Þór to Dispose of Stranded Pilot Whale Pod

The Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel Þór will arrive at Árneshreppur on the north coast of the Westfjords next week to remove over fifty pilot whale carcasses from the beach, RÚV reports. Þór will then dispose of the carcasses far enough out to sea that the tide won’t bring them back to shore.

The whales were stranded in Árneshreppur last weekend and died on the beach. Since then, the local government has discussed ways to dispose of the decomposing carcasses. Municipal Council Chair Eva Sigurbjörnsdóttir told RÚV that the Coast Guard Vessel is scheduled to arrive next Tuesday, and that locals are relieved that a solution has been found.

Locals were surprised to see the whales swim ashore. Farmer Björn G. Torfason told RÚV last week that he had never before seen anything like the pod of whales on the beach. A team of scientists from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland has taken samples from the animals, but what caused the pod to swim to land is unknown. The MFRI hopes to gather information on the whales’ physical condition at their time of death, their age and how related the whales in the pod were.

Rise in Scooter Accidents With Increased Scooter Traffic

A person riding an electric scooter by the Reykjavík city centre pond.

From June to August this year, electric scooter accident rates have increased compared to the same period last year. Still, the increase is relatively smaller than the increase in scooter traffic, according to a National Hospital’s emergency ward report. The increase in accidents mainly consists of adults. The high accident rates on Friday and Saturday nights suggest that more education is needed on the dangers of riding scooters under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Senior Physician at the National University Hospital’s emergency ward Hjalti Már Björnsson has issued data on scooter accidents. This summer, June, July, and August, 245 individuals sought visited the emergency ward with injuries from scooter accidents. During the same period last year, 149 scooter accidents resulted in an emergency ward visit, so the average incident rate increased from 1.6 to 2.7 per day.

Seventy-two children were injured compared to 68 last year, while the number of adults (18 years or older) rose from 81 to 173. Most of the accidents resulted in minor injuries, but four individuals were acutely admitted to the hospital. “In the majority of cases, it’s minor cuts, scrapes or sprains. We’ve had a few broken bones and some facial injuries,” Hjalti Már told Vísir.

The report notes that the increase in accidents is minor, considering the increase in scooter traffic. According to city officials and scooter rental companies, registered trips with rental scooters were just under 700,000 in the city centre during the summer of 2021. In addition, the country imported about 20,000 electric scooters over the last few years for private use. It can be assumed that about a million electric scooter trips were taken this summer. “So it seems that the number of accidents isn’t great considering the number of trips and the increase in accidents is likely relatively smaller than the increase in scooter travel,” the emergency ward report stated.

While the increase in accidents is relatively small, the data indicates more accidents over the weekends. There’s an average of 2.2 accidents per day during weekdays, but during the weekend, that rate shoots up to 3.7. Half of the accidents over the weekends occur during the night, from 11 pm to 5 am. Last year, 40% of adults who were injured on electric scooters had consumed alcohol. No such data was collected this year, but the increase in accidents on weekend nights gives cause to assume that alcohol or other substance consumption is a factor.

The report points out that electric scooters are a cheap and environmentally friendly mode of transport and that capital area infrastructure needs to be strengthened to ensure passenger safety. It also urges a campaign to educate people that alcohol and electric scooters aren’t a good mix. Finally, they suggest that improved public transport during weekends might lead to a decrease in accidents.

The public is encouraged to keep a few things in mind when using the electric scooters:

  • Riding an electric scooter takes practice, just like riding a bike. Caution is advised when getting used to this mode of transport.
  • There should never be more than one passenger on a scooter.
  • Slow down when making a turn or crossing uneven surfaces.
  • Under no circumstances should you use an electric scooter under the influence of alcohol or other substances.