Published September 8, 2017
After a mosey around the Golden Circle, you—our tourist reader—might be wondering: “How the hell does any animal survive on this godforsaken mid-Atlantic rock?” It’s a fair question. With a lack of vegetation, a merciless climate, and generally inhospitable conditions, Iceland isn’t an easy place for any living creature to survive.
That said, there are a number of cool fauna in the country. So, let’s meet the…
The Atlantic Cod, or Gadus morhua, is a mild sea creature that could be called the dorsal fin of Iceland’s fisheries. Much like the Icelandic national football team’s captain Aron Gunnarsson, the fish is white and full of protein. Unlike Aron, it can be somewhat bland. That said, throw on some butter and herbs before baking and you’ll enter flavourtown. Gains!
To enter flavourtown themselves, the cod uses a magical five o’clock shadow sensory organ on their face called barbels. They feed on sandeels, mackerel, haddock, squid, and even smaller cod. They’re basically badass cannibals.
The flavour of cod is particularly potent when it’s processed into Icelandic harðfiskur, which is a kind of fish jerky that tastes best when slathered in creamy Icelandic butter. They also produce great caviar, since the female fish regularly lay up to five million eggs. Ouch.
Forever the troublemaker, cod was actually the catalyst for Iceland’s only “war,” fittingly titled the Cod War. While it was really just a diplomatic disagreement between England and Iceland—hence “war!”—Icelanders like to talk about it, because it makes them feel like Finnish people, or Rocky Balboa. You know—underdogs that decimated world powers.
In reality, there was only one casualty of the Cod Wars. His name was Halldór Hallfreðsson, and he was an Icelandic engineer who took a little tumble while fixing a coast guard ship. RIP Halldór. It was a tragic ending, but what can we say? It must have been an act of cod.