Who Are We?

Kári Stefánsson - CEO of DeCode Genetics

The Icelandic nation’s identity is built on being a Nordic nation, descendants of Vikings. A nation that for centuries was isolated from other countries. Their homogeneity has been used for political purposes since the fight for independence, to explain Iceland’s uniqueness and justify its right to sovereignty. For some, this homo­geneity is even something to be protected, and the common knowledge of the nation’s origin is the foundation for that belief. But history is never as simple as “common knowledge” suggests.

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Reykjavík Through Its Daughters’ Eyes

A person never travels but halfway. Each time a person visits a foreign country, she is herself that part of the country that exerts the greatest influence over it: Each street, building, and passerby is coloured by a person’s experience, know­ledge, and prejudice – is permeated by her own self. This is why Reykjavík through the Daughters’ eyes is different from Reykjavík through the eyes of others; through their eyes, there is plenty to see.

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Are You Listening?

It’s been more than 40 years since the Bugles sang about the death of the radio star at the hands of video. At the time, people believed that the golden age of radio was ending, and that television would overtake it. Yet radio hung on, not least with the help of music programming. Then the internet came along and changed how we consume music, and people were sure that it was the final nail in radio’s coffin. For decades, we’ve been saying it’s only a matter of time before the last radio listener starts pushing up daisies. To this day, rumours of the radio’s death have proven greatly exagger­ated. Radio isn’t dead, even though there’s a new kid on the block: the podcast. Though it isn’t a new form of media threatening to take over, it is radio in new clothes. Yet the question remains – when one tap of a touchscreen gives us access to all the news, music, and TV we could ever need, why would we still listen to the radio?

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Directorate of Labour Aims to Tackle Long-Term Unemployment

Westman Islands fish processing plant

“It’s very difficult mentally and physically to be unemployed for a long time, especially mentally, all studies show that,” Unnur Sverrisdóttir, Director of the Directorate of Labour, stated in a radio interview on Rás 2 this morning. “That’s why we will focus on that group this winter, to try to help those who we think are maybe at risk of leaving the job market for good. There’s a lot to be gained by helping people.”

When the pandemic left many locals unemployed in Iceland last year, The Directorate of Labour hired around 100 new employees to respond to the increased strain on services. While unemployment rates have dropped significantly since the height of the crisis, Unnur says it’s now important to focus on those who haven’t managed to find new jobs or perhaps don’t foresee finding work again.

“We have a very good group of study and career counsellors who get in touch with these people and offer them interviews and all sorts of courses that people get the opportunity to attend in order to get off the ground. Because everyone that is [receiving unemployment benefits] is coming from the labour market, they have earned the right to unemployment benefits through work, so we know that these were once people who were able to work.”

The Directorate of Labour reported an unemployment rate of 5.5% in August, a decrease from 6.1% in July. The rate has almost halved since April of this year when it measured 10.4%.

Gale-Force Winds, Rain, and Snow Across Iceland Tomorrow

yellow weather warning Icelandic Met Office

While in some countries yellow leaves are a sure sign of autumn, in Iceland the same can be said of yellow weather alerts. A low front will sweep in to the country tomorrow, hitting all regions with strong or even gale-force winds. South and Southeast Iceland, as well as the Faxaflói bay area, will also experience heavy rain tomorrow, while other regions may see precipitation in the form of rain or snow.

Strong gusts of wind are expected across the country tomorrow reaching speeds of up to 25 metres per second in several regions. Gusts will be particularly strong below mountains, making travel hazardous. Precipitation will likely be in the form of snow or sleet on mountain roads.

Residents are advised to secure outdoor furniture and avoid travel if possible. Road conditions are updated regularly on road.is and weather information is available on the Icelandic Met Office website. Weather should improve by Tuesday evening in the west and Wednesday morning in the east of the country.

The Summerhouse

In all Swedish real estate listings, there’s a special note about the property’s dis­tance to water. As if people can only endure a brief amount of time on land before re-immersing themselves. I can picture them, sun-browned and sockless in their shoes, pink sweater arms dangling off the shoulders of slick-haired Swedes, striped skirts whipping […]

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Lava Pools Form and Burst in Geldingadalir

“My feeling anyway is that this eruption could continue for a few years. But of course, we don’t know that for certain. But there’s nothing that’s telling us that this eruption is going to stop tomorrow.” These were the words uttered by Professor of Volcanology Þorvaldur Þórðarson in a RÚV interview yesterday, the day that marked six months since the eruption on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula began.

