Vaeroy Island, Lofoten Islands

Vaeroy is warmer than any other location above the Arctic circle as it is bathed by the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean. The average temperature generally stays above freezing all year. This may be one reason for the island’s colourful wildflower displays.

Several hundred people live on this isolated island, mostly in the town of Sorland. The chief focus of the community is fishing, especially in winter when the Arctic Cod spawn.

Værøy, with nearby Rost, is the best seabird breeding area of mainland Europe. Northern Fulmar, Common and Black Guillemots, Razorbills, European Shag, Black-legged Kittiwakes and terns nest here. The seabirds have a range of preferences for nesting sites, from steep cliffs to rocky slopes to flat heathland. Watching soaring White-tailed Sea-eagles is a highlight for visitors, but in days past there was a bounty on them. Skilled local people would lie in baited crevices to attract eagles, which were seized by hand. Don’t try it!

Of special interest to local inhabitants are the Atlantic Puffins, which were traditionally collected, salted and stored for winter alongside cod. To assist with the collection of puffins, the islanders created the Norwegian Lundehund or Puffin dog. These dogs were bred to be small, agile and smart, and were used solely for the puffin hunt. The dogs can climb in and out of rocky crevices on the cliffs to extract the birds. Due to the importance of the hunt, the rare breed still lives on Værøy. It has an extra toe—perhaps a sign of the small gene pool.

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