At 21:00 on the evening of the 5th August reports started to emerge on national websites of two drives, one in Funningsfjord reporting a pod of 100 dolphins and the other a pod of pilot whales being pushed toward Hvannasund.The pod of dolphins were driven quickly into the designated killing bay of Funningsfjord and the entire family slaughtered within minutes of the Grind being announced on the national news sites. News that the pod had been slaughtered reached us as we approached the bay. As we drove toward we passed in excess of 20 cars leaving the area; many appeared to have whole families aboard as they were leaving the bay.Approaching the bay itself we could see many people still gathered on hillside, peering down into the bay as they laughed and joked amongst themselves; children running and playing in the grass. As we joined the groups we began to see the bloody scene below, the sea had already turned red with the blood of over 100 dolphins that had been killed.Thoughts immediately turned to the disconnect between the image of people laughing, children playing and the barbaric scene before us at the waters edge. Many of the pod still laid on the beaches, blood flowing from the kill wounds, one dolphin with a wound so deep it had almost severed the head completely, parents could be seen taking their children down to see the bodies close up, one we observed even lifting their boy up to sit on the body of a dolphin as they took photos of him, the lack of any empathy for the lives that had just been brutally taken was clear, as was an insight into how future generations are already being exposed to this brutal act.Small boats were still heading away from the bay, returning to the harbour nearby; watching on we could see some had dolphins on-board, some with lifeless bodies tied to the side of the boats. Whilst those aboard could be seen securing the metal poles onto the side of the boats. Poles that a short time earlier had been used to create a wall of sound that was used to drive the pod into the bay in a state of fear.At the harbour, we could see that the dolphins that had already been moved were not immediately transferred on land, row after row had been leashed to the site of the dock, waiting to be lifted from the water. As we stood watching and taking photos of the horror before us, the sound of metal on metal grew in volume and intensity; looking toward the fjord we could see that another pod had been spotted and were being driven toward the bay, small in number the pod was fighting to evade the boats. The struggle continued for only a matter of minutes (though the bay is far inland so will have been ongoing for much longer) before the boats turned away and the pod escaped as the light began to fade.In the harbour, a group had started to form close to the tethered dolphins, as is tradition for a grind those present register with the grindmaster to secure their skinn (the term relating to the allocation of meat the family will receive). We watched as body after body was pulled from the water, initially the dolphins were merely pulled out and left as those involved pulled more bodies out. It became clear that to those in attendance this was an entertaining event, speaking to and listening to the groups we were appalled to hear people refer to the cruel slaughter as fun.What was unusual was that at times there appeared to be an element of confusion and lack of plan for how to process the dolphins, given that those actively involved are experienced and certified to participate. Bodies were dragged to locations to line up, then moved again when it became clear there were more dolphins still in the water. It appeared that they did not actually know how many they had just slaughtered (as seems to be the case as the final numbers were not announced for many days afterward). Of the numerous cruel actions witnessed at Funningsfjord, the image of dorsal fins being removed and handed to children to run and play with on the dock amongst the bodies of over 100 dolphins will be one that remains; as will witnessing a juvenile, no more that 1-2 feet in size being rushed from the dock and hidden/guarded in a box away from those watching and away from the official count. Mothers, babies and juveniles; none are spared from the butchering, but some were clearly spared from the official count.As darkness fell, such was the level of confusion over final numbers that divers were, unusually for the time and level of light, sent into the water to search. As we left the harbour there were 107 dolphins, though the final figure announced was 133. Odd that trained/certified participants would lose 26 bodies that the divers no doubt had to locate.Locals were clearly wary of Sea Shepherd presence, as people asked unfamiliar faces if they were from Sea Shepherd. Such is the impact that Sea Shepherd have had.
"I am at home by my desk but I can still smell the sickening and pungent smell of death when I remember my time in Hvannasund. Men were carrying knives and ropes getting high on blood with the ritual killing of magnificent sentient beings for the sake of tradition.The entire community are enjoying the massacre! Danish tourists are considering themselves so damn fortunate.After the brutal killing they move the dead bodies from the beach to the opposite harbour. Several generations of whales are lying on the floor framed by this idyllic and bloody little town. Two hours before swimming free, these beautiful whales are eviscerated and mutilated, not only in front of me but to my despair, in front of children. The Grind turns even more evil when grown ups involve and encourage young minds to be insensitive. From a distance I can see a five year old jumping on the bodies. Others, a bit older, carrying little knives are staving the bodies of the whales and kicking the little fetuses.One killer encourages me to photograph a fetus still attached by the umbilical cord to the dead mother while he is moving the baby with his feed. I am told many times how blessed I am for the privilege of witnessing a Grind. Only a sadistic mind could see beauty in murder and suffering.A horrific and sad experience of senseless destruction. It will haunt me until I see the end of this obsolete and bloody tradition. Only then, I would be able to let them go in peace, knowing that no other whale or dolphin will suffer in their hands."
