly").


A NASA satellite image of the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands are an island group consisting of 18 major islands about 655 kilometres (407 mi) off the coast of Northern Europe, between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between Iceland and Norway, the closest neighbours being the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. Its coordinates are 62°00′N 06°47′W / 62°N 6.783°W / 62; -6.783.

Its area is 1,399 square kilometres (540 sq. mi), and it has no major lakes or rivers. There are 1,117 kilometres (694 mi) of coastline.[2] The only significant uninhabited island is Lítla Dímun.

The islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks; the coasts are mostly cliffs. The highest point is Slættaratindur, 882 metres (2,894 ft) above sea level.

The Faroe Islands are dominated by tholeiitic basalt lava, which was part of the great Thulean Plateau during the Paleogene period.[7]

The southernmost island of Suðuroy
Sørvágur, on the island of Vágar

Distances to nearest countries and islands

A total eclipse of the sun will be visible from the Faroe Islands on 20 March 2015.[8]


A local fisherman in Klaksvík

Economic troubles caused by a collapse of the Faroese fishing industry in the early 1990s brought high unemployment rates of 10 to 15% in the mid 1990s.[9] Unemployment decreased in the later 1990s, down to about 6% at the end of 1998.[9] By June 2008 unemployment had declined to 1.1%, before rising to 3.4% in early 2009.[9] Nevertheless, the almost total dependence on fishing and fish farming means that the economy remains vulnerable. Petroleum found close to the Faroese area gives hope for deposits in the immediate area, which may provide a basis for sustained economic prosperity.[10]

11.7% of Faroe Islands' national budget comes as economic aid from Denmark, which is about the same as 18% of Faroe Islands' total expense budget.[11]

Since 2000, new information technology and business projects have been fostered in the Faroe Islands to attract new investment. The introduction of Burger King in Tórshavn was widely publicized and a sign of the globalization of Faroese culture. It is not yet known whether these projects will succeed in broadening the islands' economic base. The islands have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, but this should not necessarily be taken as a sign of a recovering economy, as many young students move to Denmark and other countries after leaving high school. This leaves a largely middle-aged and elderly population that may lack the skills and knowledge to fill newly developed positions on the Faroes. In 2008 the Faroes made a $52 million loan to Iceland, in light of that country's banking woes.[12]

On 5 August 2009, two opposition parties introduced a bill in the Løgting to adopt the Euro as the national currency, pending a referendum.[13]


The road network on the Faroe Islands is excellent. Shown is the road from Skipanes to Syðrugøta on the island Eysturoy.
The new ferry MS Smyril enters the Faroe Islands at Krambatangi ferry port in Suðuroy in 2005.

Vágar Airport has scheduled services from Vágar Island. The largest Faroese airline is Atlantic Airways.

Due to the rocky terrain and relatively small size of the Faroe Islands, its transportation system was not as extensive as in other places of the world. This situation has now changed, and the infrastructure has been developed extensively. Some 80% of the population of the islands is connected by tunnels through the mountains and between the islands, bridges and causeways that link the three largest islands and three other large islands to the northeast together, while the other two large islands to the south of the main area are connected to the main area with new fast ferries. There are good roads to every village in the islands, except for seven of the smaller islands, six of which only have one village.


Faroese folk dancers in national costumes

The vast majority of the population are ethnic Faroese, of Norse and Gaelic descent.[14]

Recent DNA analyses have revealed that Y chromosomes, tracing male descent, are 87% Scandinavian.[15] The studies show that mitochondrial DNA, tracing female descent, is 84% Scottish/Irish.[16]

Of the approximately 48,500 inhabitants of the Faroe Islands (16,921 private households (2004)), 98% are citizens of the Kingdom of Denmark, including Faroese, Danish and Greenlandic people. Proportion of the inhabitants by birthplace: born on the Faroes 91.7%; born in Denmark 5.8%; born in Greenland 0.3%. The largest group of foreigners is Icelanders, comprising 0.4% of the population, followed by Norwegians and Polish, each comprising 0.2%. Altogether, on the Faroe Islands there are people of 77 different nationalities.

Faroese is spoken in the entire area as a first language. It is difficult to say exactly how many people worldwide speak the Faroese language, as many ethnic Faroese live in Denmark, and few who are born there return to the Faroes with their parents or as adults.

