Tour Operator Calls for Increased Safety Near Askja Volcano

The owner of a tourism company in the Mývatn region in North Iceland told RÚV yesterday that he was worried about the lack of telecommunications near Askja, now that an eruption is considered likely within a year. Road maintenance to Askja is also lacking.

Great responsibility involved in bringing tourists to the area

There is little or no telephone or tetra connection near Askja – an active volcano situated in a remote part of the central highlands of Iceland. It takes about three hours to drive to Askja from the Ring Road. This is unfortunate in light of a possible and sudden eruption, the owner of a tourism company in Mývatnsveit told RÚV yesterday.

Over the summer, tour operator Gísli Rafn Jónsson takes groups of travellers on bus trips to Askja on a near daily basis. In an interview with RÚV yesterday, he stated that ensuring the safety of his passengers was a big responsibility – especially given the likelihood of an eruption. Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson recently predicted that an eruption would occur in Askja within a year.

“This accumulation of magma and the conditions that can arise, which are several and varying in severity, means that I am, naturally, very worried,” Gísli stated.

Quick escape an impossibility

From the Ring Road, a highland road approximately 100 kilometres in length, which takes about three hours to drive, leads to Askja. From there, it’s about a two-and-a-half kilometre walk to Lake Öskjuvatn and Víti, which is where most of the tourists who visit Askja go. It can, therefore, be estimated that it takes about four hours to get from Lake Öskjuvatn down to the Ring Road.

“This route is very slow, and there are sections on the route that have become very worn and need to be fixed. Other parts of the route are lava, which means that it takes a long time to drive away. Speedy evacuation is an impossibility,” Gísli observed. It would be unsuitable if there was a sudden eruption, RÚV noted.

No talk of improvements to telecommunications

In the highlands near Lake Öskjuvatn and Víti there is very little telephone and tetra connection. Gísli believes that this must be redressed. “In terms of security, we have to ask ourselves if it isn’t necessary to temporarily secure a cellphone signal.”

Magnús Hauksson, operations manager of the National Emergency Number (Neyðarlínan), told RÚV that there had been no discussion about improving telecommunications in the area or how such measures could be implemented. Furthermore, it remained unclear who was responsible for ensuring electronic communication, as no one was legally obligated to guarantee telecommunications throughout the country.

These issues were, however, taken into consideration in 2018 – but that was the extent of it. Based on the situation, Magnús believes there is reason to take action. But when and how that action will be taken remains uncertain.

Deep North Episode 39: In the Ranger’s Realm

park ranger látrabjarg

What does a ranger do, exactly? According to the tan and charmingly scruffy specimen sitting opposite me at a cafe in the city centre, just back from the mountains, the title is self-explanatory. “It’s a job in environment protection. That’s what the Icelandic word for ranger, landvörður, means. We’re protecting the land; we’re its guardians.” Rangers safeguard Iceland’s fragile nature and the people who visit its remote fishing villages, tourist attractions, and mountainous wilderness. While their quotidian duties involve picking up trash, maintaining trails, and having a sharp word or two with travellers who stray off them, a ranger’s work is so much more. They have to be prepared for every eventuality and able to respond to all situations that arise far from the city limits. These are the people who take it upon themselves to ensure Iceland’s virtually untouched nature stays that way.

Read the story.

A Hurricane Called “English” Is Sweeping Across Iceland – Bubbi

Bubbi Morthens

In an op-ed in Morgunblaðið yesterday, musician Bubbi Morthens criticised the government, the tourism industry, and restaurateurs for pandering to English speakers. It was one thing for the tourism industry to make a profit, Bubbi observed, but another to wage war against the Icelandic language.

A hurricane called “English”

“A hurricane called English is sweeping across the country and uprooting our language,” musician Bubbi Morthens wrote in an article published in Morgunblaðið yesterday.

In the article – which is entitled The War on Language, in reference to an article authored by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness, the War on Nature (wherein the latter criticised the government’s plans for the construction of power plants) – Bubbi criticised the growing influence of the English language within Icelandic society.

Reykjavík, he noted, was filled with English signage, restaurants opted for English as their first language, and local interest groups had begun to write letters to the government in the English language.

Roll up your sleeves

While encouraging the tourism industry to “grab a hold of itself,” Bubbi also urged the government, members of parliament, and artists to roll up their sleeves: “We’ve come to a point where all of us who live here have to ask ourselves: Do we want to speak Icelandic? Do we want to read Icelandic? Do we want to sing our Icelandic songs with all the words that we understand with our heart and soul?”

