A geothermal location in southwest Iceland has been going through some sudden and dramatic changes. Víkufréttir reports that the geothermal area of Gunnuhver has seen quite a transformation recently. The site, which was once a relatively placid patch of gently bubbling clay and wafting sulfuric steam, is now under police lockdown. All steam has disappeared from the area, save for the source of the geothermal spring itself, which alternately bellows hot steam and clay metres into the air. The pedestrian walkway through Gunnuhver has partially collapsed due to the heat and water damage. Below, you can see a video of reportage from the scene. While the reporting is done in Icelandic, non-Icelandic-speakers will still get to see the activity currently going on at Gunnuhver. It has not been proposed at this time that the current activity is in any way connected to the volcanic activity occurring at Holuhraun, hundreds of kilometres away.
A former Minister of Foreign Affairs has made a novel suggestion to end the current international row over Iceland’s whale hunting practices. RÚV reports that former Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson believes there is a middle way when it comes to whaling: simply hunt the whales that are not endangered: minke whales. In fact, he contends that this is what one can read between the lines of a recent demarche from 35 nations exhorting Iceland to stop hunting fin whales. “Which would be that Icelanders drop hunting fin whales, but may continue hunting minke whales for domestic use,” he told reporters, adding that the current Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, “might not want to face this but the United States is obviously gathering momentum in this fight [against whaling].” As reported, the demarche has been signed by all European Nation member states, as well as the United States, Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and Monaco. At the same time, Minister of Fisheries Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson dismissed the condemnation, saying, “People and companies have maintained for a long time [that whaling has damaged the reputation of Icelanders] and pitted tourism and whale watching against whaling. But if we look at this rationally, and analyse the numbers, these two industries run really well alongside one another.”
MPs from five parties have proposed the Icelandic government explore building a train between Keflavík and Reykjavík, as well as a train for the greater Reykjavík area. Vísir reports that the proposal has speakers from every parliamentary party except the Pirate Party. Leading the proposal is Left-Green chairperson Katrín Jakobsdóttir, followed by Svandís Svavarsdóttir (Left-Green), Ásmundur Friðriksson (Independence Party), Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir (Progressives), Óttarr Proppé (Bright Future), Karl Garðarsson (Progressives) and Oddný G. Harðardóttir (Social Democrats). The proposal calls for results of the government’s findings on the logistics and possibilities for the trains in 2015. The idea is not a new one, and this proposal has been submitted three times before without discussion. In 2011, the Keflavik Airport Development Corporation (Kadeco) discussed the idea of building a train between the airport and the capital, saying there were exploring the prospect. In 2013, consultancy group was said to be looking into building a train as well. Last July, this idea began to take a more specific shape as reports outlined more exact details of what form the train would take. As it is, there are no operating trains in Iceland. Those wishing to travel from the airport to the capital without renting a car can, however, take shuttle buses to Reykjavík.
Fists clenched, a middle aged bald man sits torn between frustration and amusement. “But Iceland is so ordinary. Nothing exciting happens here,” he says before walking off into the un-setting sun. It’s 6:30 am and I’m on a busy street corner with a crowd of friendly strangers. Sitting in a circle of borrowed patio chairs, we finish our post-bar sandwiches and exchange tales. Apparently the fascinating strangeness I found in this foreign country surprised even Icelandic natives. Like most people, they called me crazy for doing what I’ve done, but I don’t blame them. In order to find yourself, you must first lose yourself Forty-eight hours preceding my trip I purchase a one-way ticket and pack my life into boxes. Equipped with a 17kg backpack, a handful of money and a mind for adventure, I set off. On the Keflavík bound plane, I plug into the Icelandic in-flight radio. Intrigued by my first tastes of the foreign culture, I am told the President’s phone number is listed in the phonebook and more than half the nation believes in elves. Beyond the narrow windowpane layers of sapphire, emerald and topaz burst through darkness, while a scarlet sea merges with mountains of shadowed clouds. A sense of beauty I’ve never felt before comes on like a revolution. A whole new town with a whole new way The streets of Reykjavík are sleeping as I venture through the downtown core. Finding a cafe I sit armed with a book of tourist attractions. I should know better than to expect my excursion to be found in a travel guidebook. After