There are many small islands either side of the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic where small communities established themselves and survive today in some form. Manenøy is among that group. This tiny dot of land never was a big community, but today it is quite small compared to earlier years.
For as long as anyone can remember, Manenøy never had much more than about 50 people and until World War II that was the case. Manenøy was offered some protection during World War II as it was suspected the Germans might try to take the island as a base for operations.
After the war, the population slowly declined. By 1980 the population was 39 and by 1990 the population had declined by one third. In 2000, that figure had shrunk to 18 and now sits at 16 since 2010.
Far from declining, the few families that remain fish the waters and eek out a living on the small 1.78 square mile island.
Manenøy, meaning Crescent Moon Island is named such because of it’s crescent moon shape. The tiny community is scattered along the eastern shoreline, not far from the pebble beaches that are protected from the stands of trees that grow mostly on the eastern and northern sides of the island where the terrain is a bit higher in elevation and a bit more rocky.
The southern and eastern ends of the island are mostly meadows and fairly low lying.
Gardens and a few fruit trees grow enough local produce for the small community. A dairy and some other animals including pigs and chickens provide meat and dairy products for the islanders although fish are plentiful.
The island has a small store with canned and frozen foods plus various other products for the household. A boat builder and repair shop keeps the fishermen on the water. A Church and a school function on the island although a fulltime priest is not provided for the Church. Two local islanders instruct the children of school age although that number has dropped to less than 5 students. Two islanders are trained for medical emergencies and have a small one room clinic that is poorly maintained.
Electricity is provided by the “government” or the three person elected council that financed and operates the generator. Running water is provided by two wells. Residents are responsible for connecting to the water source. Sewage is via individual septic tanks.
There are 23 households on the island but only 12 are occupied.
Transportation off the island is provided via a private ferry service that makes a weekly run in spring and fall, weather permitting and provides twice a week service in summer months. Most supplies come during designated twice a week trips during summer.
Economically, the islanders bring in about $214,560 according to one source but only $198,000 according to a second source.
The climate is fairly typical. Temperature averages range from 11°F to 65°F. and precipitation averages 62 inches per year with about 60% falling as frozen precipitation. Windy conditions are common and fog is frequent in summer months.
In short, life is not easy on Manenøy. There is no easy way to earn a living. Outside work, there is little to do and virtually no services from a cultural or societal aspect. Even so, the salt of the earth people love working hard and enjoy their island and their neighbors. They tend to get along well, do not seem to be so rigid in their daily schedules that opportunities to socialize are put off. It is not unusual for a conversation to take place at the store or boat repair shop. Ladies might gather at homes to complete tasks as a group of friends. Typically someone might host a dinner and a DVD night here and there. Events like summer solstice are celebrated with bonfires, food and homegrown entertainment.
While you might expect a rich cultural heritage for these isolated people on a remote island, it is obvious the influences from the outside world has taken the people to a point of a pretty average western culture where neighbors are valued as members of an extended family who come together to help in everyday survival on a small island.
There are no telephones on the islands and cell phones do not work. The island is not online as a result. Communication with the outside world is via Marine Band Radio. There is a small radio station run by the government. It broadcasts at a set time in the morning and evening broadcasting the latest weather and marine repot that includes and vessels expected near the island. In addition community members and the council have their announcements read. Each broadcast lasts about 3, maybe 4 minutes.
The only outside contact comes with a visiting priest holding services two or three weeks every year or two. The rare visitor might come to the island on the ferry service. They are housed in an empty house with a family being paid to provide meals and housekeeping for the visitors. Typically the island might see 5 to 8 visitors a summer.
A local currency was needed to standardize the cash economy on Manenøy. Numerous crude paper and cardboard notes have appeared and disappeared over the years and at one point the Euro was considered legal tender but following the failing of the Iceland Bank the council held a public meeting and the islanders decided it would be best to instigate a local currency with an international established value.
The result was the ’Moon’ was chosen for the name of the 1/8th Troy Ounce Silver coin. This coin was selected for its use as good for small everyday purchases and a value set my international markets on a weekly basis.