Witnessing a grind first hand was truly an eye-opening experience. In a place otherwise so quiet, it was unnerving to see the locals so animated once the Grind had been announced. The first Grind we saw was at Hvannasund, scene of several Grinds in 2017. We witnessed the whole process from the driving in of the 50 or so pilot whales through the slaughter, the butchering and the distribution of the meat and blubber. As the pilot whales were driven to the shoreline by the small boats the intensity of the thrashing bodies grew. Hooks were sunk into the blowholes and the whales were dragged onto the shore in a sadistic game of Tug of War. We witnessed whales seemingly bashing their heads against the stones in a frenzy. Those involved in the slaughter were at waist height in the blood-stained water, making the incisions just rearwards of the whales heads which allows the blood to drain out. Others were using the 'grindaknívur' a whaling knife, to sever the spinal chord. We witnessed and recorded several of the whales still thrashing after the wife had been used and in some cases the knife was used up to three times in order to kill the whales. We recorded whales still twitching and moving for up to a minute after the cuts had been made. For over an hour, including after the slaughter had taken place, the small boats and the fishermen attempted to drive one lone whale onto the beach without success. Eventually they gave up and left the whale swimming in the blood of its family.We stayed with the lone whale for several hours into the night while it circled exhausted in the area of the slaughter. As dusk settled a rigid inflatable came speeding out of the village and tried unsuccessfully to run the whale over, killing it with the propeller. Shortly afterwards two small pleasure boats came out and I had the opportunity of going on one of these boats to see the whale close up. The owner had come to check on the well-being of the whale and advised me that he didn't expect the whale to survive the night because of the exhaustion and trauma. The whale could barely surface to breathe. We returned in the morning and the whale was in exactly the same spot, still alive, but after further checks later that day, it was nowhere to be seen. We witnessed the butchery of these whales and the whales that were killed at Bour two days later and spoke at length with the locals. The children seemed to have a morbid fascination with the entrails and in particular the teeth. We recorded children attempting to remove the teeth of several whales with nothing more than a pocket knife as well as removing slices of what appeared to be a tumour on one whale. We met with foreign tourists who were appalled at the process.
We arrived at the beach at Skalabotnur with only a small group of locals. The first reports had requested more boats to assist with driving the pod so it was being held until it could be driven to the bay. We had found out on the way there it was a pod of Dolphins (thought to be Atlantic White Sided) that was being driven and not Pilot Whales. The beach was quiet for a long time and we had hoped that they had escaped but then we noticed everyone changing into wet suits and traditional clothing. Even then we hoped they would still get away but then the ropes and hooks were laid out on the beach and the cordons were put up so the pod must have been close. After being chased and harassed for nearly two hours an exhausted pod appeared followed almost immediately be the jet skis that had helped to drive them towards the beach. They were then closely followed by the small fleet of boats and a wall of banging sounds used to scare and disorientate the Dolphins to prevent them using their sonar. The only escape for them at this point is the beach. The pod landed on the beach and the first whaler ran out, hook in hand, to secure the first Dolphin to drag it up the beach. We could see immediately that it was not secured in the blow hole and when he tried to drag the Dolphin, the hook slipped and he fell backwards into the sea. After another struggle to insert the hook into the blow hole, the Dolphin was eventually dragged up the sand and left there to be lanced. When it was eventually killed we noticed behind it a Dolphin in the shallows and it was being butchered. It was not cut quickly and it was not cut cleanly. It took five or six attempts and cuts with the point of the knife before someone had to help the 'whaler'.Whilst other Dolphins still alive were left on the beach to be tripped over by children and people with camera phones taking videos, the remainder of the pod began to stack up on the beach underneath where we were standing. It got so bad that people from the bank next to us ran down and started dragging them up the beach by their flippers. No ropes. No hooks. We then turned round to where the first members of the pod had been taken to see one bleeding out on the sand. It had not been lanced and had not been killed with a knife correctly. It was fitting violently in the sand. Another whaler had to return to it and make the final fatal cut and end its suffering. The one next to it had still not been killed either. The next thing in the horror show was to watch a neonate that was left on the shore unnoticed. A 'whaler' (we use the term loosely) picked it up and then dropped it before collecting it again. He was then joined by a young child who stood over it with him until the young Dolphin was killed. As we looked back to the Dolphin underneath us (It had been on the beach during the entire grind still alive) it was then killed with what looked like a kitchen knife. It wasn't a whaling knife and no lance was used. The Whaler had the clear plastic packet the knife came in still in his hand.The thing that made this grind chaotic was the poor control of the crowds on the beach. There were children and families tripping on Dolphins, on ropes and prevented the Dolphins from being seen and dealt with in a quick and humane manor. One of those crowds on the killing beach was a tourist who was standing next to us when it started. As the violent tails slapping along the shore line subsided and was replaced by bloodied calm waters a single young Dolphin appeared from under the front of the boats. It had been sliced nearly in half around its dorsal fin. It hadn't drifted back off the beach but was tied up with the rest to the front of the boats and the jet skis. One of them was carrying a child passenger. As things started to calm down and the now large crowd that had appeared around the beach made its way to the harbour where the Dolphins would be towed to, we noticed all the whalers making their way back to the shore and coiling up the ropes and hooks. They were lighting cigarettes, laughing and joking and the expressions on their faces is what you would expect from someone after finishing an extreme high or adrenaline rush. Next to us another tourist asked a local why they did this. They said it was no different to what happens to pigs and cows and these animals lived a good and long life free in the ocean. Putting aside the fact that life stock and wild cetaceans cannot be compared in an argument, that new born neonate Dolphin didn't live a long and happy life. In its short life just before it died it was harassed by cowards on jet skis for two hours, was driven onto a beach to be left alone and terrified and then had to witness its entire pod being butchered in front of it by people who were unable to carry out their own regulated traditions correctly. What comes down to a five minute high for a group of thugs on a beach for meat that cant be eaten safely has resulted in an entire pod of beautiful, intelligent and free swimming Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins being wiped out and lost in Europe.
