Of islands and open sea

The open sea confronts us. It is ultimately the one place that we cannot dominate. We are as much at its mercy today, as we may have been during the time of the Vikings. But when we look out towards the sea, our imagination sparks fantastic questions. How far away is that horizon, is there anything past it and how can we go there?

The open sea taken from the high coastline of the Faroe Islands. Scan from a 6×7 cm negative. Photo by Jessica Auer

Islands are an oasis. They conserve nature and culture.  We can intimately explore them, but we must be prudent as they are fragile ecosystems. An island in the open sea is a sanctuary, but don’t be fooled by its protection. Trust me, I’ve been to the Faroe Islands, host to some of the worst weather in the world.

I waited five days for the rain and fog to clear before I could make my first successful photograph. On Mikanes. Photo by Andreas Rutkauskas.

The Faroes were used during Viking times as a staging point between Norway and Iceland. Located approximately 650 kms from the coast of Norway and 700 kms from Iceland, these islands are still used today as a stopover on the Smyril ferry line from Denmark to Iceland.

Many Vikings did settle here. The lush green coasts and sublime beauty will give you a hint as to why. The smallest capital city in the world, Tórshavn is still home to a parliament that was established during the Viking Age. On the rocks of Tinganes (Parliament Jetty) I found a Viking Age carving in a rock – a compass rose.

A rainy day find. A sundial or compass rose carved into the rock and dated 1569. Photo by Andreas Rutkauskas.

The hostile weather was barely of consequence to the Vikings, who knew how to navigate in these waters with their karves and knarrs, different types of ships built for travelling locally among islands and fjords or overseas.

The fjord on the left of this image is essentially a Viking highway. Taken from Streymoy in the Faroe Islands. Scan from a 4″x5″ negative. Photo by Jessica Auer.

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