© Images and text by Carsten Egevang
Fulmar egg harvest at
Sandoy – Sand Island – draws its name from its sandy beaches. This is an uncommon sight in the Faroe Islands where most of the shores are made up of rocks. Most of the island is low-lying but the western side is steep and that is where the bird cliffs are found. The largest town at Sandoy is Sandur with approximately 600 inhabitants. Like most other places in the Faroes local traditions like whale hunting and seabird harvesting are kept alive and considered an important cultural heritage.
Lónin - a 300 m vertical climb
Once a year, the local men from Sandoy gather at Lonin to harvest eggs from the Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. Lónin is an approximately 400 meter high sea-facing cliff, and the place is special for several reasons. The cliff is the highest point in the Faroe Islands where seabird harvest takes place. Secondly, where the rope for the climber elsewhere in the Faroe Islands is operated manually, a mechanical winch is used at Lónin.
With a starting point at app. 400 meters above sea level Lónin is the highest descend on the Faroe Islands where seabird eggs are harvested. A short pole with a small net at the end is used to reach the eggs from the Fulmar nests.
A CHANGE IN HARVEST
Lonin was originally used for Puffin hunting with Fulmar eggs of minor importance. Today the Puffin hunt has stopped and Fulmars has gained importance. The total harvest from a full day’s work is between 350 and 400 eggs.
Operating the winch
The winch consists of an old diesel engine and drums from the trawl fishery. This was established at Lonin around the turn of the 21st century to facilitate the hard work of pulling people up and lowering them down the cliff face. Originally, the setup at Lonin was intended to catch Puffins, but the population in the Faroe Islands is in serious decline. In present times this traditional form of hunting is no longer.
The Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis is a long-lived seabird that resembles a gull but is really a close relative to the albatrosses. The Fulmar is a relatively new bird species in the Faroe Islands and started breeding sometime in the mid-1800’s. The Northern Fulmar starts breeding at between six and twelve years old. It is monogamous, and forms long term pair bonds. It returns to the same nest site year after year. Where most seabirds is specialists targeting a narrow range of prey species is the fulmar more omnivorous. It will prey on most items found in the surface of the ocean and often follow fishing ships for offal.
AT THE EDGE
It takes a considerable amount of courage to stand at the edge of a 300-m vertical fall and lean backwards.
After the descent, the climber reaches a level place called “The Horse”. Here he releases himself from the safety of the rope and starts searching for Fulmar nests in the lush grass.
Traditional harvest in new form
The Fulmar egg harvest at Lonin is an excellent example of how seabird harvest is conducted today. The tradition of harvesting seabirds is several centuries old in the Faroe Islands. Although things have changed and modern technology has been introduced, the fundamentals of the harvest are still the same.
The photo reportage “Fulmar egg harvest at Sandoy” is part of the project Seabird Harvest in the North Atlantic. Images included in the reportage are the result of a visit in May 2014 by Carsten Egevang and Bergur Olsen to Lonin. A warm “takk” goes to Atli Jensen and the rest of the hospitable people of Sandoy.