The Klaksvik harbour open day was like any event we would see in our own local ports. There was entertainment for children and helium balloons (most of which were released into the sky by accident) there were various vessels allowing visitors the chance to come on board which included the Brimmel and a Danish Navy war ships, both offering tours on board and a chance to see round the bridge or go out on their fast boats. Inside two or three boxes there was various crab and small fish species which the children were free to pick up and handle. There was also a stage at the entrance to the harbour providing everything from knitting competitions to some very talented musicians playing traditional music and various other scheduled events throughout the day. One of these events was to watch the butchering of a Pilot whale that had been caught in a previous grind. It was transported there and frozen until the day of the event. The Pilot whale was just along from the stage and lay out on a crate. It had the expected markings on the flipper to indicate its weight/length and also had 155 etched into its skin below its eye. As expected the whale attracted regular attention throughout the day. It was mostly from curious tourists and children. The children would climb on it, kick it and stick their fingers in its eye socket and blow holes. People including the Danish navy would stand round it drinking and laughing. The whale was shown as little respect in death as it had been in life before it was brutally slaughtered along with the rest of its pod. When the butchering event started the man on the PA system announced that this was a demonstration of what Pilot whaling was. The demonstration would be in English and not Faroese. There were lots of tourists there from nations such as Scotland, Spain Italy and the US. With the Faroese being very knowledgeable on the subject from a young age, this talk was to try and explain Whaling to tourists. The talk went straight in with the usual arguments that would be made to justify this continuing and why it is done. It was then explained to the crowd how they were caught, the process for killing them and how the meat is measured, calculated and distributed to the locals in that distribution area for that killing beach or people who had participated in the Grind. The talk then moved on to how the whales were hooked in the blow hole and dragged up the beach. This did not sit well with everyone. One tourist at the end asking how they could consider this to be humane?A team of assistants them proceeded to fully butcher the whale. First the blubber sections were removed in slabs followed by the meat and put to the side of the pallet. How the various preparations of the meat for eating was them explained and it was also mentioned that the flipper as among the best tasting of it. During the butchering the usual ridiculous emphases was placed on this being the same as how everyone else eats pigs, cows or chickens killed in an abattoir even though this Pilot whale was a free and wild cetacean that was taken from the oceans. This was also backed with the claimed fact that they are not endangered even though the North Atlantic population numbers are unknown. It was explained that they do not hunt the larger baleen whales which is true, but at NO stage in this demonstration was it mentioned that they also hunt other Dolphin species such as Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins or that they have mistakenly attempted to harass and drive other whale species only a few weeks earlier.Towards the end of the butchering the toxicity of the meat was brought up. It was explained what the poisons are, what they are caused by and the concerns for their health eating it. Even with these concerns they ended the talk by informing the tourists that there would soon be freshly cooked whale meat and blubber available for the tourists to try for free in a tent next to the stage. An offer we declined.
16th June at Tórshavn - 164 Long-finned pilot whales
16th June at Skálabotnur - 8 White-sided dolphins
26th June at Hvalvík - 157 Long-finned pilot whales
26th June at Hvalvík - 51 White-sided dolphins
29th June at Tjørnuvík - 43 Long-finned pilot whales
5th July at Hvannasund - 70 Long-finned pilot whales
8th July at Hvannasund - 71 Long-finned pilot whales
9th July at Tórshavn - 26 Long-finned pilot whales
10th July at Skálabotnur - 2 Long-finned pilot whales
16th July at Vágur - 30 Long-finned pilot whales & 12 White-sided dolphins
17th July at Hvannasund - 191 Long-finned pilot whales
25th July at Syðrugøta - 16 White-sided dolphins
5th August at Funningsfjørður - 133 White-sided dolphins
5th August at Hvannasund - 39 Long-finned pilot whales & 1 White-sided dolphin
15th August at Fámjin - 50 Long-finned pilot whales
18th August at Tórshavn - 61 Long-finned pilot whales
20th August at Borðoyarvík - 27 Long finned pilot whales
21st August at Skálabotnur - 48 White-sided dolphins
22nd August at Húsavík - 19 Long-finned pilot whales
29th August at Hvannasund - 46 Long-finned pilot whales
1st September at Bøur - 29 Long-finned pilot whales
25th September at Hvalba - 9 Long-finned pilot whales
25th September at Skálabotnur - 219 White-sided dolphins
29th October at Skálabotnur - 86 Long-finned pilot whales