According to Bubbi, if the answer is “yes,” people could no longer sit idly by; the time had come to fight for the mother tongue. “Government of Iceland, parliamentarians of our country, artists, all citizens, wherever we may find ourselves: let’s get a hold of ourselves.”

Bubbi also noted that the tourism industry had to take action. Making a profit was one thing, but waging a war against the Icelandic language was quite another: “Without our language, we are nothing but a fine-natured rock in the North Atlantic. As opposed to an independent nation residing in its own country.”

Everyone welcome

As noted by Vísir, Bubbi concluded his op-ed by clarifying that “everyone was welcome” in Iceland. “The people who want to live in Iceland enrich our country and our culture, but it is important to help them by teaching them to speak our language.”

“Icelandic is the glue that binds us all together, our mother, our father, in fact, our higher power. In Icelandic ‘you can always find an answer,’ the poet observed – and we must, now later than now, find an answer to this war against our mother tongue. Our lifeline. We must all as one, put our foot down and take a stand in defence of our language.”

No Hot Water in Hafnarfjörður, Parts of Garðabær, Monday to Wednesday

Due to the connection of new heating mains, there will be no hot water in all of Hafnarfjörður and parts of Garðabær between Monday night and Wednesday morning next week. The new mains are expected to ensure Hafnarfjörður’s hot water supply over the coming decades.

Integration of new heating mains

Veitur (Iceland’s public utility company) announced yesterday that Hafnarfjörður and select parts of Garðabær would be without hot water from 10 PM on Monday, August 21, to 10 AM on Wednesday, August 23. This interruption owes to the integration of new heating mains.

As noted in the announcement, the new mains will bolster transport capacity, addressing the growth in residential demand in Hafnarfjörður, stemming from town expansion; the aim is to ensure Hafnarfjörður’s hot water supply over the coming decades.

Laying new main pipes in established neighbourhoods is rare, and the process is extensive. However, Veitur commits to swift, safe completion. Updates will be available on Veitur’s website.

The following streets in Garðabær will be affected by the closure: Boðahlein, Naustahlein, Hraunholt, Hraungarðar, Hraunhóll, Hraunhamrar, Hrauntunga, Hraunkot, Hraunborg, Gimli, Björk, Brandstaðir, Garðahraun, Miðhraun, Norðurhraun, Suðurhraun, and Vesturhraun.

Large Turnout Expected for Reykjavík’s Annual Culture Night

Arnarhóll

Reykjavík’s annual Culture Night will be held this Saturday, August 19. Organisers expect a large turnout, and attendees are encouraged to ride their bikes or take the bus to the city centre, RÚV reports.

Visitors urged to bike or take the bus

Reykjavík’s 28th annual Culture Night will be held tomorrow, Saturday, August 19. This year’s programme will feature concerts, workshops, art exhibitions, and more, before culminating in the annual fireworks display at 11 PM (click here for more information on the programme). Meteorologists expect good visibility.

As always, attendees are urged to bike or take the bus to the city centre. As noted by RÚV, while past bus rides on Culture Night have been free – standard fares will apply this year. During the festivities, buses will depart with increased frequency on routes 1-6, 11-15.

After 10.30 PM, all buses will reroute to Sæbraut (near the Sun Voyager sculpture), from where passengers will be ferried home for free following the fireworks. Reykjavík’s nighttime bus service will commence at 1 AM.

Limited parking space

Those who intend to drive to the city centre should be mindful of limited parking space. Drivers are encouraged to park in Laugardalur or Borgartún and use the free Strætó shuttle service from the Laugardalshöll arena (with stops at Borgartún and Hlemmur en route to the Hallgrímskirkja church).

See below map for details on street closures and key locations.

Menningarnótt 2023

Major streets including Hverfisgata, Laugavegur, Sóleyjargata, Skothúsvegur, and Geirsgata will close from 7 AM to 1 PM on Saturday, with Sæbraut being partially closed, as well.

The Reykjavík Marathon, which will be ongoing from 8 AM to 4 PM, will also affect traffic, starting today at 4 PM (see the marathon website for details).

Westman Islands the Guest of Honour

The guest of honour at this year’s Culture Night will be the Westman Islands, with representatives from the archipelago hosting an entertainment programme at Reykjavík City Hall. Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson and Mayor of the Westman Islands Íris Róbertsdóttir will hold a joint press conference at the Hljómskálagarðurinn Park at 11 AM on Saturday.

The concert at Arnarhóll will begin at 19.30 PM. Flóni, Aron Can, Diljá, Una Torfa, HAM, Klara Elias will take the stage. Ragga Gísla will close the concert, joined by Valdimar, GDRN, and Mugison.