The Faroese language is one of the least-spoken of the Germanic languages. Faroese grammar and vocabulary are most similar to Icelandic and to the extinct language Old Norse. In contrast, spoken Faroese is very different from Icelandic and is closer to Norwegian dialects of the west coast of Norway. While Faroese is the main language in the islands, both Faroese and Danish are official languages.[1]

Faroese language policy provides for the active creation of new terms in Faroese suitable for modern life.

Population trends (1327–2004)

Faroese stamp by Anker Eli Petersen commemorating the arrival of Christianity in the islands

If the first inhabitants of the Faroe Islands were Irish monks, then they must have lived as a very small group of settlers. Later, when the Vikings colonised the islands, there was a considerable increase in the population. However, it never exceeded 5,000 until the 18th century. Around 1349, about half the population perished in the Black Death plague.

Only with the rise of the deep-sea fishery (and thus independence from agriculture in the islands' harsh terrain) and with general progress in the health service was rapid population growth possible in the Faroes. Beginning in the 18th century, the population increased tenfold in 200 years.

At the beginning of the 1990s the Faroe Islands entered a deep economic crisis leading to heavy emigration; however, this trend reversed in subsequent years to a net immigration.

Year Inhabitants
1327 ca. 4,000
1350 ca. 2,000
1769 4,773
1801 5,255
1834 6,928
1840 7,314
1845 7,782
1850 8,137
1855 8,651
1880 11,220
1900 15,230
1911 ca. 18,800
1925 22,835
1950 31,781
Year Inhabitants
1970 ca. 38,000
1975 40,441
1985 45,749
1989 47,787
1995 43,358
1996 43,784
1997 44,262
1998 44,817
1999 45,409
2000 46,196
2001 46,996
2002 47,704
2003 48,214
2004 48,353

Urbanisation and regionalisation

The Faroese population is spread across most of the area; it was not until recent decades that significant urbanisation occurred. Industrialisation has been remarkably decentralised, and the area has therefore maintained quite a viable rural culture. Nevertheless, villages with poor harbour facilities have been the losers in the development from agriculture to fishing, and in the most peripheral agricultural areas, also known as the outer islands, there are few young people. In recent decades, the village-based social structure has nevertheless been placed under pressure, giving way to a rise in interconnected "centres" that are better able to provide goods and services than the badly connected periphery. This means that shops and services are now relocating en masse from the villages into the centres, and slowly but steadily the Faroese population is concentrating in and around the centres.

In the 1990s the old national policy of developing the villages (Bygdamenning) was abandoned, and instead the government started a process of regional development (Økismenning). The term "region" referred to the large islands of the Faroes. Nevertheless the government was unable to press through the structural reform of merging the small rural municipalities in order to create sustainable, decentralised entities that could drive forward regional development. As regional development has been difficult on the administrative level, the government has instead made heavy investment in infrastructure, interconnecting the regions.

In general, it is becoming less valid to regard the Faroes as a society based on separate islands and regions. The huge investments in roads, bridges and sub-sea tunnels (see also Transportation in the Faroe Islands) have bound the islands together, creating a coherent economic and cultural sphere that covers almost 90% of the population. From this perspective it is reasonable to regard the Faroes as a dispersed city or even to refer to it as the Faroese Network City.[citation needed]

A stamp commemorating V. U. Hammershaimb, a 19th century Faroese linguist and theologian


According to Færeyinga Saga, Sigmundur Brestisson brought Christianity to the islands in 999. However, archaeology at a site in Leirvík suggests that Celtic Christianity may have arrived at least 150 years earlier.[citation needed] The Faroe Islands' Church Reformation was completed on 1 January 1540. According to official statistics from 2002, 84.1% of the Faroese population are members of the state church, the Faroese People's Church (Fólkakirkjan), a form of Lutheranism. The Fólkakirkjan became an independent church in 2007; previously it had been a diocese within the Church of Denmark. Faroese members of the clergy who have had historical importance include V. U. Hammershaimb (1819–1909), Frederik Petersen (1853–1917) and, perhaps most significantly, Jákup Dahl (1878–1944), who had a great influence in ensuring that the Faroese language was spoken in the church instead of Danish.

