The Bizarre Uninhabited Island That’s Covered By Its Very Own Mini Cloud

Lítla Dímun is a tiny uninhabited island that lies in the middle of the ocean. The only residents on the minuscule land mass are sheep and seabirds. However, it is also home to a rare natural phenomena that allows the island to have its very own cloud, which sits above it like a wispy hat.

The Faroe Islands are an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean. They consist of 18 large islands and hundreds of islets which sit north of the British Isles and lie around mid-way between Iceland and Norway. The Faroe Islands’ nearest neighbors are 160 miles away, in the Scottish Outer Hebrides.

Given the Faroe Islands unique geographical location, they have a rich historical background. Archaeologists believe people have lived there since around 300 A.D. And over the centuries they may have attracted Scottish, Irish and Scandinavian settlers, before Vikings arrived on the islands in the eighth century.

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The Vikings brought with them their Old Norse Language, on which modern-day Faroese is now based. Later, at some point in the 11th century, Norway took over the islands. The Faroe Islands then remained under Norwegian control until 1814, when the Danish took possession of the archipelago.

At first, the Danes sought to maintain a trading monopoly with the archipelago. However, they abandoned this idea after the islands became an important fishing location. Though Denmark’s grip on the island had weakened, a sense of shared cultural identity continued to unite locals against Danish rule, and by the early 1900s an independence movement had began to form.

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However, it would be decades before the Faroe Islands would gain some autonomy. After the Nazi invasion of Denmark in April 1940, the British occupied the archipelago. At the end of World War Two in 1945, the Brits returned the islands to the Danes. However, some Faroese were determined not to let that happen.

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After witnessing Iceland gain independence from Denmark at the tail-end of the war, many Faroe Islanders wanted the same. With that in mind, the country held a referendum in 1946. The result was an almost even split, though it was slightly in favour of those wanting to end Danish rule. As a result, the Faroe Islands declared themselves independent in September of 1946, a decision quickly overruled by the Danes.

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Despite the setback, the independence movement within the Faroe Islands continued to grow. As a result, in March 1948 the Danish finally granted home-rule, giving the archipelago some autonomy. Using this power, in 1973 the Faroese chose not to join the E.U., then known as the European Economic Community, even though Denmark had joined.

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However, things haven’t been plain sailing for the Faroe Islands since gaining home-rule. During the 1990s the area’s fishing industry collapsed, leading to economic hardship. This reignited an appetite for full independence, and also forced the archipelago to search for alternative income streams.

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One such way that the archipelago has tried to diversify its economy is through tourism. In 2012 the local tourist board, Visit Faroe Islands, received extra government funding to market the islands abroad. And just five years later, their efforts had clearly paid off. They had continued to grow as a tourist location, attracting more and more people each year.

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One of the major draws to the Faroe Islands is its rugged landscapes. Towering cliffs keep the archipelago safe from the relentless waves of the Atlantic ocean. Meanwhile, its inner landscape features craggy mountains, punctuated only by the odd village or grass-roofed building.

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As a result, hiking and walking holidays are popular in the Faroe Islands. However, people also come to the area to admire its rich array of wildlife. That’s because the archipelago is home to a number of striking species such as seals and orcas, as well as a range of bird life, including puffins.

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But the thing that makes the Faroe Islands a place like no other is the fact that its nature goes relatively untouched. The archipelago has an approximate population of 50,000. However, 40 percent of the islands’ inhabitants reside in Tórshavn, the Faroese capital. That means that the remaining 60 percent are spread out across 17 of the country’s 18 islands.

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The only major landmass in the Faroe Islands that remains entirely uninhabited however, is Lítla Dímun. The smallest of the country’s islands, the only beings to call it home are nesting seabirds and a few Faroe sheep. And even in these modern times, it is still largely inaccessible from the ocean.

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Lítla Dímun lies at the most southerly point of the Faroe Islands, alongside Stóra Dímun. The two islands’ names mean “Little” Dímun and “Great” Dímun respectively. “Dímun” meanwhile, is a Scandinavian word used to describe the double-peaked appearance of a certain place.

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Lítla Dímun is very small, covering an area just under 250 acres in size. To put that into perspective, that’s just over a third of a square mile. Humans, it seems, have never made a home there. However, sheep have existed on the tiny island since ancient times, and at least as far back as the 13th century.

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It was then that the island, and its sheep, featured in the Færeyinga Saga, otherwise known as the Saga of the Faroese. A 13th-century text, it documents life on the Faroe Islands. At the time, locals were converting to Christianity and their land was being annexed by Norway.

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The Saga of the Faroese refers to Lítla Dímun as the location of a conflict that caused the death Sigmundur Brestisson’s father. Sigmundur was consequently deported to Norway. However, he returned to the Faroe Islands to introduce Christianity in 999, though he was later murdered.

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The closest most visitors get to Lítla Dímun is viewing it from is from a popular walking trail at the southern end of Sandoy island, or from the villages of Sandvík and Hvalba on Suðuroy. If the weather allows, some might get to experience a tour of the closer Stóra Dímun. However, Lítla Dímun remains, for the most part, undiscovered.

