Back in 17th century Scotland, several reports of mysterious visitors approaching the shore in small boats were recorded. The strangers were called ‘Finnmen’ by the locals, but their origin remained a mystery. While the travelers may have been fishermen from Finland or escaped Inuits captured by whalers, artifacts which include the remains of a skin-covered kayak point to another, more incredible possibility. Inuits who had paddled from Greenland to offshore Scotland.
In 2016, two modern-day adventurers, Olly Hicks and George Bullard, took on the challenge to retrace the over 1,000-mile journey of the Finnmen and to prove that this epic quest is, indeed, possible. Using a minimally modified double sea kayak, they set off on the historic adventure in June, covering 1,200 miles in six weeks, paddling for a minimum of 20 hours a day, and spending 12 nights at sea. Their Inuk Duo 6.8m sea kayak was made of carbon fiber, had Kevlar in the bottom of the hull, and special cockpit canopies and inflatable arms to stabilize the boat while sleeping or cooking. The most dangerous part of their expedition was ‘the devil’s dancefloor’, the stretch of water between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Apart from the threat of hypothermia, Hicks and Bullard also had to prepare for the possibility of a 50 year storm. Ultimately, the challenge was all about survivability and proving that the Finnmen could have made the same journey, back in the 17th century. The two adventurers reached Faroe Islands at the beginning of August and completed their quest on September 4, after kayaking 1,200 miles. Photography by Emma Hall.