Up until 1950, Lånan was a thriving small community of around fifty residents. They all shared a good life. Their society was a caring, charitable one. They typically had strong Christian beliefs and deep gratitude for the gifts that nature had given them. Half a century later, things have changed a lot. For example, no one actually lives permanently on Lånan today. However, interest in the island’s cultural history and eider down processing industry has never been greater.
In the realm of the eider duck
On Lånan, people and eider ducks have always had a close relationship. The “eider guardians” –the island’s bird keepers - prepare nests and protect the birds from danger during the hatching season. As a reward, the birds return year after year, providing their keepers with valuable feathers, eggs and unforgettable nature-based experiences.
The eider guardians arrive on Lånan in mid-April to start preparing the nests. The eider runs and stone houses from the previous year must be repaired and lined with dried seaweed. The birds arrive in May to select their "accommodation". They often choose the same site, year after year. The bird keepers visit the nests twice a day, to make sure they are safe from predators. The first birds leave their nests in June, which is when the harvesting and cleaning of the eiderdown begins in earnest.
The work is time-consuming. Seaweed and eggshell must be removed from the down, before it is dried, shaken, harped and selected. Everything is done by hand, so that the down remains naturally springy, which is what makes it a great insulation material. In August, the stone houses and runs are cleaned and closed until the next year. The eider guardians return home to produce feather duvets, as the customer orders come in.
A guided tour by the eider keepers
When we arrive at Lånan, the eider keepers will come out to greet you. They will then guide you on a walk through the realm of the eider duck. The historic walkabout ends at the barn, where you will be served food and drinks.