In the late 1820s, the Christian Evangelical religious movement, the Plymouth Brethren, was established in England. In 1865 a member of this movement, William Gibson Sloan, travelled to the Faroes from Shetland. At the turn of the 20th century, the Faroese Plymouth Brethren numbered thirty. Today, approximately 10% of the Faroese population are members of the Open Brethren community (Brøðrasamkoman). About 5% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the charismatic movement, which started in the 1970s–1980s in the Faroe Islands. There are several charismatic churches around the islands, the largest of which, called Keldan (Spring Water), has about 400 to 450 members. The Adventists operate a private school in Tórshavn. Jehovah's Witnesses also number four congregations (approximately 80 to 100 members). The Roman Catholic congregation comprises approximately 170 members. The municipality of Tórshavn operates their old Franciscan school. There are also around fifteen Bahá'ís who meet at four different places. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was established in the Faroe Islands in 2010. Unlike Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland with Forn Siðr, the Faroes have no organised Ásatrú community, but there is a fair share of pagan lore, song and ritual performed in individuals' houses or in public spaces, rather than in church buildings.

The best-known church buildings in the Faroe Islands include Tórshavn Cathedral, St. Olaf's Church and the Magnus Cathedral in Kirkjubøur; the Vesturkirkjan and the Maria Church, both of which are situated in Tórshavn; the church of Fámjin; the octagonal church in Haldarsvík; Christianskirkjan in Klaksvík and also the two pictured here.

In 1948, Victor Danielsen (Plymouth Brethren) completed the first Bible translation into Faroese from different modern languages. Jacob Dahl and Kristian Osvald Viderø (Fólkakirkjan) completed the second translation in 1961. The latter was translated from the original Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) into Faroese.


Culture of the Faroe Islands has its roots in the Nordic culture. The Faroe Islands were long isolated from the main cultural phases and movements that swept across parts of Europe. This means that they have maintained a great part of their traditional culture. The language spoken is Faroese and it is one of three insular Scandinavian languages descended from the Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavia in the Viking Age, the others being Icelandic and the extinct Norn, which is thought to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation in 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents. Although a rich spoken tradition survived, for 300 years the language was not written down. This means that all poems and stories were handed down orally. These works were split into the following divisions: sagnir (historical), ævintýr (stories) and kvæði (ballads), often set to music and the mediaeval chain dance). These were eventually written down in the 19th century.


The annual ólavsøka parade on 28 July

The national holiday, Ólavsøka, is on 29 July, and commemorates the death of Saint Olaf. The celebrations are held in Tórshavn. They start on the evening of the 28th and continue until 31 July.

The official celebration starts on the 29th, with the opening of the Faroese Parliament, a custom that dates back 900 years.[17] This begins with a service held in Tórshavn Cathedral; all members of parliament as well as civil and church officials walk to the cathedral in a procession. All of the parish ministers take turns giving the sermon. After the service, the procession returns to the parliament for the opening ceremony.

Other celebrations are marked by different kinds of sports competitions, the rowing competition (in Tórshavn Harbour) being the most popular, art exhibitions, pop concerts, and the famous Faroese dance. The celebrations have many facets, and only a few are mentioned here.

People also mark the occasion by wearing the national Faroese dress.

The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands

The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands (in Faroese Norðurlandahúsið) is the most important cultural institution in the Faroes. Its aim is to support and promote Scandinavian and Faroese culture, locally and in the Nordic region. Erlendur Patursson (1913–1986), Faroese member of the Nordic Council, raised the idea of a Nordic cultural house in the Faroe Islands. A Nordic competition for architects was held in 1977, in which 158 architects participated. Winners were Ola Steen from Norway and Kolbrún Ragnarsdóttir from Iceland. By staying true to folklore, the architects built the Nordic House to resemble an enchanted hill of elves. The house opened in Tórshavn in 1983. The Nordic House is a cultural organization under the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Nordic House is run by a steering committee of eight, of whom three are Faroese and five from other Nordic countries. There is also a local advisory body of fifteen members, representing Faroese cultural organizations. The House is managed by a director appointed by the steering committee for a four-year term.


Although Danish-born, Kristian Blak is one of the most influential people in the Faroese music scene.

