2015 – Faroe Islands

In mid 2013 I decided that I would be viewing the total solar eclipse from the Faroe Islands, and leading my first eclipse tour there as well with The Independent Traveller.  I visited the islands in September 2013, and arranged to talk with key organisations about their plans for the eclipse.

Faroe Islands, Sept 2013.

Scouting the Faroe Islands for the perfect eclipse viewing location. (c) 2013, The Independent Traveller

At that time, plans were in the very early stages, and there was no-one who was the dedicated eclipse coordinator.  It was, however, the topic that the media were interested in, and during that first visit we featured in the local newspapers, on the radio, and in a podcast.  Generally, the feeling was the eclipse was far away, but people were keen to hear about it.

I returned in March 2014 – exactly one year before the eclipse.  My purpose was to get a feel for the Faroese weather in March, and to finalise plans for the eclipse parts of the tour.  This time, there was much more focus on the eclipse.

Working with tour leaders in the Faroe Islands, one year before the eclipse.  (c) 2015, Kate Russo

Working with tour leaders in the Faroe Islands, one year before the eclipse. (c) 2015, Kate Russo

I was a speaker at a major tourism dinner by the Faroese Tourism Trade Association, attended by around 300 tourism and business representatives.  Following this, another eclipse-chasing colleague and I delivered a workshop to tour operators to inform them of the eclipse.  I was also able to identify a few older local people who saw the last total eclipse visible from the Faroe Islands in 1954 – something I knew was important for the local community to hear.

Again, there was quite a bit of media interest, and we were inundated with requests to speak at schools, and other groups and we did what we could to share information and resources.  As eclipse chasers, we were treated like rock stars whenever we went into schools.   I got such a lovely feel from the Faroese people, and I think it was this second visit that I started to form a very strong connection with the place.

whole class

Fantastic interactive session with a school in Torshavn. (c) 2014

It was soon after this visit that a dedicated eclipse coordinator was appointed, who worked half time to prepare for the eclipse. I was in regular contact with the eclipse coordinator, and I provided guidance on all sorts of aspects in preparation for the eclipse.  I was also in regular contact with a community development officer of the small village where we were going to together host a whole community eclipse viewing celebration based at the local school.

As the months went by, there was still so much to do!   Five weeks before the eclipse, I relocated to my new home to work full time as an Eclipse Consultant in helping with the final eclipse preparations.   I knew what needed to be done, how to approach it, and worked supporting and advising the eclipse coordinator and other key staff in their roles.  Every morning when I took the free bus into work on the very short commute I pinched myself at where I was – a girl from the tropics of Far North Queensland, normally working as a Psychologist in hospital settings now working in a frozen winter wonderland, helping to prepare yet another community for an eclipse.  It was magical.  It was extremely busy.  But it was like I was home.

lovers

Frozen waterfall, frozen landscapes, but warm at heart. (c) 2015, Kate Russo.

Together, the key tourism and government organisations worked to ensure that key tasks were achieved.  Drawing from the excellent resources from the eclipse in 2012, we established the safety standards of the eclipse filters for sale and coordinated the official government advice for this.  There was materials to write, brochures to produce, planning and coordination for the local media regarding stories for their community, helping the development of the eclipse exhibition at the National Museum.  In the midst of all this, there were many, many requests for presentations to all sorts of groups and events. Regular interactive slots on the media helped to share the excitement in those final weeks, and also to share crucial information about places to view.  We drove around the islands, identifying key places for public viewing and identifying problem areas related to parking and traffic flow.  We spoke with government organisations regarding safety, parking, crowd control;  and organised turning off all automatic lights and rescheduling services to allow for the eclipse.  There were so many eclipse-related tasks to organise, materials to prepare, calls to make, presentations to deliver, media to talk to.  There was even a debate as to whether eclipse day should be a public holiday.  It was non-stop.  And the media requests kept coming.  And coming.

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One of the many interviews undertaken, this time with International TV. (c) 2015, The Independent Traveller.

We coordinated media panels for the final two days, and when the eclipse chasers finally began to pour into the country, we facilitated special media panel interviews for us all. Media packs were distributed, eclipse events were happening – and eclipse fever was everywhere.

My own eclipse tour group arrived, and I then became busy with pre-eclipse briefings, many media interviews, and running the community event for 500 people along with my tour group – which included a community breakfast, pre-eclipse briefings, eclipse viewing, post eclipse presentations, chain dancing celebrations and other interactive cultural offerings.

Somehow, the Faroe Islands with a community of 50,000 people, a hotel capacity of 800 beds ,were able to facilitate an additional 11,400 people who came to experience the eclipse.  It was wonderful.  (For those above the clouds). 

 

Faroe Islands Total Solar Eclipse. (c) 2015. Bardur Eklund – Visit Faroe Islands

 

The event generated an estimated income of DKK 114 million.  The estimated value of the PR due to the 62 international media who traveled to the Faroes for the eclipse was DKK 150 million.

Some months after the eclipse, I took time out to again interview key people involved in eclipse preparations and included these learnings in the White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning.  These lessons we learned from planning in the Faroe Islands, that were built upon the planning in Australia in 2012, were important and should be shared.

Being a key part of the eclipse for this community was an incredible experience, and I will feel connected to this wonderful place for the rest of my life.  I cannot wait to go back.