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With that in mind, some species take advantage of Lítla Dímun’s undisturbed landscapes. Seabirds, especially Atlantic puffins and European storm petrels use the island as a primary breeding site. BirdLife International has designated the location as an Important Bird Area for this reason.

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The only humans that frequent Lítla Dímun are the island’s sheep-owners. The landmass was, in fact, once the reserve of feral sheep. They were thought to have arrived on the island way back in the Neolithic Period. Small and black in appearance, these woolly creatures were unfortunately wiped out during the 1860s.

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Today, Lítla Dímun’s sheep are of the Faroes variety. The small yet resilient animals originated on the islands and are so important to the country that the name “Faeroe” is believed to mean “sheep islands.” Furthermore, wool was once a major economic driver for the nation. As a result, the animals feature on the archipelago’s coat of arms.

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The sheep on Lítla Dímun live relatively undisturbed most of the time. However, once a year – in the fall – they are rounded up and transported to the nearby island of Suðuroy. In order to get to their livestock, though, the owners must scale the island’s cliffs on ropes. And when they’ve completed their round-up, they use nets to lower their sheep to waiting boats.

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The shepherding practices on Lítla Dímun are undoubtedly quirky. But sheep aren’t the only soft, fluffy things that make the island unusual. That’s because, while the piece of land may be a tiny dot in the middle of the Atlantic, it is a mighty force in the area’s meteorological happenings.

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Specifically, Lítla Dímun is known for its spectacular cloud formations. These giant masses of suspended water droplets and ice crystals control the Earth’s temperature and distribute rain around the planet. And while all clouds may look similar, there are a number of varieties that each behave slightly differently.

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One of the most unusual kinds of clouds is known as the lenticularis – or lenticular – cloud. These are easily recognizable thanks to their lens-shaped appearance and the fact that they sit in the lowest section of our planet’s atmosphere. And unlike many other clouds, lenticulars are stationary clouds.

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Lenticular clouds form in areas where air movement is disrupted due to man-made obstructions or natural barriers, such as mountains or islands, like Lítla Dímun. This creates pockets of turbulence known as “eddies” which provide the perfect conditions for these particular formations.

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In certain conditions, when the temperature of the air waves created by eddies drops lower than the dew point, they draw in moisture. This, in turn, can then condense to create a lenticular cloud. And that’s exactly what happens on Lítla Dímun, giving the island what appears to be its very own mini-cloud.

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What makes the lenticular cloud on Lítla Dímun special is that it’s easy to view from nearby islands. Such formations tend to occur above mountain tops, which are often out of sight to the average person. However, Lítla Dímun’s cloak of condensation is clear to see from neighboring atols.

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Usually, the lenticular clouds formed over Lítla Dímun sit above the island like a fluffy white cap. However, vapors sometimes flow down over the island’s cliffs, where they meet the frigid Atlantic ocean below. So, needless to say, the phenomena really is a spectacle to behold.

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With that in mind, the cloud cover over Lítla Dímun is a highly instagrammable vista. Commenting on the impressive view, one user wrote, “Don’t know what other people see when they look at it, but for me it resembles a giant, sleeping sheep.” And that analogy seems fitting, given the island’s woolly custodians.

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Of course, Lítla Dímun isn’t the only place on earth where lenticular clouds appear. However, when these clouds pop up in unexpected places they’re sometimes mistaken for alien craft. That’s because the clouds can sometimes form in the shape of a saucer, and every so often they can appear to emit iridescent light.

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Because lenticular clouds are caused by unsettled air pockets, many pilots try to avoid flying near them. Glider pilots, however, tend to go looking for them on purpose. That’s because the clouds can provide them a strong, smooth wave lift, which is easy to predict. Consequently, the clouds have helped some experienced glider operators achieve record-breaking heights and distances.

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Given how unique Lítla Dímun and its accompanying cloud is, you can’t blame people for wanting to view the scene with their own eyes. However, poor weather conditions usually render the boat journey to the island impossible. As a result, it’s easier to admire the effect from afar.

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Even those who are lucky enough to catch a break in the weather will still have to hoist themselves up sheer cliff sides using just a rope once they reach Lítla Dímun. So, it’s safe to say, a trip to the island is probably only for the most adventurous among us.

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One group who got to know just how inhospitable Lítla Dímun can be were the crew of a Danish cargo vessel. They unfortunately found themselves shipwrecked on the island in 1918, after being driven ashore during strong winds, which left the ship’s captain badly hurt.

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Luckily, the crew managed to find a narrow outcrop leading them ashore. And with no extra food on board their ship, they decided that they would have to go in search of supplies. So that’s exactly what they did, following the jetty into the unknown that was Lítla Dímun.

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As the seamen scoured the island, they came upon a cabin. In the hut they found fuel, a lamp and matches. Now that they had some basic supplies, the ship’s crew could concentrate on finding some food. Only then would they secure their survival while on the inhospitable island.

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After catching one ailing bird and a couple of sheep, the crew were able to survive for over two weeks. After 17 days they were finally found and rescued from Lítla Dímun by some passing fisherman. The men were presumably brought to safety and later recovered from their ordeal. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

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While the experience of being shipwrecked in such stark surroundings would likely put most people off the North Atlantic for life, that wasn’t the case for one stranded sailor. That individual instead decided that they would make the islands their home – such is the charm of the unique archipelago.

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