Hypothermia on the Rise at Reykjavík Beach as Winter Sets In

As winter sets in around Iceland, hypothermia is becoming increasingly common among open-water swimmers at the Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach in Reykjavík, according to Department Head Óttarr Hrafnkelsson.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Hrafnkelsson implored patrons to exercise caution and good judgment. Exhaustion and hypothermia among patrons have put a significant strain on Nauthólsvík’s staff (as many as four patrons in one day have suffered exhaustion from swimming in the frigid waters, Mbl reports).

In his announcement, Hrafnkelsson advised amateur swimmers to stay close to land in order to ensure safe passage from water.

“The Geothermal Beach is a bathing place. Our job is to maintain a sanitary and safe environment: a hot tub, a steam bath, toilets, showers, and a locker room. It is worth pointing out that none of our employees’ job description involves rescuing swimmers struggling at sea. Besides, when the water is four-degrees or colder, swimming with another person to land is nothing short of impossible.”

The Nauthólsvík beach was opened in 2001 and it attracts over 500,000 guests annually. Over the years, open-water swimming has become increasingly popular among patrons of the beach (and Icelanders generally). The temperature of the ocean varies from around -1,9°C during the coldest winter months and around 17°C in the summer.

Hverfisgata to Reopen in November After Two-Month Delay

According to an announcement on Reykjavík City’s website, construction on Hverfisgata – one of Reykjavík’s main streets – will be completed in November. Car traffic on Hverfisgata, between Smiðjustígur to Ingólfsstræti, has been stopped since May. Wooden platforms have served as makeshift sidewalks for pedestrians.

A Two-Month Delay

Construction on Hverfisgata was initially scheduled to be completed in September. The two-month delay has tested the patience of business owners, some of whom have reported a 40% decline in business. Five restaurants have closed since this summer and others are struggling, RÚV reports. In a recent post on Facebook, Ásmundur Helgason, owner of the coffeehouse Grái Kötturinn on Hverfisgata, demanded compensation from the City of Reykjavík.

“Surely, this delay calls for compensation from the contractor and my question is this: Who will receive this compensation? Has the City of Reykjavík suffered a loss from these delays? The answer, most likely, is No. We, the small-business owners, however, have suffered great losses.”

Construction to Be Completed Mid-November

This weekend, the cobbling of the square on the corner of Hverfisgata and Ingólfsstræti will be completed, the aforementioned announcement states. Next week, the finishing touches will be placed on a bike lane and sidewalk on the northern side of Hverfisgata, by the Culture House and the National Theatre. A cobbled square in front of the National Theatre will be finished at the end of the first week in November. The road itself will subsequently be opened. Construction of bike lanes and sidewalks on the southern side of Hverfisgata will be finished in mid-November.

Icelandair’s Boeing 737 MAX-8s Grounded Through February

According to a statement released by Icelandair yesterday, the airline does not expect its Boeing 737 Max planes to return to service until the end of February 2020. The airline has adjusted its flight schedule through February 2020. The decision will have a “minimum impact” on previously scheduled flights.

In the meantime, Icelandair will continue to monitor developments in the extensive effort, led by international aviation authorities, to ensure Boeing 737 MAX’s safe return to service. As announced last September, Icelandair has reached an interim agreement with Boeing regarding compensation: “Continued discussions with Boeing regarding compensation for the Company’s financial loss resulting from the suspension are ongoing.”

As reported in Iceland Review in September, Icelandair’s five MAX-8 planes are scheduled to fly to Toulouse, France in order to protect them from wear and tear caused by harsher weather conditions at Keflavík Airport. The planes are slated to be stored with the company Tarmac Aerosave.

Bank’s Proposed Boycott of Male-Dominated Media Causes Stir

Íslandsbanki plans on altering its marketing policy. According to a statement made by the bank’s marketing and communication director, the bank will no longer place ads in media outlets where women are underrepresented. The bank’s announcement has garnered much attention, especially considering that Íslandsbanki is fully owned by the Icelandic State Treasury.

Saying One Thing, Doing Another

In an opinion piece published on October 21st on Vísir, Edda Hermannsdóttir – Marketing and Communications Director of Íslandsbanki – presented a “new path forward” for the bank. Encouraged by individual initiative in the fight against climate change, Hermannsdóttir underscored the importance of companies doing the same:

“We at Íslandsbanki have done our share of navel-gazing on these issues and have tried to take a new path forward; however, we were quickly confronted with the hypocrisy of our own rhetoric. We would talk about offsetting carbon emissions while also encouraging young children to deposit their savings into plastic piggy banks imported from China. We would promote equality with great vigour while also placing ads with media companies where few or no women are represented. We would raise the issue of gender imbalance while also doing business with male-dominated companies.”

Lamenting such hypocrisy, Hermannsdóttir announced a new policy:

“We’re saying goodbye to the plastic piggy bank and introducing the paper piggy bank; we’re no longer rewarding children for saving money with plastic products, instead, we’re focusing on enjoyable experiences; we’re avoiding companies who fill the room with only men; we’re no longer printing out reports on paper; and we’re no longer placing ads with gender-imbalanced media outlets. We’ll probably never be perfect, but we’re trying, for the sake of the future.

Parliamentarians React

Following an article on the piece in Vísir, members of Parliament debated the ethical dimensions of Hermannsdóttir’s proposal. In a speech before Parliament yesterday, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Chairman of the Centre Party, claimed that Íslandsbanki – which is owned by the government – was using its power to punish companies failing to adhere to the bank’s policy. Gunnlaugsson spoke of the “sinister” nature of a bank meddling in the operations of the media. Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance, emphasised that while equality was a good thing boundaries were another thing.

Responding to criticism by Parliament and the media, Hermannsdóttir clarified that Íslandsbanki had approved of a marketing policy predicated on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, among which are gender equality and climate action.

“It’s common for companies around the world to use their purchasing power for good. We’re hoping to encourage the media to better represent women, whether in terms of their employees or their interviewees.” According to Hermannsdóttir, the bank was not forcing the media to do anything. The intention was to start a conversation.

“This isn’t something that happens overnight,” Hermannsdóttir stated.

In the Spotlight

On RÚV’s news programme Spotlight (Kastljós) yesterday, Hulda Ragnheiður Árnadóttir, Chair of the Association of Women Business Leaders in Iceland, and Óli Björn Kárason, Chairman of the Economic Affairs and Trade Committee, debated Íslandsbanki’s proposed policy. Árnadóttir expresssed approval, stating that, at last, gender inequality was evolving from a mere talking point to a plan of action. Kárason argued that it was unacceptable for a government-owned company to decide to forgo business with other companies based on its own viewpoint on gender equality.

(Updated 09:00 AM)