the seal Woman project
“Let us feel Faroe land's legend”
So says S.M. Zachariassen in his poem “Føroyingar, landsmenn” (“Men of Faroe, Compatriots”)
It is in this spirit that we undertake this major project to memorialise the Seal Woman legend on the rocky shore of Mikladalur.
The organisers of the Faroese Sailor’s Day have and continue to nurture this vision: if we want to pass a vibrant community on to the next generation in the Northern Isles, we must ourselves hold our region dear and continually develop our town and village communities.
We believe that we who live in the Faroes, and not the least those of us who live in the Northern Isles, need to be far better at exploiting opportunities in tourism. Tourism should be an alternative that supplements the fishing industry well, providing additional jobs outside both fisheries and the public sector. This holds true both for the country as a whole and our own region.
In erecting a statue on the shore of Mikladalur we make the Seal Woman legend visibly present in the village were it is still so much alive. Doing so, we believe that tourism has received another site around which to develop further.
The Faroese Sailor’s Day has previously set up three sculptures in Klaksvík, “The Baiter” at Stongum, “Fisher Folk” at Gørðum and “The Hook” in the Flesjavegurin roundabout.
The current project is far more involved than our previous projects. Therefore, we have asked the sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen, whose ancestors came from Kalsoy, to make the sculpture. The Seal Woman will stand on Stórakneysi, a rocky knoll on the shore of Mikladalur. Being placed here, she will rise up from the breakers in stormy weather. The challenge facing Hans Pauli Olsen is daunting because he has to find a way to secure the statue to make sure it remains standing even when hit by the fiercest of Atlantic storms.
Part of the project is the installation of advanced binoculars further up the hill, where tourists who visit Mikladalur in stormy weather can follow the Seal Woman as she battles the breakers.
And so we hope the Seal Woman will draw tourists both in summer and winter. With careful planning, a tourist industry can be developed as a result of this investment. This might be a golden opportunity around which to plan traditional dances, food events, excursions and and nature experiences.
Legends, history and nature are key in tourism; in turning the spotlight on the Seal Woman legend we add another site around which tourism can develop.
The organising committee
An Active and Engaged Artist
After discussing the project for several years, we contacted the sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen, who immediately was enthusiastic about the idea.
Although we have yet to sign a contract with him, he has already begun his work. Not only has he made a model of the selkie but has done so in the full height of the final sculpture, one and half times the size of a grown man.
Far to the right in this picture stands Elinborg Samson, who is quite a tall woman, beside the veiled Seal Woman, waiting to make her public entrance.
Hans Pauli Olsen lives in Copenhagen but his ancestors hail from Kalsoy. When we visited him, he showed us several projects that never materialised—but he tapped his hand on the Seal Woman and said: “In this one, in her I believe.”
Nature's Great Power
It is no simple task to erect a statue on an exposed, rocky knoll at the edge of Mikladalur’s shore. The Seal Woman must be able to stand up to strong natural powers as Northern Atlantic storms unleash their might against the shore.
To solve this challenge and gather the best technical know-how available, we contacted Landsverk (the national road and construction company).
The people at Landsverk were very helpful. After on-site investigations, it was determined that the knoll Stórakneysi had to be secured because it was part of an old shelf that lay above the bedrock in Mikladalur. Landsverk stood for this part of the work. Technicians at Landsverk also calculated that the Seal Woman had to be able to withstand waves up to a height of 13 metres, as these could hit the shore in a worst-case scenario, the so-called 100 year’s wave.
These calculations are based on Landsverk’s records of waves in the waters north of the Faroes. When Landsverk had concluded their analysis of the natural forces to be reckoned with, we needed to find people with the technical expertise to calculate how the Seal Woman should be reinforced and secured to the knoll to enable her to withstand these fierce forces.
Heri Hammer, municipal engineer for Klaksvík municipality, recommended Preben Hansen, a constructional engineer. Landsverk confirmed that this was a good choice, which it also has proven to be.
Working very well together with the sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen, Preben Hansen has calculated to what extent the statue must be reinforced and how it is to be secured so that the Seal Woman can stand up to the 100 year’s wave that might sweep in from the Firth of Kalsoy.