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Lemúrinn: Crossing The Volcanic Wasteland With A Camera And Polished Shoes

Lemúrinn: Crossing The Volcanic Wasteland With A Camera And Polished Shoes

Published January 7, 2014

Horace Dall (1901-1986) lived on a hill in Luton, England. He pointed telescopes towards the stars and photographed the planets of the outer region of the solar system. He was an optician and an innovator of scientific instruments.

But he was also interested in this planet and travelled all around the world with a camera. In the summer 1933, he made an impressive bicycle trip around Iceland. Travelling in Iceland was a different experience in the 1930s. Roads were bad and there was almost no infrastructure for tourists. A cyclist had to cross very difficult terrain practically everywhere, and especially in the mountainous regions.

Dall made a remarkable crossing of Sprengisandur on his three-speed Raleigh roadster. The photographer and cycler Ben Searle wrote about Dall’s trip: “Sprengisandur is the virtually trackless volcanic and glacial wasteland of central Iceland and probably the bleakest area of Europe. Dall made the first crossing of the Sprengisandur wilderness by any wheeled vehicle.”

As is evident, Dall was a gifted photographer and in his captions, written in the form of a travelogue on the backs of his photos, provide wonderful descriptions and impressions of this strange country.


The “road” to Reykholt goes through much wild and barren country.


I spent the fourth night in the wilderness on a ledge in sight of the river with the unpronounceable name (Skjálfandafljót) which runs into the Arctic.


The “road” to Reykholt goes through much wild and barren country.


I took this photo at the memorable moment when two white specks—unmistakably farmhouses—came into sight after topping a hill. Still 8 miles away and several bad rivers and gullies to cross, but I was in great spirits, and very touched at the success of my navigation across the wilderness.


The beautiful ponies have crossed an overgrown lava field and the crater is only 1/4 mile away.


The Two Icelanders whom I persuaded to get me across the Tungaá River are resting here a few moments on a small gravel plain under the northern slopes of Hekla. These were the last human beings I saw until reaching Myri farm in the north five days later.



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Two Days Of Criminal Activity

Two Days Of Criminal Activity

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People thought we were nuts at the time, when in reality we were suffering from good old Icelandic gung-ho enthusiasm. This year, we ought to know better. Three of us—Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and I—got together last year to organise a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík. After all, how hard could it be? We had all been to a few of these, and it didn’t look like it could be all that much of a headache. It had seemed odd to us that Iceland didn’t have its own crime fiction festival. After all, there are plenty of them elsewhere.

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A New Wave Of Protests

A New Wave Of Protests

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Tension has been rising in Iceland of late. An estimated 4,500 people attended a general protest against the government on November 4, almost completely filling Austurvöllur by Alþingi. This marks it as one of the biggest demonstrations this year. The event was initially inspired by a Facebook rant from singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur, wherein he bemoaned the current coalition government’s favouritism of the rich and powerful. Instigator Svavar Knútur began the demonstration by addressing the crowd. In his speech—which has been widely shared across social media since the event—he likened the rally to the first of three warnings his father used to

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Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

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Standing by the door of a two-storey building in the Höfði industrial district and not finding a doorbell, I call Chaplas Menke, who says he’ll come down to let me in. My interview subject made local headlines this September, after being reportedly brutalised by the police. Since then, the story has gone quiet. A short while later, he invites me to his abode. He is of average height, dark-skinned, with sunken eyes and a svelte frame. He has a thick accent and speaks hesitatingly, picking his words carefully. I ask him how he’s doing, and he modestly says okay as

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News In Brief: November

News In Brief: November

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Icelanders have once again grown fed up with their elected representatives, staging a massive protest demonstration in front of Alþingi last Monday. Thousands stood at Austurvöllur, Reykjavík’s hip spot for protest meetings, to denounce a veritable cornucopia of bad policy decisions (police estimated 4,500 attendees at the protest, while some attendees estimated that they were in fact closer to 7,000). This particular time around, the political party actually leading the country–in this case, the Progressives–have most recently polled at just under 9%. Remember, folks: the last time a ruling coalition stepped down, it was because one party didn’t want to

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Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

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After DV revealed that the police had just acquired some 150 submachine guns from Norway, Chief Superintendent Jón Bjartmarz—who refused to answer any of the newspaper’s questions—explained on RÚV’s Kastljós that they have possessed machine guns “ever since after the Gúttó-fight.” “The Gúttó-fight” was a violent clash between police and workers, who were protesting announced wage reductions, back in 1932. The reference is as significant as they get. An Icelandic State Police authority, as opposed to a municipal one, was established in the aftermath of that fight, to ensure that authorities would henceforth have the upper hand against demonstrators. This

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Pippa’s Wish

Pippa’s Wish

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A particularly heart-warming story made the rounds recently when a crowdfunding campaign called “Pippa’s Wish” hit its required target, after a month online. The GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Tamara Antonelli Comerford to take Pippa—a disabled seven-year-old Sigur Rós fan from Missouri, who suffered a stroke at birth that left her with Cerebral Palsy, among other medical conditions—on the family holiday of a lifetime. During an extended convalescence after an operation to reshape her pelvis and straighten her legs, Pippa was in severe pain, but responded with fascination to the soothing beauty of Sigur Rós’ tour documentary ‘Heima’,

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