Progress Made on New Þorskafjörður Bridge

westfjords bridge

Significant progress has been made on the new Þorskafjörður bridge since construction began on the project some two years ago. The bridge is part of the Vestfjarðarvegur, which will better connect many communities in this remote region of Iceland.

“We currently have about fifteen people here. Eight excavators, two bulldozers, a dump truck. You name it, whatever is needed. This is a massive project. For example, with the bridge itself, about four thousand cubic meters of concrete were used. 400 tons of steel, so it’s quite significant,” stated project manager Einar Valur Valgarðsson to RÚV.

Einar believes it’s safe to say that the project is nearing completion.

“Now we’re just continuing to connect the western side and finish the filling work,” he continued. “We’re also breaking up rocks.”

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The bridge will be important to the region, as it will shorten the route through Þorskafjörður by some 22 km [13 mi].

It will also increase access to the Barðaströnd region, one of Iceland’s most remote regions. This region is largely dependent on the ferry Baldur which sails across Breiðafjörður. However, the ferry has had technical difficulties in recent years.

The completed bridge will be 260 m in length and will allow travellers to drive through the southern Westfjords on an entirely paved road.

The Þorskafjörður project began in 2021 and has cost roughly ISK 2 billion [$14 million; €13 million]. The project is due for completion in July 2024, but according to project manager Einar, it could well be done before that.


American Investor Pays ISK 27 Million for Replica Chessboard

fischer spassky iceland 1972

American investor and chess player Noah Siegel paid some ISK 27 million [$195,000; €181,000] for a chessboard he believed to be the original used at the historic 1972 Reykjavík match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. According to Vísir, the latest information indicates that the board was instead a replica of the original.

In light of the revelation, Mr. Siegel has sought legal action against the seller, Páll G. Jónsson. In a judgement given by the Reykjavík District Court earlier this month, however, it was decided that Páll had the right to sell the board and that Mr. Siegel could not prove beyond doubt that the seller had knowingly acted in bad faith.

Mr. Siegel and his legal representative in Iceland, Sveinbjörn Claessen, have indicated their intention to appeal the matter.

“He does not have the actual board used in the match in his possession, and its value was based on the assumption that it was the original board used in the match. This is one of the replicas. A reproduction can never be as valuable. It is inherent to the nature of the item,” stated Sveinbjörn to Vísir.

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The misunderstanding seems to arise from the fact that three separate chessboards were constructed for the historic chess match, which is popularly considered the “beginning of the end of the Cold War.”

The three chessboards were constructed based on designs by one Gunnar Magnússon, along with side tables, and a stone board that is now in the possession of the National Museum of Iceland. One of the wooden boards was used in the World Chess Championship, but the other two which were not used were signed by the chess masters.

Tried to sell the chessboards

Further light was shed on the matter in a 2012 Morgunblaðið article, in which Páll recounted the story of the chessboards. There, Páll stated that “in 1974, the Icelandic Chess Federation decided to have two replica versions of the original board made in consultation with Gunnar, exactly the same in every respect and made of the same wood.”

Páll explains that it resulted in him acquiring both boards in 1976, and they have been in his possession since then. They were used for exhibitions and lent for the Horts vs. Spassky match in 1977. According to Páll, he attempted to sell the chessboards and sent one of them for auction to Bruun Rasmussen, an auction house in Copenhagen, in the spring of 2012. However, according to Páll’s assessment, a satisfactory price was not achieved.

Real chessboard at the Fischer Center

Several witnesses testified before the court to determine the chessboard’s authenticity, comparing the image of the board at the Fischer Center with original photographs. Expert carpenters were even called upon to analyse the wood grain.

However, no further witnesses are needed, or so believes Gunnar Björnsson, the current president of the Icelandic Chess Federation, who closely followed the progress of the case and its conclusion.

“The actual board is now at the Fischer Center in Selfoss,” he stated to Vísir. “It is in our possession.”

Gunnar also stated that it was a very interesting case, but that he does not want to express his opinion on the outcome. He did, however, state that the replica must have some value.

Wear a Costume, Get Free Entrance to Heritage Museum on June 17

iceland national costume

Residents and tourists alike will be able to get free entrance to the Árbær Open Air Heritage Museum on June 17, Iceland’s National Day, if they wear a traditional costume.

“Traditional costumes and national dances will be featured on this festive day, and guests are encouraged to come in their own national costumes,” reads a recent statement from the popular museum.

árbær open air museum
Roman Gerasymenko

Notably, the free entrance will be available to all national costumes from throughout the world, so visitors are free to don their lederhosen, dirndls, and anything else!

Other events will include the crowning of the Mountain Woman (Fjallkona), lessons in folk dance, and bread baking demonstrations.

Celebrations for June 17 will last from 13:00 to 16:00.

Visit the Árbær Open Air Museum’s website here.

First Cocoa Bean Grown in Iceland

cacao plant iceland

The first cocoa beans ever grown in Iceland were recently harvested at the Gardening School of Reykir, making the dream of homegrown Icelandic chocolate one step closer.

Guðríður Helgadóttir, a horticulturist at the Gardening School in Reykir, stated to RÚV that cocoa plants have been cultivated for some 11 years in the banana greenhouse in Reykir, with the hope that one day a cocoa bean would grow on them. Now it seems that the years of work have paid off.

“These plants have been bred for for nearly a decade with the dream of creating Icelandic chocolate. Now, that dream is well within reach,” stated Guðríður. “This is the first cocoa bean to grow in Iceland, as far as we know. The cocoa fruit that we recently produced came from a flower that was fertilized last summer and remained green while it grew and developed into a cocoa pod. So now, it has suddenly turned this beautiful shade of yellow, and that’s when it bloomed, and I honestly can’t believe how we missed it!”

According to Guðríður, the Gardening School at Reykir received two cocoa pods in 2012. Some 80 plants sprouted from the seeds, but of these, only some three survived. But now, after a decade of care, the efforts are finally bearing fruit.

The conditions in the banana greenhouse in Reykir are favourable for cocoa plants, but there are still differences compared to the cocoa plant’s native habitat, making the process of producing usable cocoa rather difficult and complicated.

“In the plant’s native habitat, there are specific flies that pollinate the pods,” Guðríður stated to RÚV. “Of course, we don’t have those flies here, so we were considering whether we should manually pollinate by dabbing with a watercolor brush and mimicking bees by transferring pollen between the flowers. So, it was a bit surprising for us to see pods appearing without any human intervention in the greenhouse!”