According to legend, a fleet of Viking ships set sail around 800 A.D. from Norway, heading towards the islands. They let the seasick among them get out at the islands. Apparently, Irish monks lived on the Sheep Islands - which is what Faroe Island originally means. But it wasn't until the Vikings and their upset stomachs moved in that you could really say that people had settled there.
Heri Andreassen didn't inherit much here – or at least, he thankfully doesn't suffer from seasickness. The Faroe Police Inspector is a professional diver and responsible for operations involving the seaworthy police speedboat around these rocky islands, which lie halfway between Iceland and Scotland right in the middle of the North Atlantic. And he needs to have a strong stomach as the sea can be pretty rough in this part of the world which is home to only 48,000 people.
Just like the Danes, we have our own language, our own mentality and the way we live is closely connected with nature.
The speedboat, a Polarcirkel 760 christened "Odin", can accelerate extremely quickly up to almost 80 km/h thanks to its two powerful outboard engines. The boat is used to carry out alcohol and passport checks on sailing boats and motorboats that enter these waters. And also if political activists are out protesting without authorization, against the traditional pilot whale killings in the Faroe fjords, for example, then Heri Andreassen and his team will be there.
The 52-year old, with a mischievous grin, mostly works on land as one of the heads of the control centers in the capital town of Thorshavn. If a larger operation is on the cards, for example an international soccer match or in the event of a major road accident, then the officers jump into their two Sprinter and drive off to where they're needed. While one Sprinter is primarily used to transport special forces, the other is used by the police officers as a mobile command center. It also transports the speedboat crew and, whenever necessary, takes the boat itself by trailer safely to the water.
It all sounds like an exciting job. But usually things are quiet and one of Andreassen's most important management responsibilities is ensuring that his team is operatively and qualitatively prepared in case anything should happen - despite quiet times. This father of four children has continued to further qualify himself in training courses in Copenhagen.
And yet there is still a big difference between working as a policeman in Denmark in comparison to the Faroe Islands, says Andreassen, who has tried out both. "In Denmark, you become anonymous the moment you put on civilian clothes. Here, everyone knows everyone. When I drive to a fatal road accident in Denmark, I won't know the person. But here that's different and that weighs you down. You mourn together with the family."
It's not just police work but also many other areas of life that are different on the Faroes in comparison to Denmark, says Andreassen. "Just like the Danes, we are part of a modern society with all the amenities and securities, but our people have been living on the Islands for over 1,400 years. We have our own language, our own mentality and the way we live is closely connected with nature.”
Another big difference is the sense of solidarity here. If you want to survive the harsh climate of the North Atlantic you have to rely on each other. The main source of income for the people here and the reason for the islands' wealth is fishing. Huge deep sea trawlers wait in Thorshavn for their next operation in the icy Barents Sea. There are a lot of salmon farms in the fjords. And in the 200 sea-mile zone around the islands, cod and mackerel can be fished untroubled by Brussels' fishing quotas as the Faroe Islands are not part of the EU.
The archipelago measures 118 kilometers from north to south and is 75 kilometers wide. Only eight of the islands are connected by bridge or tunnel; the rest rely on regular ferry or helicopter services. Roads tend to be only along the extremely rugged 1,289 kilometer coast. The police get to their destination quickest by boat. And then the services of "Odin" and the Sprinter are called for. Not to forget the services of Heri Andreassen, who keeps a cool head and a strong stomach even in the face of a rough sea. Some of his colleagues tease him about his dark hair pointing to his ancestors going back to North African pirates, who were on the Faroes around the 1600s. "Maybe that's why I don't get seasick," says Andreassen with a grin. "Pirates are never seasick."
Photos: Ralf Kreuels