Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sámal Joensen-Mikines ,
a faroese painter

Sámal Joensen-Mikines (1906-1979) was a Faroese painter, born at Mykines, one of the Faröe Islands, in the North Atlantic sea. He was recognised as one of the most important artists there, and many of his paintings have been displayed on Faroese stamps.

I have just recently discovered his work, during some research on the net.

Tualsgården, 1957

The most early works of Mikines are from the middle of the 1920s. He then painted in a dark expressionist style.

Faroese dance, 1944

Mikines' symbolic, expressive, sombre and dramatic paintings often portray scenes where death plays a major role. The darkest paintings are dated soon after 1934, which became a fateful year for Mykines. The village was struck by grief when a large part of its male population was drowned because of the wreck of two ships in a collison.

At the Death Bed, 1940

Two of my favorite paintings belong to the final years of this phase:

"This painting shows a woman standing beside the sea coast, looking out for her husband just departed to the sea. Although this set is dedicated to "Famous Women", the women are anonymous, but Mikines intended it to represent the Faroese Woman."

The ships depart, 1947

This rising of the sun strucks me for its bauty - a dismal, gloomy expressionism giving way to hope for the new day:

The Morning Sun, 1947

But later paintings of, for example, his native village were noticeably light and idyllic, more naturalist, fresh colored and precise:

Vew from Mykines islet, 1959

On his native village he draw and painted, and also made rough sketches which later became paintings during the winter spent in Denmark.

Mykines, 1959

Mykines is the westernmost of the Faröe Islands, and also its only and beautiful little coastal village - rows of bright and coloured houses with turf roofs, an old turf-roofed stone Church dating from 1878, and a small stream flowing through.

The village of Mykines, violet evening, 1955

Mykines houses, 1950

But then later paintings show the return to some drama and more dimmed colours:

North wind, 1957

Breaking the Waves, 1952
(clic to enlarge)

The Mailboat, 1955

Apart from Listaskálin in Tórshavn, where a great permanent exhibition is displayed
by the Faröe Islands Art Gallery, paintings of Sámal Joensen-Mikines can also be seen in the Faroese Parliament as well as in many banks all over the Faröes. Paintings of Mikines can also be seen abroad, in Copenhagen's "Statens Museum for Kunst" .

My next post, in continuation, will be a short report on Mykines village and island. I published here before about some other locations on this fabulous Faröe archipelago, one of the most remote places in Europe.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Signy , in the South Orkneys - a british base in Antarctica

The South Orkneys, an extension of the antarctic peninsula, consist of four major islands - Coronation, Signy, Powell and Laurie.

At Latitude 60°43' S, longitude 45°36' W, Signy Island is roughly triangular in shape and has a low profile.

As Signy is attached to the Antarctic continent, you would expect low temperatures (record minimum -39.3°C) and relatively clear skies, generally positive in summer although sudden falls in temperature can occur throughout the season (December and January).

The bay called Factory cove, where the first whaling station was built, is now shelter to Signy research base.

Knob lake, one of the main geological features of the island

Approximately half the island is covered by a permanent ice-cap. The ice-cap descends to the sea via two glaciers; the McLeod is by far the largest and terminates in an ice-front along a large part of the south coast, the Orwell is much smaller and terminates in Shallow Bay to the east.

Icebergs remain in the area all year. During the summer, the pack ice retreats.

The small Signy station is barely visible on the ice cap.

The Signy base was opened on 1947, on the site of an earlier whaling and sealing station.

Signy Base at Factory Cove bay.

Today, the base has four buildings with capacity to house 8 people, although this may be increased to ten for short periods.

The main building, Sørlle House, was erected in the summer of 1995/96 with living accommodation, laboratories and offices.

Other buildings on site provide services such as power and water production.

There is a jetty with slipway at the north of the station, this is the preferred point for landing by zodiac.

The power cabin; the jetty can be seen farther behind

Research ship RRS Ernest Shackleton is a frequent visit to the station.

She is primarily a logistics ship used for the resupply of scientific stations.

Historic Tønsberg house

In 1955, a new wooden hut, Tønsberg house, was built on the site of the whaling station, a little way up the back-slope.

Signy hut, "Tønsberg House", 1962

It has been demolished and removed in 2001-02 as part of BAS clean-up of disused bases and facilities.

Relics from Tønsberg house.

In addition there are four small huts around the Island.


Only two flowering plants are found in South Orkneys: the Antarctic hairgrass and the Antarctic pearlwort.

Antarctic pearlworth

Both of these are restricted in distribution, usually being confined to sheltered north-facing slopes. The dominant plants are mosses and lichens.

Adele Penguin

Large colonies of these penguins populate the island, mainly in the south-eastern Gourlay peninsula.

Adele penguins hanging out on an iceberg, Signy


The South Orkney Islands were discovered by American sealer Nathaniel Brown Palmer and British sealer George Powell on 6 December 1821. British sealer James Weddell, who visited in February 1822, gave the islands their present name.

The whaler ship "Orwell" at Borge bay, 1925.

Scientific research was started on Signy Island in 1947 when a three-man team occupied a site in Factory Cove above the old whaling station. The wooden cabin Tønsberg House was built in 1955, and further major expansions took place in 1963-64 (the recently demolished Plastic Hut) and 1980-81 (Sørlle House) at which point the station attained its largest complement of 27.

For much of this period Signy was the prime site for biological research within the survey, supporting important programmes in marine, terrestrial and freshwater biology.


Parhelion caused by reflection of ice crystals in the air

Sunrise at Signy

The station in the antarctic night.

Post in hommage to the brilliant TEAM GB, the most successful olympic team after the usual two huge leading superpowers.