Call of the Deep

13 images Created 28 Mar 2016

The sea has always been a draw to Mia.
She turns 89 this month and has been swimming in the ocean a lifetime. Everyone on the Islands knows Mia and residents use terms like “iconic” when they speak about her. Maria a Heygum was born in 1924 on the rough but beautiful Faroe Islands, located at a latitude of 62 degrees north in the heart of the North Atlantic Ocean.

“I thought it was very cold,” is how she remembers her first swim with her sister at the age of four, before there were swimming pools. “I have never been afraid of the sea”, she said. She has worn a swimsuit every day since she was fourteen. Back then, as the only girl brave enough to swim into the sea, she stealthy crossed the fjord in her hometown Vestmanna without the danger of having a spasm entering her mind. Mia never minded the average water temperature of a chilly 6 degrees Celsius during winter or brisk 12 degrees during summer. “I have to go every day” she said insistently.

At high tide she fetches her sporty swimsuit and leaves the red-and-white wooden house. Wrapped in a morning robe, she overcomes more than 30 stairs leading down to the shore. Not even a rainy day or waves breaking the cement jetty can keep her away from the exciting ritual. The warmhearted woman who is now a great grandmother recognizes that when people speak about the swimming granny, they mean her. Dressed in an old fashioned bathing cap, she parts the water with vigorous breast-strokes but never goes too far up the fjord to avoid bumping into the seals she abhors. “It is hard to define why, "I just dislike them”, she said. After stepping out the water, she quickly towels off and climbs the steep stairs back home in one go.

“The sea makes my mind feel well and cures my body” Mia says with conviction. The relaxing swim in the ocean helped her to recover when she lost weight and power after she gave birth to her daughter decades before. Inside the earth-tone coloured living room surrounded by photos from past days, showing her late husband who used to take delight in watching her swimming, Mia sips tea to warm up. Sitting by her window with its stunning view of the fjord is one of her favourite places, “I often monitor how the sea is”, she explains. “The Ocean is very deep in my heart”, is how Mia describes the best part of her day. Only sickness would keep her away from her peaceful moments in the fjord.
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