Eiderdown is a natural material that combines unique thermal insulation properties with incredible lightness. The famous down jackets and sleeping bags on eider down are familiar to every traveler. Do you know what color the eiderdown is? Think white, but no, the main color is dark gray, sometimes with a brown tint.
For millions of years, nature has contributed to the adaptation of the eider to the harsh arctic conditions. The incredibly rich plumage allows these rather large birds to survive at temperatures of -50 degrees Celsius, and to forage in the dark blue waters of the Arctic seas (the freezing point of salt water is much lower than the freezing point of fresh water).
Hundreds of years ago, eider colonies attracted the attention of the peoples of the north, bird eggs became a source of food, and down was used to make clothes.
In Norway, there are historical records dating back to 890 that the royal tax collector took eider down tribute. In 1651. King Christian IV of Norway founded the first eider reserve. By his decree, he ordered to chop off the head of everyone who kills an eider. Reserves with a high number of this bird in Norway have survived to this day.
In Finland, thanks to the conservation policy, a high number of eiders has been achieved. Here, unlike Norway, where it is still forbidden to collect down, it is collected, but only after the female leaves the nest.
Paradoxically, the largest number of eiders is observed in a country where there are no reserves. This country is Iceland. From time immemorial, its territory has been divided into farms. The coastal areas and islands adjacent to the coastline on which the eider nest are owned by farmers. The tradition of collecting down in this country goes back 800 years. Iceland has been selling eiderdown for two hundred years. Before the revolution, Russia annually bought up all the eiderdowns collected in Iceland (then the Danish colony).
With the arrival of spring, a hot season begins for farmers. It is necessary to prepare the islands for nesting. The purpose of this event is as follows: the coast and islands are freed from predators, the number of gulls and crows is regulated, shelters for birds are arranged and artificial nests are created. Thanks to these methods, Iceland has the largest population of the common eider (Somateria mollissima). Up to 3000 kilograms of eider down are collected here.
How much eider down was mined in Russia? Pre-revolutionary statistics are hard to believe. Up to 10 tons of eider down were supplied to the market annually - this is 10, 000 kilograms. In 19th-century Russia, the main consumer of eider down was the wealthiest part of society - the owners of palaces, estates, factories, newspapers and ships. Eiderdown - along with outbound carriages, jewelry, Swiss watches, was a sign of luxury. As an element of cultural life, eider down is reflected in the world classical literature of the 19th century.
Currently, the tradition of using eider down has been lost. The reason for this was the following: the October Socialist Revolution destroyed the rich class, and as a result, the demand for all luxury goods disappeared. The technology of processing eider down that existed in the 19th century is outdated, and there were no conditions for the emergence of a modern method of processing.
Since the early 1970s, Japan has become the main market for eider down. Due to the demands of the Japanese market, the processing of eider down nowadays meets the highest quality standards. It was in Japan that blankets filled with washed eider down were first sold. Every year, Japanese importers buy almost all of the eiderdowns harvested in Iceland.