With a heavy heart Reykjavík waves goodbye to Mayor Jón Gnarr who concluded his four years in office this week. The parting is bittersweet though as the city welcomes Dagur B. Eggertsson in his place. Dagur, no stranger to being mayor of Reykjavík (having already served as mayor for three months in 2007-8) seemed excited and happy to take on the post during the handover ceremony. Jón on the other hand, seemed wistful, yet relieved, about the prospect of leaving City Hall.
On the subject of City Hall, it seems Reykjavík will be blessed with a Norwegian Christmas tree this year after all. Just as Icelanders wrapped their heads around supplying their own tree to stand on Austurvöllur for the holiday season the mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, announced that he had not taken into consideration how popular the Norwegian Christmas tree was amongst Icelanders, adding, “Icelanders also don’t have Christmas trees that are as good as we thought they had.” In short, this is a Pity Tree, but we’ll take it!
Icelandair’s problems continue as air mechanics go on strike, forcing the airline to cancel 65 flights last Monday. Currently the two sides are at odds over higher salaries and shifts. Unless an agreement is reached the mechanics will go on an indefinite strike, provided parliament does not step in and pass a law forbidding the work stoppage.
If that wasn’t enough, Icelandair was also in the news this week for losing a beloved family pet. Hunter, an American Border Collie in transit in Keflavík, escaped from his travel case after it fell off a conveyor belt at the airport. The owners only found out about the mistake when Hunter failed to turn up at their final destination. The search has been ongoing for the last week but Hunter continues to elude capture. Hunter’s owners have offered a 200.000 ISK Finders Fee and Icelandair have promised 2 plane tickets to the person who delivers the dog back to the airport.
Speaking of animals, whaling season has kicked off once again and perhaps more controversially than ever before. Increased international pressure has been mounting against Iceland for its whaling activities including a recent snub at the hands of US Secretary of State John Kerry who did not invite Icelandic representatives to the international ocean sustainability conference, Our Ocean.
Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson who claims not to be worried about the US anti-whaling actions responded to the exclusion by saying that “[Iceland’s] image is unblemished when it comes to sustainable use, and we are using the products of whaling in a sustainable matter.”
Meanwhile the first fin whales of the season were caught this week. A 62-foot long fin whale was caught by Hvalur 8 and was summarily skinned upon arrival at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður, north of the capital. A second fin whale was caught shortly after. The quota for fin whales – a species categorised as in danger of extinction – is 154 whales this year.
Lastly, in more positive and productive news, it’s been a great couple of weeks for singer Björk. Not only will her Biophilia Educational Programme soon be implemented to Nordic curriculums but her Biophilia app has become MoMA’s first app acquisition and the first app featured at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. If that wasn’t enough the singer featured on every track of Death Grips new album. The experimental hip hop outfit leaked the tracks through social media and have cited Björk as their muse in the past. Björk celebrated the release on her Facebook and has expressed her admiration for their work in the past.
Having expressed her admiration for Death Grips’s work in the past, Björk celebrated the release on her own Facebook page, saying “i am proud to announce my vocals landed on the new death grips album!…i am thrilled to be their “found object”. i have been lucky enough to hang and exchange music loves w/ them and witness them grow !! epic : onwards !!”