Jewellers Want Teeth and Bones From Massive Whale Beaching

beached whales

Icelandic jewellers are interested in buying teeth and bones from the carcasses of the fifty pilot whales which beached themselves on Snæfellsnes peninsula. The whales were found in Löngufjörur beach in Snæfellesnes in last week by American travellers. The landowner of Litla-Hraun, where the whales were found, warns the public that travelling in the area can be dangerous.

The whale beaching is thought to be the largest one in more than thirty years, as more than fifty whales beached themselves. Þorgrímur Leifsson is one two land-owners in the area. “It’s naturally a little bit weird and sad as well to see the whales there next to their little calves,” he said.

Specialists from the Marine Research Institute will head to the area tomorrow to inspect the area and collect samples. According to Þorgrímur, the animals will not be disposed of. “We plan to go and remove their teeth, then we’ll wait for the bones to reveal themselves and we’ll see what we’ll do with them. A jeweller contacted me and he wants both bones and teeth.” Þorgrímur says he doesn’t know how much the teeth and bones are worth, but a Reykjavík jeweller has already stated interest in them. There’s already considerable traffic in the area. “When I arrived yesterday there were eight planes, as well as jeeps, motorcycles, and quite a crowd. I believe it’s not safe for everyone to go there. You need to know the area to get down there. People need to respect the sea,” Þorgrímur explained. “It’s not the plan for the public to head down there, as it’s really quite dangerous.”

Marine biologist Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir said that there are any number of reasons that a pod of whales might accidentally swim into a dangerous area. For one thing, pilot whales are pack animals with strong social bonds, and do not easily abandon members of their pod.

Edda Elísabet also explained that there are strong tidal and seabed currents in the Löngufjörur area and that this could have made it harder for the whales to get back out to sea. Pilot whales depend on sonar for navigation, but sonar would have been quite limited in the area. That also might account for the whales getting stranded when the tide went out.

Steady Growth on Surtsey Island

Vegetation is growing at a relatively rapid rate on volcanic island Surtsey. A team of biologists from The Icelandic Institute of Natural History found one new plant species and two new bug species in a recent expedition. Expeditions head over there yearly to assess how life has developed on the island, which formed following an undersea volcanic eruption in 1963.

The new plant species is coltsfoot while the recently arrived bugs are lesteva longoelytrata and mitopus morio, an arachnid species often named harvestman. Mitopus morio is quite common all over in Iceland, but scientists believed it to be unlikely for the species to arrive all the way in Surtsey. These species are the first new species to be discovered since 2015.

Grass has slowly and steadily grown around the island, assisted by a sizable seagull population which fertilizes the soil with their droppings. There is now a sizable colony of birds in the area, around 200 pairs in total, most of which are seagulls. Scientists saw at least two exotic butterflies as well.

The team cleared out rubbish from the Surtsey beach, most of which came from fishing vessels. The cleaning has been performed yearly since 2016. For more information on the expedition, albeit in Icelandic, head to https://www.ni.is/frettir/2019/07/surtseyjarleidangur-liffraedinga-2019

Island untouched by humans
Surtsey is the southernmost point in Iceland, just south of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. The volcanic eruption started at a depth of 130 metres below sea level and reached the surface on November 14 1963. The eruption lasted until June 5, 1967. At that point, Surtsey’s surface area reached a maximum of 2.7 square kilometres, which eventually whittled down to the 1.3 square kilometres it is today. Surtsey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a nature reserve, humans are strictly forbidden on the island except for the yearly scientific expedition. The island has a small house, as well as a weather station and a permanent webcam.