Faeroes, The

Faeroes, The


an archipelago in the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean; part of Denmark. The Faeroes, which include more than 20 volcanic islands, have an area of about 1,400 sq km. The main islands are Strømø, Østerø, and Suderø. Population, 40,000(1975).

The islands are composed primarily of basalt lavas and tuffs that form a plateau, over which pointed ridges rise. The highest elevation is 882 m, at Mount Slaetaratindur. The coasts, which are steep and precipitous, are cut by numerous fiords. Glacial landforms include moraines, glacial troughs, and cirque lakes. The climate is oceanic. The average temperature in February is about 4°C, and in July, about 11°C. Annual precipitation exceeds 1,500 mm; fogs are frequent.

The islands are dominated by meadows, heaths, and peat bogs; pine forests have been planted in places. Mosses and lichens grow on the cliffs. Bird life is abundant and diverse, with more than 200 species. The coastal shallows teem with cod, halibut, and herring. The principal occupations of the population are fishing and sheep raising. The city of Tórshavn is the administrative center.

Celtic tribes lived on the Faeroes in the seventh to ninth centuries. Norwegian Vikings began settling the islands in the late ninth century. In 1035 the islands became a nominal Norwegian fief, and in 1380, after the union of Denmark and Norway, they became part of the Danish state. Elements of autonomy were retained until 1816.

In 1940, during World War II, the islands were occupied by British troops. A plebiscite held in September 1946 to decide the status of the Faeroes within Denmark left the problem unresolved. In March 1948 the Danish Rigsdag passed a law granting the islands self-government.