a grassy afternoon behind city hall and a long night of duty free gin, the glowing pink sky reads early morning. But it’s only twelve o’clock. Mesmerised, I stand in awe of the midnight sun and city of asymmetrical buildings. The next morning I’m determined to see Icelandic landscapes. Considering my small budget I decide on the cheapest method of transportation: hitchhiking. Into the unknown Destined for Skaftafell National Park, I stroll down Route 1 with a cardboard sign in hand. Before long a beat up Volvo pulls over. Inside a man with shaggy brown hair and an inviting grin gestures to hop in. Too extreme for seatbelts or speed limits, he carves country roads, ranting about daily annoyances. Trying to ignore the missing rear-view mirror and gasoline-stained seats, I focus on volcanic craters and the turquoise water reflecting clouds above. Unloading his opinions on current affairs and French hookers, he invites me to dinner. When I insist on travelling onward, he says it’s impossible. His property resembles a junkyard. Decaying greenhouses, broken down cars and roaming dogs swamp the property. Inside, living room walls list names painted in childish script, dried meat hangs from kitchen shelves, cereal boxes act as lamp shades and dead critters lay on the storage room floor. As he demands I make dinner, I sort through the fridge to find most items have long since expired. The rotten food
The Faroese trawler ‘Næraberg’ was fishing for mackerel in Greenlandic waters when its engine suffered a malfunction. As the Icelandic Coast Guard was best situated to help, it sent a plane out to the trawler with spare engine parts, which it dropped in a parachute. The Faroese crew retrieved them in a dinghy and went to work repairing the engine. Another lovely story of cooperation in the North Atlantic Ocean, where hard men with soft hearts help each other survive. After the attempted repairs, the engine could only produce a fraction of normal power. The ship set course for Iceland. Icelandic harbour authorities asked it to turn back and leave Icelandic territorial waters, even though it was in distress and a storm was coming. After changing their mind and allowing the ship to dock in Reykjavík, authorities said that the crew would not be allowed to disembark, not even to restock their supplies of water, food or oil. There was even a delay in allowing repairmen onto the ship, since it had been fishing for mackerel. Holy mackerel! Seriously, do Icelanders consider mackerel holy and shun heretics who fish for it? No, but the Faroe Islands and Iceland have a dispute over mackerel fishing rights. The Faroese entered into an agreement about mackerel stocks with the EU and Norway, excluding Iceland from the negotiations. A 1998 Icelandic law bans foreign ships from docking if they are fishing in stocks which Iceland has disputes over. Icelandic harbour authorities considered themselves bound by this law to deny the ‘Næraberg’ service. Not everyone agrees, including the harbour master in Reykjavík, Gísli Gíslason, who said that the Faroese ship should be treated like an Icelandic ship in a similar situation would be, as required by the Hoyvík Agreement. Oh yes, the Hoyvík Agreement. It’s fourth on my list of international accords which sound like my cat coughing up a hairball, after the treaties of Hudaybiyyah, Gyehae and Yazhelbitsy. If your cat makes noises that sound like Yazhelbitsy, you should take it to a vet. The Hoyvík Agreement is an extensive free trade agreement between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, lifting almost all restrictions on businesses in the two countries, with no exceptions for refusing aid to ships in need of repairs. This pigdickery by Icelandic authorities did not go over well, neither in the Faroe Islands nor in Iceland. Internet commenters frothed, politicians who like being angry said angry things in the media, and people in Iceland collected money to throw the fishermen on the ‘Næraberg’ a Domino’s pizza party on their ship. Isn’t feeding someone Domino’s Pizza against the Geneva Convention? Or at least the International Treaty of Eww Yuck Gross? They were being nice, no need to be a snob. One thing in particular was brought up time and again: when the Faroe Islands provided an emergency loan to Iceland right after the 2008 financial collapse. The crew themselves brought it up immediately when they contacted Faroese media. The 40 million Euro
The Minister of Fisheries, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, says he is concerned by the démarche delivered to the Icelandic government to end the practice of whaling. Sigurður Ingi told RÚV however, that he felt it was important to highlight that all [fishing] organisations operating in Iceland do so sustainably, unlike many of the countries who signed the démarche. “I think that in the past few years we have been too shy about [our sustainable whaling practices] and I think it’s really burned us,” said Sigurður Ingi. “People and companies have maintained for a long time [that whaling has damaged the reputation of Icelanders] and pitted tourism and whale watching against whaling. But if we look at this rationally, and analyse the numbers, these two industries run really well alongside one another.”