Government Takes Over Foreigner’s Fjord Purchase

The Icelandic state has purchased Hellisfjörður fjord in East Iceland, RÚV reports. A German entrepreneur had arranged to buy the land for ISK 40 million ($326,000/€291,000), when the Ministry for the Environment suggested the government use its pre-emptive rights to take over the contract. The goal of the purchase is to protect the mostly untouched land from development.

Uninhabited with no roads

According to Icelandic laws on nature conservation, the National Treasury has a pre-emptive right to purchase land and other property that is in whole or part on the Nature Conservation registry (Nátturuminjaskrá). The property in Hellisfjörður, located just south of Neskaupsstaður, measures 1,900 hectares (4,700 acres).

The fjord housed a whaling station in the early 20th century, but is currently uninhabited, though a handful of summer houses are located there. There is no road into the fjord and no electricity lines, and the government’s 2009-2013 nature conservation plan called for the fjord to be declared a nature reserve.

Rare, endangered plant species

The Environment Ministry and the Icelandic Institute of Natural History both called the fjord unique and worthy of conservation. In the statement from the Environment Ministry to the Ministry of Finance, it was stated that the fjord was an uninhabited wilderness little touched by humans, and it was important to let the nature in the area develop without the strain of human activity, as it would be vulnerable to any disruption. Vegetation in the fjord includes rare plant species, some of which are in danger of extinction, and the preservation of the area was stated to be important on a global scale.

Planned to farm fish

German entrepreneur Sven Jakobi had purchased the land through the company Vatnssteinn. According to the business registry, the company operates in freshwater fish farming. Sven had told local authorities he hoped to develop fishing in the area and possibly even build a harbour in the fjord.

The government has used its pre-emptive rights to purchase other properties with the aim of conservation. These include Teigarhorn by Djúpivogur (East Iceland), Fell by Jökulsárlón (South Iceland), and the land around by Geysir (Southwest Iceland).

Missing Belgian Believed to Be in Lake

Þingvallavatn

An extensive search for a foreign tourist in his 40s did not bear fruit this weekend, RÚV reports. An unmanned boat and backpack found floating on Þingvallavatn lake in Southwest Iceland suggest that the man fell into the water. Authorities will explore the possibility of diving into the lake to continue the search today.

Dozens of search and rescue volunteers searched for the man on Saturday and Sunday, finding an unmanned boat and backpack floating on Þingvallavatn yesterday. The backpack belongs to a Belgian tourist who is known to have stayed at the Þingvellir camp site on Friday night. His tent has not been found.

Windy conditions led to search teams eventually being called off yesterday. Þorvaldur Guðmundsson of ICE-SAR says the organisation may contract a diver to continue the search today near the power station at Sog river.

Medieval and Viking Era Artefacts Discovered in North Iceland

Archaeological remains Hofstaðir Mývatnssveit

Archaeological remains of three buildings have been discovered at Hofstaðir in North Iceland. Archaeologists were not previously aware of the buildings’ existence, RÚV reports. The site, located in the Mývatn area, contains both Medieval and Viking Age artefacts.

Hofstaðir is the most-researched archaeological site in Iceland, and according to Professor of Archaeology Orri Vésteinsson of the University of Iceland, that’s for good reason. Orri says the research material in the area is endless, although experts’ knowledge of the site is still “quite incomplete.” Researchers are only now carrying out detailed mapping of the area for the first time.

Banquet hall and cemetery

A banquet hall and a cemetery had been previously found at the site. A new farmstead with a large longhouse was uncovered in 2016, leading to the decision to map the area in more detail. That mapping helped lead to the newest discovery of the three buildings. Orri says further on-site research is needed to determine the function of the buildings, which will first and foremost require funding and careful planning.

Political and social place

There are various hypotheses as to how work and life were organised at the rediscovered settlement, though evidence points to the site hosting both political and social activities. Interestingly, the area contained both a lodge that hosted pagan ceremonies and a Christian church, which stood side by side for several decades. “This gives an indication that the conversion may have taken longer and been more complex than we had imagined,” Orri observed.