East Iceland Town Welcomes Newborns With Eiderdown Duvet

Icelandic down

Expectant parents in Borgarfjörður eystri will now receive an eiderdown duvet for their newborns, thanks to a joint initiative of eiderdown farmers Jóhanna Óladóttir and Ólafur Aðalsteinsson and Icelandic Down (Íslenskur dúnn), a local company. While Jóhanna and Ólafur provide the down, Icelandic Down provides the fabric and produces the final product, Austurfrétt reports. The town is expecting its first newborn in four years next month.

“This tradition has come to stay,” remarked Ragna Óskarsdóttir of Icelandic Down, adding that she hopes it will help increase the number of children in Borgarfjörður eystri. “The more children the better.” Like many small towns in Iceland’s countryside, Borgarfjörður eystri has seen its population shrink in recent decades, as younger Icelanders are drawn to bigger towns for work or other reasons. Ragna insists, however, that the town of 77 residents is a great place to raise a family. “They get a free duvet, preschool is free here, and free food in primary school. There is no better place to raise children.”

The first parents to receive a duvet through the initiative are Lindsay Lee and Árni Magnús Magnússon, who recently relocated to Borgarfjörður eystri and are expecting their first child in June. Theirs is the first baby to be born in the town in four years. They say the community has welcomed them with open arms. “I don’t think there’s a better place for a child to grow up than here, where an entire community is ready to welcome them,” stated Lindsay.

Around 90% of the world’s eiderdown comes from Iceland. The nearly weightless, highly insulating material is a natural by-product of the common eider duck, which plucks feathers from its own body during breeding season to line its nest. A typical duvet requires 400-600 grams (14-21 ounces) of eiderdown while a child’s duvet requires about 200 grams (7 ounces).

Icelandic Farmer Plays Violin for Newborn Lambs

violin lamb Iceland

While social distancing prevents Icelanders from attending concerts these days, lambs born on Maria Weiss and Magnús Erlendsson’s farm in South Iceland get to hear live music every day. Maria is a violinist and plays for the newborns daily while attending to her duties in the sheepcote.

“At this time of year you’re in the sheepcote all the time, from six in the morning until midnight, and the violin gets to come along. The sheep and lambs like the music a lot, the ewes milk very well in any case,” Maria told Vísir reporters with a laugh. She says the sheep even have a favourite song, Á Sprengisandi, a lively Icelandic folk tune about a dangerous journey.

One of the lambs born this year stands out among the crowd for its unusual colouring: it has a brown body, black forearms, white cannons, a black face and white forehead. The farmers have named her Embla. Readers can watch Maria play for her lambs and sheep on Vísir’s website.

Efling Union and Municipalities Reach Agreement, Ending Strike

Fellaskóli school

A workers’ strike in Iceland that began on March 9, was suspended on March 24, and restarted on May 5, is now finally over. Efling Union and the municipalities of Kópavogur, Seltjarnarnes, Mosfellsbær, Ölfus, and Hveragerði have signed a collective contract that raises the lowest salaries of union members working for the municipalities. The strike affected preschools and primary schools in the municipalities, many of which were required to close when cleaning staff walked off the job.

According to a notice from Efling, the new contract increases base monthly salaries by ISK 90,000 ($613/€566) over the duration of the contract period and shortens the work week. The new contract also raises the lowest salaries “with a special additional payment modelled on Efling’s contract with Reykjavík City.”

Efling workers employed by the six municipalities returned to work today, though the contract remains subject to a vote by members.

Strike postponed due to COVID-19

The workers’ strike in the five municipalities began on March 9, after negotiations between Efling and the municipalities proved unsuccessful. The union’s negotiation committee had postponed strike action during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but announced that the strike would be voted on again after Easter. Efling members voted to resume the strike on May 5. Efling’s main demand was an agreement with benefits comparable to those that had recently been won for the union’s members working for the City of Reykjavík.

“Once again Efling members […] have proven that just and determined struggle of low wage workers through their union is not only our right but also something that achieves results,” stated Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

Iceland Review Photographer Wins Press Photo and Photo Series of the Year

Vatnajökull Grímsfjall Grímsvötn Bárðarbunga Kverkfjöll Jöklar Jökull Vísindi

Iceland Review photographer and publisher Kjartan Þorbjörnsson, known as Golli, has won the 2019 Press Photo of the Year and Photo Series of the Year. Golli’s winning photograph, seen above, was taken during an annual research trip on Vatnajökull glacier. The jury described the photograph as an “impactful and symbolic picture of human-driven climate change,” adding “The picture shows how small man is in comparison to nature and [shows] the ever-changing glacier from an interesting angle.”

Golli also won in the category of Best Photo Series for a group of photos from the same glacier trip, which the jury described as “a well-structured series that combines beautiful photos and a holistic narrative that concerns us all.”

Photo: Golli.

The Icelandic Press Photos of the Year have been awarded annually since 1979 by the Union of Icelandic Journalists. Golli’s six winning photos were chosen from 826 submissions from Icelandic photojournalists.

The winning photo was featured on the cover of Iceland Review’s fourth issue of 2019. An excerpt of the accompanying article is available online.

Photo: Berglind Jóhannsdóttir.

The winning photographs will be on display at Reykjavík’s Museum of Photography until May 30, 2020. See more of Golli’s photographs on Iceland Review’s Instagram account and Golli’s own.