The day began with an opportunity to explore by boat some of the impressive bird cliffs and caves that we had seen from the plane. We would begin this trip from Vestmanna, the largest village on Streymoy Island.
Vestmanna was the port of call for the ferry from Vágar and the airport to the main island of Streymoy and the Capital. In those days, all the traffic to and from the airport passed through Vestmanna. But now a submerged tunnel connects the two islands, replacing the old ferry, and Vestmanna is bypassed by most traffic. The main employment here is the fishing-industry with a fillet-factory in the village taking fish from the modern fishing-fleet. Theres also some fish farming in the inlet.
In a place where it rains a lot, hydroelectricity makes a lot of sense and, since 1953, Vestmanna has provided electric power to the islands from its its three power stations. Water is provided from dams in the hills high above the village.
Taking people like us on boat trips to explore the coast, when the weather is favourable, gives another form of income to this small community.
This boat ride was really most impressive as we cruised right under some of those massive cliffs which I had seen from the plane. So impressive were the cliffs that we had to don safety helmets to guard against falling rocks… or were they to protect us from bird poo from the many dozens of sea birds flying about? I rather think the later as the helmets would have done little to stop any damage caused. Any rock falling from these cliffs would have caused more than a dint in the head – more likely it would sink the boat!
It was not the best of weather but at least the seas were calm. It may not be so comfortable out here in rougher weather!
On the way back to Vestmanna, we heard some of the stories of this place. One was about pirates who frequented these waters in days of old. In the beginning of the 17th century the village was continually pestered by pirates. Then, in 1615 some Danish warships, in Vestmanna at the time,surprised three Irish pirate-ships. Twenty seven Irish pirates were killed in the fight. Fifty five were drowned after the fight and eight pirate-officers were executed by hanging. That was quite a few pirates dealt with – I don’t know if others followed after that.
Another story was about the whaling industry. In the middle of the 19th century a steal-net was stretched across the mouth of the inlet during whaling. This was done after the pilot whales had been driven into the inlet to prevent them from escaping.
Safely back at Vestmanna, we left our boat to begin a bit of land exploration.
We drove through some picturesque villages. I wondered how often these chairs and the BBQ would be used in this incelement climate!
The tiny high walled harbour was a reminder that the seas here can become ferocious during storms. We had been very lucky to have a mild day with low seas and little wind. In the afternoon, we would visit a very special family and their very old house – but that’s for my next next musings. D
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