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A big ocean—and the Atlantic is a very big ocean indeed—has the appearance of a settled permanence. Stand anywhere beside it. and stare across its swells toward the distant horizon, and you are swiftly lulled into the belief that it has been there forever. All who like the sea - and surely there can be precious few who do not - have a favored place in which to stand and stare: for me it has long been the Faroe Islands, up in the far north Atlantic, where all is cold and wet and bleak. In its own challenging way it is entirely beautiful. Eighteen islands, each one a sliver of black basalt frosted with gale-blown salt grass and tilted up alarmingly from east to west, make up this Atlantic outpost of the Kingdom of Denmark. Fifty-odd thousand Faroese fishermen and sheep farmers cling there in ancient and determined remoteness, like the Vikings from whom they descend and whose vestiges of language they still speak. Rain, wind, and fog mark out these islanders' days - although from time to time, and on almost every afternoon in high summer, the mists suddenly swirl away and are replaced by a sky of a clarity and blue brilliance that seems to be known only in the world's high latitudes. It was on just a day like this that I chose to sail, across a lumpy and capricious sea. to the westernmost member of the archipelago, the island of Mykines. It is an island much favored by artists, who come for its wild solitude and its total subordination to the nature that so entirely surrounds it. And going there left a deep impression: in all my wanderings around the Atlantic. I can think of no place that ever gave me so great an impression of perching on the world's edge, no better place to absorb and begin to comprehend the awful majesty of this enormous ocean.