Since it began on March 19, the so-called Geldingadalir eruption has formed new vents, cut off hiking paths, released giant gas bubbles, and filled the surrounding valleys with fresh, black lava. Surface activity has lapsed on several occasions, including earlier this month when one of the eruption’s vents clogged up, but experts say activity below the surface has continued.

Lava from the eruption is now forming pools in Geldingadalir, which occasionally overflow to create beautiful but dangerous streams down into the surrounding valleys. Þorvaldur expects activity to be concentrated in the Geldingadalir valleys in the coming weeks.

“We see that lava pools are building up in Geldingadalir and we of course saw just last week on Tuesday that when these lava pools burst and open up, then the lava can go down, or rather forward, very fast and go much further than under normal circumstances,” Þorvaldur stated. He added that the further south the lava pools are in Geldingadalir, the likelier it is that the lava will flow into Nátthagi valley and from there toward Suðurstrandarvegur road.

Four-Party Coalition Likely Following Election

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

It will not be possible to form a three-party majority government after the upcoming election, according to a projection published by Morgunblaðið newspaper today. The projection is built on three recent election polls from MMR. According to the polls, nine parties are polling high enough to win at least one seat in the election. Among these parties, seven four-party coalitions are possible and eight five-party coalitions. To form a majority coalition, parties needs at least 32 of Alþingi’s 63 seats, though preferably more.

Iceland’s current government is a three-party coalition between the Left-Green Movement, Independence Party, and Progressive Party. The upcoming parliamentary election will be held this Saturday, September 25, and if the aforementioned projection proves true, the Parliament is in for some changes. Morgunblaðið projects the following seat distribution, with parties listed from the right to the left of the political spectrum, according to the newspaper’s ranking:

Independence Party: 15

Progressive Party: 9

Centre Party: 3

Reform Party: 7

People’s Party: 3

Social-Democratic Alliance: 8

Left-Green Movement: 7

Pirate Party: 6

Socialist Party: 5

Independence and Progressive Parties key for coalition

The most likely four-party coalitions, according to the projection, all include both the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, both of which are in the current governing coalition. A more left-leaning government is possible, though it would require at least five parties and would also require collaboration with the Progressive Party. The party’s members have stated that they are not opposed to collaboration with left-leaning parties. Of the seven four-party coalitions, the centrist Reform Party is included in five of them.

It bears noting that projections are only a forecast and many differing election outcomes are possible.

Walrus Makes Stop in Southeast Iceland

A small crowd gathered in Höfn, Southeast Iceland, when a walrus was spotted in the town harbour yesterday evening, RÚV reports. There are no walruses living on Iceland’s shores, but one is spotted on average every ten years or so, likely arriving from Greenland. The walrus spotted in Höfn swam out to sea last night and caused no damage to residents or the harbour.

Though Iceland does not have a local walrus population today, there is evidence it used to. In 2019, DNA analyses and radiocarbon dating of walrus tusks found in Iceland revealed that they belonged to a previously unknown subspecies of the Atlantic walrus. This confirmed Iceland was “home to a distinct, localised subspecies” of walrus, according to Dr. Hilmar Malmquist, Director of the Icelandic Museum of Natural History.

Read More: Walruses Fuelled the Viking Expansion

The subspecies lived on Iceland’s shores from at least 7000 BC but disappeared shortly after the arrival of settlers. The total population seems to have been relatively small (around 5,000 animals) and thus vulnerable to habitat changes. Iceland’s climate today is too warm to support a walrus population. The animals prefer colder temperatures as well as abundant sea ice, especially during breeding season.

While Hilmar says a warming climate and volcanic eruptions may have been factors in the animals’ disappearance, the most likely explanation is that the animals were hunted to extinction by humans. Walrus ivory was once traded as a luxury product in Europe and Vikings also used walrus hides to make rope and walrus blubber to make oil, used for waterproofing ship hulls. Some sources suggest Vikings also ate walrus meat.