The Faroe Islands have an active music scene. The islands have their own symphony orchestra, the classical ensemble Aldubáran and many different choirs; the best-known being Havnarkórið. The best-known Faroese composers are Sunleif Rasmussen and the Dane Kristian Blak. Blak is also head of the record company Tutl.

The first Faroese opera was by Sunleif Rasmussen. It is entitled Í Óðamansgarði (The Madman´s Garden), and it had its premiere on 12 October 2006, at the Nordic House. The opera is based on a short story by the writer William Heinesen.

Young Faroese musicians who have gained much popularity recently are Eivør (Eivør Pálsdóttir), Anna Katrin Egilstrøð, Lena (Lena Andersen), Teitur (Teitur Lassen), Høgni Reistrup, Høgni Lisberg, Heiðrik (Heiðrik á Heygum), Guðrið Hansdóttir and Brandur Enni.

Well-known bands include Týr, Gestir, The Ghost, Boys In A Band, ORKA, 200, Grandma's Basement, Stargazed, SIC, and the former band Clickhaze.

The festival of contemporary and classical music, Summartónar, is held each summer. Large open-air music festivals for popular music with both local and international musicians participating are G! Festival in Gøta in July and Summarfestivalurin in Klaksvík in August.

Traditional food

Traditional Faroese food is mainly based on meat, seafood and potatoes and uses few fresh vegetables. Mutton is the basis of many meals, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjøt, well aged, wind-dried mutton, which is quite chewy. The drying shed, known as a hjallur, is a standard feature in many Faroese homes, particularly in the small towns and villages. Other traditional foods are ræst kjøt (semi-dried mutton) and ræstur fiskur, matured fish. Another Faroese specialty is Grind og spik, pilot whale meat and blubber. (A parallel meat/fat dish made with offal is garnatálg.) Well into the last century, meat and blubber from a pilot whale meant food for a long time. Fresh fish also features strongly in the traditional local diet, as do seabirds, such as Faroese puffins, and their eggs. Dried fish is also commonly eaten.

There is one brewery called Föroya Bjór, which has produced beer since 1888 with exports mainly to Iceland and Denmark. A local specialty is fredrikk, a special brew, made in Nólsoy. Production of hard alcohol such as snaps is forbidden in the Faroe Islands, hence the Faroese aqua vit, Aqua Vita, is produced abroad.

Since the friendly British occupation, the Faroese have been fond of British food, in particular fish and chips and British-style chocolate such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, which is found in many of the island's shops, whereas in Denmark this is scarce.


Dead pilot whales on the beach in the village Hvalba on the southernmost Faroese island Suðuroy, 11 August 2002

There are records of drive hunts in the Islands dating from 1584.[18] It is regulated by Faroese authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission as there are disagreements about the Commission's legal authority to regulate small cetacean hunts. Hundreds of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melaena) are killed annually, mainly during the summer. The hunts, called "grindadráp" in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organized on a community level; anyone can participate. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. Then they drive the whales slowly into a bay or to the shallows of a fjord. When a whale is in shallow water a hook is placed in its blowhole so that it may be dragged ashore. Once on land or immobilized in knee-deep water, a cut is made across its top near the blowhole to partially sever its head. The dead animals are then dragged further to shore after the remaining whales have been likewise killed.[19]

Some Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture and history. Animal-rights groups criticize it as being cruel and unnecessary, while the hunters claim in return that most journalists do not exhibit sufficient knowledge of the catch methods or its economic significance.[20][21][22]


The Faroe Islands compete in the biennial Island Games, which were hosted by the islands in 1989. Ten football teams contest the Faroe Islands Premier League, currently ranked 51st by UEFA's League coefficient. The Faroe Islands are a full member of UEFA and the Faroe Islands national football team competes in the UEFA European Football Championship. The country is also a full member of FIFA and therefore the Faroe Islands football team, managed by Irish manager Brian Kerr, also competes in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The country won its first ever competitive match when the team defeated Austria 1–0 in a UEFA Euro 1992 qualifier. On 7 June 2011, the Faroe Islands secured their first competitive win in the UEFA European Championship qualifying rounds in 16 years, when they beat Estonia 2-0 in Toftir. The Faroe Islands compete in the Paralympics, but have yet to make an appearance in the Olympics, where they compete as part of Denmark.


