Tourists Caught by Waves in Reynisfjara

Tourist guide Pascale Elísabet Skúladóttir caught a video early Saturday of fierce waves in Reynisfjara that threatened to wash unsuspecting tourists to sea, RÚV reports. Pascale says that all too often, tourists ignore warning signs on the beach, putting themselves in danger.

Reynisfjara beach is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, routinely appearing on lists of must-see non-tropical beaches. Its black sands and opportune view of the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall are a consistent draw for tourists. 

Reynisfjara beach, however, can be a dangerous spot in bad weather. Pascale’s video, shown below, depicts tourists who venture too close to the water and are suddenly swept off their feet by a powerful wave. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt, but the sudden chaos shown in the video is a powerful reminder of how quickly the tides can turn in Reynisfjara.

Pascale says that on bad weather days like last Saturday, she doesn’t take her clients far beyond the beach’s designated walking path. The tourists in the video, however, were about ten meters closer to the sea than is recommended.

“There are prominent warning signs in a few languages along the beach, but they are ignored by at least half of the tourists visiting. When I warn people, they often tell me to mind my own business” Pascale says. She further recommends that people avoid areas of the beach where the sand is smooth, which tends to indicate areas where the waves have reached.

The Disappearance of the Icelandic Walrus

New research spearheaded by the Icelandic Museum of Natural History suggests that a special breed of walruses lived in and around Iceland millennia ago but became extinct around the year 1100, RÚV reports. The extinction has been suggested as being one of the earliest examples of overharvesting of marine life by humans.

According to Hilmar J. Malmquist, biologist and director of the Icelandic Museum of Natural History, the mysterious breed of walruses were highly coveted by early settlers for their meat, tusks and hide.

Walrus hide was reportedly used for clothing and rope that was used to secure the sails of the settlers’ boat fleet, furthermore walrus oil was used as ship insulation and to ward off crustaceans that would burrow into ship hulls, causing damage.

Walrus tusks were called the ivory of the North and were considered quite precious. Artists would often carve intricate patterns into the tusks. “Kings were gifted walrus tusks and heads, such was the importance of these artefacts,” Hilmir says.

Other factors, like rising temperatures and volcanic eruptions, could also have contributed to the eventual demise of the Icelandic walrus. According to Hilmir, Iceland was relatively warm during their heyday and had little ice. Furthermore, extreme volcanic activity is thought to have characterised the locations where the walrus lived.

“The newest theories, put forth by scientists studying Icelandic settlers and natural history, suggest that an interest for Iceland’s abundant marine and bird life might have been a driving force behind early settlements here, rather than hardship and political disputes in Norway,” Hilmar says.

The disappearance of walruses in Iceland has long been a puzzle to scientists, but the new research, spearheaded by the Icelandic Museum of Natural History and conducted by Icelandic, Danish and Dutch researchers has shed new light on the matter. The scientists studied walrus bone samples found in western and south-western parts of Iceland. Their findings were recently reported in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Chief of Police to Meet with Minister of Justice over Recent Conflict 

Iceland’s chief of police Haraldur Johannessen will meet with Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir today to discuss recent turmoil within the ranks of the Icelandic police department, Fréttablaðið reports. An interview with Johannessen in Morgunblaðið over the weekend is reported to have ruffled quite a few feathers. In the interview, Johannessen talks about a “smear campaign” made against him by other police officials with “outrageous tactics”, done in an attempt to remove him from office. He also insinuated that corruption is widespread within Iceland’s police department. This is contradicted by an anonymous source who told Fréttablaðið that Johannessen has only been asked to ensure proper working conditions for his underlings.

The squabbling within the police department is mainly centred around Johannessen’s supposed poor handling of funds, his inability to maintain the police car fleet and ensure that police uniforms are in check.

An anonymous police chief, working under Johannessen is quoted by Fréttablaðið as saying he is bewildered by the Morgunblaðið interview and that there is no smear campaign happening. However, the anonymous source says that many within Iceland’s police department have contacted Johannessen recently in order to seek improvement of the police car fleet and uniforms, who are reportedly not up to code at the moment.

Chernobyl Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Wins Emmy

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir received an Emmy last night for her score for HBO’s historical drama miniseries Chernobyl, Vísir reports. The miniseries chronicles the tragic events of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and features a score by Guðnadóttir, entirely made from sounds recorded at the site of the infamous calamity. This is the first Emmy win for Guðnadóttir, whose upcoming scores include Todd Phillips’ highly anticipated Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

The 71st Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards were held over the weekend to honour outstanding achievements in U.S. primetime television, with Chernobyl sweeping up seven awards, including one for Guðnadóttir’s score.

As previously reported, Guðnadóttir’s score is made from sounds recorded on-site at a nuclear power plant. “I wanted to explore what a nuclear disaster sounds like – to go into the plant, put on the gear, walk through the huge spaces, smell how it smells,” Guðnadóttir told Iceland Review in a recent interview.

Read the interview with Hildur Guðnadóttir

Guðnadóttir’s next score is for Todd Phillips’ upcoming Joker film, which is awaiting an October release. Joker has already garnered considerable praise, winning the coveted Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, with Guðnadóttir winning the Premio Soundtrack Stars Award for her score.

Hildur Guðnadóttir was not the only Icelander who was victorious over the Emmy weekend. Aron Hjartarson won an award alongside his team at Framestone, a production and visual effects company, for their involvement in Free Solo, the documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold.



Full-Bodied Sound

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Hildur Guðnadóttir talks about music as a physical process. Her classical training is a “trampoline to jump from,” while listening to doom metal is “like getting a full body massage.” Yet for the composer of HBO series Chernobyl and upcoming Hollywood film Joker, this physical approach doesn’t make the art any less intellectual. On the contrary, the body serves as a way into the complex characters and plots, and into the essence of the musician herself.

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