July 23, 2003
Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
While the Johan Hjort was undergoing a crew change, we had the whole day to explore the Faroe Islands. George (6 feet 5 inches tall) rented a microscopic VW Lupo so we could get out of town and see the countryside. We squeezed 5 people into the just barely 4 person car. In order for George to drive he had to move the driver's seat almost to the back seat. This made the ride even cozier. The roadsides were dotted with sheep and cattle who roam freely...and frequently into the road. The roads are single lane so if another car is coming in the opposite direction one driver must pull over. We drove out to Kirkjubøur to see the ruins of a 13th century church. It was right on the water with the hillside towering behind it. It was one of the quietest places I have ever been. I did not realize how polluted our lives are with noise. We hardly even notice the buzz of appliances, the hum of cars on a distant highway, or the whistle of wind through the trees. None of those sounds were here. The silence was accentuated by the parabolic shape of the cliffs surrounding the area. The houses on the Faroe Islands are mainly wood which is surprising because the climate is so windy and harsh that trees don't grow on the islands. Historically much of the wood arrived here in the form of driftwood. Now it is shipped over. The wood is tarred to protect it from the elements. The roofs are covered with bark then grass is grown on top of that for insulation. We passed one house with a rabbit nibbling grass on the top of the roof.
Tom was asked to give a lecture at the Marine Science Center in Tórshavn on a paper he wrote on the 1539 Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus. We (the science posse from the Johan Hjort) all went and listened intently despite the fact that the lecture was in Swedish. Afterwards we walked into town. The music of a local band drew us into the Café Natúr where sat and discussed the lecture, this time in English.