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Culture Shock

SandavágurFaroe Islands
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Story by
VJ Singh
I’m seduced by the untouched beauty and drama of the Faroe Islands. Driving into Tórshavn, I witness a rare Faroese sight.
The ocean is bright red. The beach is packed with onlookers. It’s a grindadráp, a pilot whale hunt. Heavily regulated, it’s being carried out with process perfected over millennia. A local couple points out their son to me, he is on one of the boats — “unless we send a boat, we won’t get our share of the whale meat.”
When a school of pilot whales is sighted, boats gather around and slowly drive them towards the chosen bay or beach, for it’s illegal to kill the whales in the open sea. This time, there are about two hundred of them. Every bit of them will be consumed or used — and none can be sold.
I’m shocked, outraged, fascinated, caught up in the excitement and terribly conflicted. As a traveler, I respect — and seek to understand — culture and tradition. And the Faroese are holding on to this one — as it symbolizes for them their relationship with the sea.