One way to consider marine faunistic research in the Faroes is to divide into periods according to persons, purpose, means and results. Danish investigations 1878-1927. Naval ships and fishery research vessels, "The Zoology of the Faroes".
The early period, 1780-1850: Danish laymen and travellers
The earliest description of Faroese fauna was written by the Faroese-born naturalist Jens C. Svabo who was sent by the Danish king to make a general description of the Faroes in 1781-82. He wrote a comprehensive report, but his manuscript was not printed until 1959(!). Svabo mentioned 20 species of marine invertebrates, mostly molluscs and crustaceans. Next was a priest, J°rgen Landt, who in 1800 published his description of the islands, including a list of about 60 marine invertebrate species.
In 1844 the then crownprince payed a visit to the Faroes. Among his companions was the later professor of zoology at the University of Copenhagen, Japetus Steenstrup, who used the opportunity to collect marine animals, mostly molluscs (43 species listed, M÷rch 1868). Being of a social inclination he also established contacts to officials and private persons interested in sending strange creatures they might find or get from fishermen to the museum in Copenhagen (Steenstrup 1914). A fine example of such people is chief administrator Hans Christopher MŘller who almost every year between 1847 and 1892 is mentioned in an entry in the annual report of the Zoological Museum for having sent mainly fishes and crustaceans, but occasionally also other invertebrates. MŘller┤s left notes on own observations and local information on the fish species around the Faroes were later published and are worthwhile reading (Joensen 1965).
Oscar Schmidt, professor of zoology in Jena, in 1848 spent a couple of months on the Faroes; among other things he collected marine turbellarians around Tˇrshavn, and described a few new species (Schmidt 1848).
In 1872 a Danish govermental expedition was sent to the Faroes onboard the steamship "Ph°nix" in order to investigate the possibility of mining the coal layers. One member was the German zoologist Rudolph von Willemoes-Suhm who was ordered to describe the fauna of the islands. He mostly gave information on vertebrates, although his main interest was the polychaetes of which he listed 25 species (Willemoes-Suhm 1873).
In conclusion: at the end of the 1800-years, the attempted descriptions of the Faroes did not comprise the marine benthic fauna to any extent. Molluscs were the only more intensively collected group, but was nevertheless only fragmentarily known (M÷rch 1868). All investigations had been performed directly from the beach or between the islands from a hired rowed boat, with inadequate equipment.
British expeditions, 1868-1910: topography, hydrography and fauna of the Scottish-Faroese sea.
In the summer of 1868 the marine zoologists W.B. Carter and C. Wyville Thomson got the paddle steamer "Lightning" at their disposal for exploring the sea between Scotland and the Faroes, visiting Tˇrshavn in August. The old ship was highly unsuitable for the purpose, and the weather was bad, allowing for less than two weeks of dredging, and only 4 of these deeper than 900 m. Nevertheless, one of the most important chapters in the history of deep-sea investigation was written during these troublesome months. The "Lightning" expedition found a surprisingly diversified fauna at what is today called bathyal depths, and demonstrated an unexpectedly high temperature variation from south to north (Carter 1868).
During the following decades the area was investigated by the well known expeditions onboard "Porcupine" (1869), "Knight Errant" (1880), "Triton" (1882), "Goldseeker" (numerous times, from 1902 on), and "Silver Belle"(1903, 1907) (Rice 1986).
Although most of the area investigated by the British expeditions lies south of the Faroese EEZ, their observations have a profound influence on our understanding of deep-water phenomena all over the southern part of the EEZ. Equipped with the most advanced technique of the time, they produced a decisive series of major results. The Wyville-Thomson Ridge was found and mapped. The hydrographic pattern, the interplay between the cold watermasses from the Norwegian and Greenland Seas and the warm water from the Atlantic Ocean was discovered and described. Literally hundreds of new species were sampled and described, and many of them also occur around the Faroes. Some of the news were published in separate papers, but the major part of results and descriptions were included in the impressive outcome from the "Challenger" Expedition, and appear in the volumes of this large report series.
Denmark has a long tradition for The Navy supporting marine research with logistics and sampling opportunities. Sometimes officers, the ship's doctor or even concripts (biology students) were allowed to dredge and do collecting. So, scattered over the years a number of samples came in from survey and inspection vessels, mainly from the Faroese plateau (further details in Bruntse & Tendal 2001). An especially remarkable effort was made in 1899 by the zoologist Th. Mortensen from the fishery inspection ship "Guldborgsund".
From 1902 on, regular fishery investigation cruises were carried out, first with the "Thor" and from 1920 with the "Dana (I)", and these were the source for quite a number of bycatch samples reaching the shelves in the stores of the Zoological Museum.
Some of the samples were used in different publications, for example treated in parts of the Ingolf Report. Others were just identified and included in the North Atlantic collections of the Museum. Also these samples, however, soon came into good use.
Sometime in the 1920's a group of Danish zoologists realized that the knowledge of the Faroese fauna was scattered, for some groups scanty or non-existant. Through the work of an organizing committee and with support from The Carlsberg Foundation a coordinated investigation was initiated. The marine sampling, all within the 3 nautical miles fishery limit, was done from the inspection vessel "Beskytteren" in 1926 and the fishery research vessel "Dana(I)" in 1925-1927. The zoologists onboard were Anton Bruun, Henning Lemche, Poul L. Kramp and Ragnar Spńrck, all from the Zoological Museum. The gear used were mainly a rectangular dredge and the newly introduced Petersen grab.
The results were published in the series "The Zoology of the Faroes", 1928-1971, with 27 of the 31 marine contributions published before 1940. The series gave a survey of the shallow water fauna, the number of known species rising from say a few hundred to almost 1000. It also at the time placed the Faroes in a central position in the discussion on the history of the North Atlantic fauna
One way to consider marine faunistic research in the Faroes is to divide into periods according to persons, purpose, means and results.
Danish investigations 1878-1927. Naval ships and fishery research vessels, "The Zoology of the Faroes".