15th June 2023 (Day 32): Torshavn and whale hunt

Last day of sightseeing today. We have returned the car rental (the return was just as relaxed as the pickup!) and head the “big city” of Torshavn. It is the capital of the islands with traffic and shops but it remains a very small town by any means.

The walk around the old historic part of town, Tinganes, is very picturesque and enjoyable. Colorful houses with bright green grass roof squeeze atop the rocks overlooking the marina as drying cods adorn their gutters.

Of course, one cannot go to the Faroes and not stop at a wool shops and admire the wide selection of colorful yarn.

We also meet Nikki and John who look after Bruce and Nora's M/Y Ugly Betty. They will also be attempting the North West passage in their beautiful built for purpose Circa Marine yacht. After drooling on their spacious and open view bridge while sipping on a coffee and chatting, we find ourselves super excited – the adventure is feeling so real! It is so energizing to meet like minded people, with the same sense of quest and exploration honed by a foolish soul to venture into the extreme unknown.

As we wait for the bus back  to Midvagur, we hear from a local about the “grind” that happened yesterday. It is a local so called tradition infamously contested by ecological activists where large pods of pilot whales are trapped and sneered to a shallow bay where they are slaughtered before being cut up for meat. I reluctantly accompany Calin who was keen on finding out the locals side of the story behind this seemingly barbaric butchery. We hop off the last bus and walk down to the harbour in Kvivik. From atop, the view leaves us speechless. Over 170 carcasses are lined up, with their flesh removed and their guts hanging on the bloody concrete. It is a heartbreaking and nauseous sight. As we weave a path through the corpses, we notice that they are babies too. Males, females, babies, there is no difference, the entire pod was decimated – like an entire village savagely massacred, annihilating 3 generations in the space of a few hours. 170 here and another 230 in Vestmanna. Two grinds in a row, almost 400 dolphins killed.

Determined to find out more and not let our emotions cloud our judgement, we mingle amongst the friendly locals. To our surprise, they talk very openly about it – once they determined that we weren’t part of “anti-grind” activists such as Sea Shepard or Greenpeace. They tell us how the chasing process start, with a pod spotter and a “foreman”, a policeman that controls the entire procedure and decides where to strand the animals. They describe nonchalantly how they cut the artery at the back of the neck, providing a quick death they say, and turning the sea into a red pool of blood as seen on the media. The killing may be quick but the doing up till the killing would be agonizing for the whales. One by one, they are killed by skilled and certified hunters before being towed from the beach to a more suited harbour. Once there, they are lined up, numbered and distributed to the locals according to priority: first the spotters, then the hunters and killers, then the local families and finally the other villages. Nothing gets sold and the locals calls it free food. Most of them will hang and dry the meat to make biltong-like delicacies eaten with its salted blubber. None of the organs are eaten, except for the heart for few. We watch in horror how much meat is wasted on the carcasses, some have been slayed by clearly incompetent butchers. Some babies are left untouched.
Torn between anger and sadness and the want to infiltrate and understand a centuries old tradition so unique to the Faroes, my mind is at lost. Some of the locals are pretty drunk, it is a big catch and they have been celebrating since yesterday. It is mostly men that cut the meat, the women will look after the processing afterwards. The locals have been so friendly, it is hard to be angry at them. Yet, my stomach is nauseously knotted with the inanely wrong doing of this unnecessary barbaric practice. After all, there is nothing traditional about it, these beautiful black dolphins don’t stand a chance against engine powered boats. Just because you do something for centuries doesn’t justify to carry on under the name of tradition.

Bewildered and still under shock, we leave the village and the blood scene behind. We must find a way back to our own village, one island away. There are no more busses and a taxi is way over our budget. So thumbs up and we are immediately picked up by a friendly lady who drops us of at the main intersection. And as soon as we hitch again, a 2nd car stops and we are dropped virtually to the door. It seems hitchhiking in the Faroes is like catching cod in Bjornoya, super fast! Once again, we are astounded how friendly the Feroans are and conversations about how mercury pollution abounds in whales and salmons flows fluidly as we drive amongst golden lit mountains. What a day! 


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