In the Vega Archipelago, way up in the north of Norway at the Arctic Circle, nature is austere. For centuries, the people here lived from fishing and farming. And from a unique partnership, they formed with wild eider ducks.
The more than 6,000 islands of the Vega Archipelago are the realm of the eider ducks. They come here every year to find food in the shallow waters and to mate. But on the bare islands their eggs and chicks are also constantly exposed to the weather and to predators like seagulls and eagles.
The islanders provide the ducks with a unique form of protection: for hundreds of years, they have built countless boxes from driftwood, small shelters from stone, and nesting sites below their own homes – places where the birds can incubate their eggs and raise the chicks.
In return, after the breeding season, the islanders harvest the costly eiderdown, with which the ducks line their nests. The feathers have an extremely high insulating capacity and durability, which make them a much sought-after raw material. It takes the down from 60 to 70 nests to fill just one duvet, which will then be sold for several thousand euros.
This way of life, which has also shaped the islands, is under threat. Because life in the Archipelago is lonely and tough. In recent decades most of the inhabitants have left the islands. There are only a few left, who look after the ducks in summer. But there is hope: because of its unique symbiosis of humans and animals, the Vega Archipelago has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2004 - and a new generation of young Norwegians is getting involved.