Art | Culture | Travel

A Virtual Visit to Kópakonan

There’s a statue standing on the rocks at the edge of the tidal range in the remote and sparsely populated town of Mikladalur in the Faroe Islands. It depicts a Kópakonan, or a “seal woman”, who would shed her seal skin to walk amongst the humans on land. When she wanted to return to the sea she would don her seal skin and transform back into a seal once again. A selkie is a shape shifter, which appears over and over again in mythology (Wolfman comes to mind). There’s a mythical ability to transform from animal to human and back again know as therianthropy that runs across cultures, and selkies or Kópakonan are a particularly fascinating form for those of us who feel most alive in the sea (there is a story of Kópakonan that you can find recorded in multiple languages here).

Mikladalur is on the island of Kalsoy (which features another stunning destination, the Kallur Lighthouse). The Faroe Islands are explorer’s dream, and for those of us who explore wild places near the ocean, this is just about everything you could want in one place. Want to visit Mikladalur but find yourself locked down in a pandemic? This video gives you a lovely 4K view of what you might see. I must admit, watching the video I was ready to book a flight to the Faroe Islands today before I recalled that we aren’t going anywhere for awhile. It does serve to remind me that I’m a creature of the north, and while the tropics are lovely, there is so much to see above 30 degrees latitude.

The statue was erected in 2014, but already has the green patina of an older statue. Living next to the sea has that effect I suppose. I can feel a patina developing on my own skin when I spend enough time near the sea (and there’s never enough time by the sea). Kópakonan also has the desired effect of being a siren call for those of us who follows whispers in the wind. Sure, Boston is a short drive away and is jammed full of statues, but the Faroe Islands are a destination for other reasons, and Kópakonan is just an attractive object framed by the stunning backdrop of the rugged island Kunoy and the frigid North Atlantic that calls for Kópakonan’s to come home once again. Why be drawn to such an isolated place to see a statue when you can just watch a video? As George Mallory would say, “Because it’s there.”

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