Lace knitting is a traditional handicraft. The most distinctive trait of Faroese lace shawls is the center back gusset shaping. Each shawl consists of two triangular side panels, a trapezoid-shaped back gusset, an edge treatment, and usually shoulder shaping.

Public holidays

See also: Public holidays in Denmark


The climate is classed as Maritime Subarctic according to the (Köppen climate classification: Cfc). The overall character of the islands' climate is influenced by the strong warming influence of the Atlantic Ocean, which produces the North Atlantic Current. This, together with the remoteness of any source of warm airflows, ensures that winters are mild (mean temperature 3.0 to 4.0 °C or 37 to 39°F) while summers are cool (mean temperature 9.5 to 10.5 °C or 49 to 51°F). The islands are windy, cloudy and cool throughout the year with over 260 annual rainy days. The islands lie in the path of depressions moving northeast and this means that strong winds and heavy rain are possible at all times of the year. Sunny days are rare and overcast days are common. Hurricane Faith struck the Faroe Islands on 5 September 1966 with sustained winds over 100 mph (160 km/h) and only then did the storm cease to be a tropical system.[23]

The registration of meteorologic data on the Faroe Islands started in 1867.[24]


Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) is common in the Faroe Islands in May–June.

The natural vegetation of the Faroe Islands is dominated by Arctic-alpine plants, wildflowers, grasses, moss and lichen. Most of the lowland area is grassland and some is heath, dominated by shrubby heathers, mainly Calluna vulgaris. Among the herbaceous flora that occur in the Faroe Islands is the cosmopolitan Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre.[25]

Faroe is characterised by the lack of trees, resembling Connemara and Dingle in Ireland and the Scottish islands.

A few small plantations consisting of plants collected from similar climates such as Tierra del Fuego in South America and Alaska thrive on the islands.



The bird fauna of the Faroe Islands is dominated by seabirds and birds attracted to open land like heather, probably due to the lack of woodland and other suitable habitats. Many species have developed special Faroese sub-species: Common Eider, European Starling, Winter Wren, Common Guillemot, and Black Guillemot.[26] The Pied Raven was endemic to the Faroe Islands, but has now become extinct.


Only a few species of wild land mammals are found in the Faroe Islands today, all introduced by humans. Three species are thriving on the islands today: Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the House Mouse (Mus domesticus). Apart from the local domestic sheep breed called Faroes (depicted on the coat of arms), a variety of feral sheep survived on Little Dímun until the mid-19th century.[27]

Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) are common around the shorelines.[citation needed] Several species of cetacean live in the waters around the Faroe Islands. Best known are the Long-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melaena), which are still annually hunted by the islanders in accordance with longstanding local tradition.[28] Rare killer whales (Orcinus orca) sometimes visit the Faroese fjords.

Domestic animals

The domestic animals of the Faroe Islands are a result of 1,200 years of isolated breeding. As a result, many of the islands' domestic animals are found nowhere else in the world. Faroese domestic breed include Faroe pony, Faroe cow, Faroese sheep, Faroese Goose and Faroe duck.

Natural history and biology

A collection of Faroese marine algae resulting from a survey sponsored by NATO, the British Museum (Natural History) and the Carlsberg Foundation, is preserved in the Ulster Museum (catalogue numbers: F3195—F3307). It is one of ten exsiccatae sets.

