Whaling In The Faroes


"It is perhaps the most communal event we have," a Faroese friend would tell me of the grindadrap. So communal in fact, that while a pod of 59 long-finned pilot whales were first spotted off Vestmanna early on the morning of June 24, news of the hunt was deliberately not broadcast until long after the animals had been killed to prevent the town from being overrun with volunteers.

When we arrived, the hunters were engaged in a meeting about meat distribution, leaving their children to play amongst the whale carcasses. Neat offal escape-hatches had been carved out of each carcass, while any blood was quickly being washed away with a hose. Noisy seagulls wheeled overhead; the stench was distinctly unpleasant.

With four whaling foremen supervising, men soon began butchering each carcass: first the blubber was peeled back with the aid of axes, before the meat was filleted with purpose-built knives, their sheaths ornately decorated with carved whale motifs.

We left the scene twenty minutes after having arrived, the locals starting to load cuts of meat and blubber into car boots and wheelbarrows. As we passed Vestmanna’s beach, I looked into its water: hours after the slaughter, the sea still had a pink tinge.


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