A Splash of Happiness

baby swimming

Long before I got pregnant, I heard about parents in Iceland taking their newborns swimming from a colleague of mine who joined baby swimming classes with her infant. She shared her experiences online, and in one of her videos, her four-month- old son stood unaided in the hands of his swim teacher. I was intrigued; […]

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

Missing Tourists are from the US, Netherlands, and Belgium

missing plane Þingvellir

The search for three missing tourists and their pilot continues in Þingvellir National Park after their plane went missing yesterday morning. The small sightseeing plane took off yesterday at 10:30 AM for a two-hour tour but did not return when scheduled. Cell phone data has given rescue crews reason to narrow the search to the Þingvellir area.

The missing plane is a Cessna 172N model and was piloted by Haraldur Diego, an experienced local pilot. The Washington Post reports that the three missing tourists are from the US, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Hundreds are taking part in the search for the missing four, including search-and-rescue teams, police, and the Icelandic Coast Guard. Conditions at the scene are cold and windy. Divers are on location and crews are using sonar devices to search in Þingvallavatn lake.

missing plane Þingvellir
Golli. Rescue crews at Þingvellir, February 4, 2022.

Little Justification to Continue Whaling, Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Says

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries, stated there is little evidence that whaling is economically beneficial to Iceland. The current government regulations allows for whaling until the year 2023, and Svandís says she sees little reason to permit the practice after that licence expires.

In a column published in Morgunblaðið newspaper today, Svandís points out that since whaling for commercial purposes was reintroduced in 2006, several hundred fin whales and a considerable number of minke whales have been killed. She states that it is undisputed that whaling is not of great economic importance. Over the past three years, only one minke whale has been killed, in 2021.

The companies that had a licence to whale during these years chose not to do so. Svandís says there could be several reasons for that choice, “but perhaps the simple explanation is that sustained losses from this hunting is the most likely outcome.” The consumption of whale meat in Japan, Iceland’s main market for the product, is declining. The Minister also points out that whaling is a controversial practice, and this has a negative impact on Iceland, though it may be hard to measure.

Hvalur hf., Iceland’s main whaling company, has been embroiled in several controversies in recent years. Public outcries followed when the company killed a pregnant fin whale and a rare hybrid whale in 2018. Hvalur hf. was at risk of losing their whaling licence after failing to submit captains’ logs for the 2014, 2015, and 2018 seasons. The company has been sued by three of its shareholders as well as by activists.

Svandís stated that the government would carry out an assessment on the potential economic and social impact of whaling this year.

Five Icelanders Compete in 2022 Winter Olympics

Hólmfríður Dóra Friðgeirsdóttir and Erla Ásgeirsdóttir Beijing 2022

The Beijing Winter Olympics begin today, and five Icelanders are among the competitors. They are Hólmfríður Dóra Friðgeirsdóttir, Isak Stianson Pedersen, Kristrún Guðnadóttir, Snorri Einarsson, and Sturla Snær Snorrason. Two will be competing in their first Olympic games.

Hólmfríður is competing in women’s Alpine skiing, in the slalom, giant slalom, and Super-G events. Kristrún will compete in cross-country skiing, in the women’s sprint freestyle event. Snorri will compete in the 15km cross-country skiing event, Men’s 15km+15km Skiathlon, the 50km mass start freestyle event, and the Men’s Team Sprint Classic event. Isak will compete in the cross-country sprint and the Team Sprint Classic events.

Sturla Snær, Snorri, and Isak all competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Holmfríður and Kristrún will be competing in the Olympics for the first time. Kristrún and Sturla Snær will be Iceland’s flagbearers at the opening ceremony today.

COVID-19 Isolation to Shorten to Five Days

Iceland’s Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson announced to media today that mandatory isolation for COVID-19 positive individuals will be shortened from seven days to five. Willum made the announcement in a radio interview this morning. The new regulations are to take effect this Monday, February 7.

“The illness varies among people so people must of course show caution and take care of themselves,” Willum stated, underlining that patients must be symptom-free to be discharged from isolation. Asked when mask regulations would be lifted, Willum stated: “I think that’s coming soon, everything is on our side.”

Icelandic authorities announced a plan to lift all domestic COVID-19 restrictions by mid-March, including isolation and quarantine due to COVID-19. The country has been reporting around 1,500 daily cases in recent weeks – nevertheless, the number of patients in hospital due to COVID-19 has dropped over the past week. Local data shows that around 90% of COVID-19 cases in Iceland are due to the Omicron strain, which has lower rates of hospitalisation and serious illness than the Delta strain of SARS-CoV-2. Isolation was shortened from 10 days to 7 in December of last year and quarantine regulations were significantly relaxed in January.

Hundreds Search For Missing Sightseeing Plane

Northern Lights over a lake

Search efforts are still ongoing for a sightseeing aeroplane reported missing shortly after noon yesterday. Its last known location was near Þingvellir National Park in Southwest Iceland, but its planned route was unknown. The plane contained an Icelandic pilot on a sightseeing flight with three passengers.

The plane left Reykjavík airport at 10:30 AM yesterday for a two-hour trip but never returned. The Icelandic Coast Guard received no distress call from the aircraft. Authorities contacted all airports in the country to determine whether the plane had landed elsewhere, to no avail. Hundreds too part in search efforts for the missing four last night. Early this morning, search-and-rescue volunteers, police, and the Icelandic coast guard resumed one of the most extensive search campaigns in recent years. The search was ongoing until 2:00 AM, with more than 200 people and two helicopters from the Icelandic Coast Guard. All the country’s airports have been contacted.

Hundreds take part in search

Auðunn Kristinsson with the Icelandic Coast Guard told RÚV that they sent out a call to search-and-rescue team members from all across the country, hoping that around 500 people would join the search today. “Most squads were called back at around 3:00–4:00 AM this morning, and we’re starting again at around eight. People are gathering to the southwest corner.”

Authorities received new information this morning from foreign mobile service providers and have called out divers to assist in the search. They’ve been focusing on the area south of lake Þingvallavatn but will extend their efforts to the north and east today. Weather conditions are favourable, and they will be searching on land, from the air, and in the water. “The helicopters will be up at ten and eleven, and private parties will also be assisting with the search.”

Photographer Chris Burkard shared a statement from the pilot’s family on social media this morning.

“Earlier this morning I was informed that my good friend Haraldur has gone missing. His family has asked that I make this following statement on their behalf. They are overwhelmed and grateful for the support – due to the volume and intensity of everything going on they can not update everyone and wanted me to share the latest. Over 500 people are looking for him from the incredible Iceland Search and Rescue as well as the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Icelandic Air Force – numerous pilots from Organisations and friends are also searching. This is a testament not only to the strength of the people of Iceland but to how well loved Haraldur is. The family wants everyone to know that they have not given up hope – and you should not either. When there is news, it will be shared.”