Driving the whales


Whale drives only take place when a school of pilot whales is sighted close to land, which is most often from a local fishing boat or ferry, and when sea and weather conditions make it possible. This can take place at any time of the year, but catches are most common in July and August when the days are long and the weather is more stable. Notice of the school is sent to the elected whaling officials and to the district administrator (sýslumaður) responsible for the whale drive, and is spread as widely and quickly as possible in the local community so that enough people and boats can join in the drive. Employers usually make allowances for members of their staff to take time off during whale drives.

The boats gather in a wide semicircle behind the whales and slowly and quietly begin to drive them towards the chosen authorised bay. On the whaling foreman’s signal, loose stones and stones attached to lines are thrown into the water behind the whales, helping to herd the whales towards the beach where they become stranded. According to the regulations, any group of whales which cannot be beached in this manner must be driven out to sea again.