See also


  1. ^ a b Statistical Facts about the Faroe Islands, http://www.tinganes.fo/Default.aspx?ID=219, The Prime Minister's Office, accessed 13 July 2011
  2. ^ a b https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fo.html CIA - The World Factbook, accessed 13 July 2011
  3. ^ [1] Randburg.com website
  4. ^ [2] Website of The Prime Minister's Office
  5. ^ Denmark and Faroe Islands in constitutional clash, IceNews 6 July 2011
  6. ^ Implementation of Schengen convention by the prime minister as approved by the Løgting
  7. ^ Brittle tectonism in relation to the Palaeogene evolution of the Thulean/NE Atlantic domain: a study in Ulster, accessed 10 November 2007
  8. ^ http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEplot/SEplot2001/SE2015Mar20T.GIF
  9. ^ a b c Statistics Faroe Islands; Labour Market and Wages, accessed 4 August 2009
  10. ^ Sherwell, Philip (20 May 2001). "Oil boosts Faroes fight for independence". Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/faroeislands/1331001/Oil-boosts-Faroes-fight-for-independence.html. 
  11. ^ http://www.fmr.fo//Index.asp?pID=1D580A05-61C2-4CA7-8687-989EA0D511E9
  12. ^ Lyall, Sarah (1 November 2008). "Iceland, Mired in Debt, Blames Britain for Woes". New York Times. p. A6. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/world/europe/02iceland.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 1 November 2008. 
  13. ^ [3] Logting.fo
  14. ^ Als, Thomas D.; Jorgensen, Tove H.; Børglum, Anders D.; Petersen, Peter A.; Mors, Ole (2006). "Highly discrepant proportions of female and male Scandinavian and British Isles ancestry within the isolated population of the Faroe Islands". European Journal of Human Genetics 14 (4): 497–504. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201578. PMID 16434998. 
  15. ^ Jorgensen, Tove H.; Buttenschön, Henriette N.; Wang, August G.; Als, Thomas D.; Børglum, Anders D. (2004). "The origin of the isolated population of the Faroe Islands investigated using Y chromosomal markers". Human Genetics 115 (1): 19–28. doi:10.1007/s00439-004-1117-7. 
  16. ^ Wang, C. August. 2006. Ílegur og Føroya Søga. In: Frøði pp. 20-23
  17. ^ Schei, Kjørsvik Liv and Moberg, Gunnie. 1991. The Faroe Islands. ISBN 0-7195-5009-2
  18. ^ Brakes, Philippa (2004). "A background to whaling". In Philippa Brakes, Andrew Butterworth, Mark Simmonds & Philip Lymbery. Troubled Waters: A Review of the Welfare Implications of Modern Whaling Activities. p. 7. ISBN 0-9547065-0-1. http://www.wdcs.org/submissions_bin/troubledwaters.pdf. 
  19. ^ "GrindaDrap: Video of a Whale Hunt". YouTube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXZPmdULIKs. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  20. ^ "Whales and whaling in the Faroe Islands". Faroese Government. Archived from the original on 2009-03-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20090324072829/http://www.whaling.fo/thepilot.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-05. [dead link]
  21. ^ "Why do whales and dolphins strand?". WDCS. Archived from the original on 2007-10-31. http://web.archive.org/web/20071031231236/http://www.wdcs.org/dan/publishing.nsf/allweb/99E632F7502FCC3B802568F20048794C. Retrieved 2006-12-05. [dead link]
  22. ^ Chrismar, Nicole (28 July 2006). "Dolphins Hunted for Sport and Fertilizer". ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=2248161&page=1. Retrieved 21 July 2009. 
  23. ^ GHCN Climate data, Thorshavn series 1881 to 2007
  24. ^ http://rdgs.dk/djg/pdfs/101/1/06.pdf Plant production on a Faeroese farm 1813-1892, related to climatic fluctuations
  25. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2009 Marsh Thistle: Cirsium palustre, GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg
  26. ^ [4] The Faroese Fauna
  27. ^ Ryder, M. L. (1981). "A survey of European primitive breeds of sheep". Ann. Génét. Sél. Anim. 13 (4): 381–418 [p. 400]. http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1297-9686-13-4-381.pdf. 
  28. ^ [5] Earth First website


  • Irvine, D.E.G. 1982. Seaweeds of the Faroes 1: The flora. Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (Bot.) 10: 109 - 131
  • Tittley, I., Farnham, W.F. and Gray, P.W.G. 1982. Seaweeds of the Faroes 2: Sheltered fjords and sounds. Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (Bot.) 10: 133 - 151
  • Irvine, David Edward Guthrie. 1982. Seaweed of the Faroes 1: The flora. Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (Bot.) 10(3): 109 - 131
  • Alexander Wachter: Färöer selbst entdecken. Edition Elch, Offenbach am Main 2002, ISBN 3-85862-155-2 (German Travel Guide Book about the islands)

External links

General information
  • vifanord – a digital library that provides scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as the Baltic region as a whole
  • Faroe Foraminifera – Deep Sea Fauna: Foraminifera of the Faroe shelf and Faroe-Shetland Channel - an image gallery and description of 56 specimens

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