It would appear that NekNominate – the craze spreading across Britain and other countries in which online attention-seekers dare each other to perform random acts of depravity involving the consumption of alcohol – has impressed nobody on the Faroe Islands.
After all, why peer-pressure somebody into sinking a few shots, when you can dare them to risk life and limb to sink like a stone into the icy waters of a built-up harbour?
And these aren't a few isolated cases. Faroese native Jacoba Kruse estimates that as many as 5,000 islanders, including the acclaimed musician Eivør Pálsdóttir, have made the leap in the eight days since St Bededag on May 16 – that’s ten percent of the entire population.
"The doctors were even on the radio giving advice about the best way to dive," Kruse told The Copenhagen Post. "Particularly as some places might not be as deep as people think."
Origins in Denmark
However, it would appear that the dangerous game did not originate in the islands, but back in March in Denmark as a marketing gimmick dreamt up by the drinks manufacturer Cult.
In direct response to NekNominate, it challenged its customers to film themselves diving into water and to pass on the dare to their friends via social media. It didn’t catch on, probably because they wanted them to shout: “Go’ energi vinder altid (Go energy always wins)” as they dived in.
“We felt it was more constructive [than NekNominate] to get them jumping into water instead,” explained Cult founder Brian Sørensen on cult.com/da.
Fear of fatalities in Faroes
Now there are now serious concerns it could result in fatalities in the Faroes where the water tends to be much colder.
“Sudden immersion in water under 12 degrees Celsius, especially once it gets down below six degrees, carries a substantial risk of drowning due to involuntary aspiration of water because of the cold shock response,” warned LoneSwimmer, a commenter on swimmersdaily.com.
“I’m a very cold water swimmer and can tell you that the more unprepared people are, the greater the likelihood of a death occurring.”
And then there is the danger of the jump itself. According to a report on swimmersdaily.com, jumpers are increasingly leaping from greater heights – “off ships, off cliffs … thrown off cars [and even cycling] off the pier”.
As well as youngsters, older adults are also taking part.
“The priests and the politicians. Members of parliament. Parents with their kids. Police and lifeguards. Teachers, seamen, singers and swim coaches,” the report added.
A normally quiet country
The Faroes are an isolated archipelago consisting of 18 islands located between Scotland and Iceland in between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Located in close proximity to the Gulf Stream, its annual temperature range (3-13 degrees) is significantly smaller than any other country in northern Europe.
While it is part of the kingdom of Denmark, it has been a self-governing country since 1948. Nevertheless that does not stop concerned animal rights groups bombarding Danish media on a daily basis to express their outrage at the islanders’ hunting of pilot whales.
Up to a thousand are killed every year to honour age-old traditions, even though the island authorities ruled in 2008 that eating pilot whales is ill-advised due to their high levels of mercury.