© Images and text by Carsten Egevang

Fulmar egg harvest at

SANDOY

SANDOY 

 

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. 

The church at Sandoy

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.

Egg harvest at Lonin, Faroe Islands.
Seabird harvest

LONG CLIMB

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.  

Seabird harvest, Faroe Islands

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. 

Faroe Island seabird harvest.
seabird hunting, Faroe Islands.
bird harvest in Faroe Islands

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.

Fumar

The Fulmar

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.

bird hunting Faore Islands.
egg harvesting, Faroe Islands
Valuable harvest.
Fulmar egg harvest, Sandey, Faroe Islands
Long walk between Great Skuas
Crucial knot
Accidental catch
Fulmar egg harvest, Sandey, Faroe Islands
Fulmar egg harvest, Sandey, Faroe Islands

AT THE EDGE

It takes a considerable amount of courage to stand at the edge of a 300-m vertical fall and lean backwards. 

"THE HORSE"

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. 

 

Fulmar egge harvest, Lonin, Sandoy; Faore Islands.
Egg harvest, Lonin, Sandoy, Faroe Islands

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.

      

The project Seabird Harvest in the North Atlantic supported by the Arctic Cooperation Programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers and NATA (North Atlantic Tourism Association).

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