Home for the Holidays: Grindavík Welcomes Back Residents

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Beginning tomorrow, December 23, Grindavík residents will be allowed to return and stay overnight in town. Following the subsidence of the volcanic eruption near Sýlingafell, the authorities have decided to downgrade the alert status in Grindavík from an Emergency Phase to a Danger Phase.

Christmas after all

Beginning tomorrow, December 23 (The Mass of St. Thorlac, i.e. Þorláksmessa), the residents of Grindavík are permitted to enter and even stay overnight in the town, Vísir reports. Christmas in Grindavík will, therefore, be celebrated after all, at least by those Grindavík residents who wish to do so. This was noted in an announcement from the Police Commissioner of Suðurnes. The situation will be reassessed on December 27. 

The statement also notes that starting from December 23, roadblocks will be established on Grindavíkurvegur, Nesvegur, and Suðurstrandarvegur. These measures allow Grindavík residents, business owners, and their employees to bypass the roadblocks at any time and permit overnight stays within the town. However, access beyond these roadblocks is currently restricted to unrelated individuals, while major media outlets are granted passage.

Alert status lowered to Danger

As noted by Vísir, experts from the Icelandic MET Office at 9.30 AM today to review the latest data. At 1:00 PM, the MET Office held another meeting with the Police Commissioner in Suðurnes and the Commissioner of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Based on the latest risk assessment map from the Icelandic MET Office, Grindavík still faces a significant risk of natural disasters. Following indications that the volcanic eruption near Sundhnúkagígar, which started on December 18, has ceased, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in consultation with the Police Commissioner of Suðurnes, has opted to lower the alert status from an Emergency Phase to a Danger Phase.

Icelandic Film Godland Shortlisted for 2024 Oscars

Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason’s film Godland has been shortlisted for the Best International Feature Film at the 2024 Oscars, one of only 15 selected from 88 countries. Godland tells the story of a Danish priest in 19th century Iceland, whose faith is tested by the harsh conditions of rural life.

Final five nominees announced in January

The film Godland by Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason has been shortlisted by the Academy for the Oscars in the category of Best International Feature Film for 2024. Only 15 films made it to the shortlist, although entries were received from 88 countries. The final five nominees will be announced on January 23, 2024. The 96th Oscar ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 10, next year.

Godland tells the story of a young Danish priest, Lucas, who travels to Iceland in the late 19th century to build a church and photograph the island’s inhabitants. The relentless natural forces quickly impact his journey, and his interactions with the Icelandic farmer Ragnar are strained due to language barriers and cultural differences. Throughout his journey and in his search for a higher power, the priest must confront his own nature against the backdrop of the wild landscape. His desire to dominate it ultimately leads to his downfall.

As noted by Mbl.is, it hasn’t been long since Iceland earned a film on the shortlist in the International Feature Film category. Two years ago, Lamb made the shortlist but did not ultimately receive a nomination.

Nominations for 2023 Athlete of the Year Announced

Iceland football team

Ten athletes are nominated for the Sports Journalists Association’s Athlete of the Year 2023, Mbl.is reports. This year will see a new recipient of the award, continuing a tradition since 1956.

A tradition stretching back to 1956

Ten individuals are in contention for the Sports Journalists Association’s Athlete of the Year 2023 award, which will be announced for the 68th time on the evening of Thursday, January 4. This year, six women and four men have emerged as frontrunners in the voting, marking a significant change from last year, when eight men and three women were in the top eleven spots (with two tying for the 10th-11th position).

As noted by Mbl.is, the Sports Journalists Association has been selecting the Athlete of the Year consecutively since 1956. Olympian Vilhjálmur Einarsson was the first recipient of the award, which the winning athlete keeps for one year. Vilhjálmur notably retained it for the first three consecutive years and for five of the first six years of the award.

A new name etched on the award

As noted by Mbl.is, it is certain that a new name will be engraved on the trophy this year, as none of the top ten finalists have previously been named Athlete of the Year. Four of ten were, however, among the top seven in the 2022 voting: Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir finished second, Gísli Þorgeir Kristjánsson third, Anton Sveinn McKee fifth, and Elvar Már Friðriksson seventh. Handball player Ómar Ingi Magnússon, who was awarded the title over the past two years, has not been nominated this year.

The ten finalists, listed in alphabetical order, are:

Andrea Kolbeinsdóttir, a track and field athlete from ÍR. She became the Icelandic champion in seven running events, set two Icelandic records, and also won the national championship in cross-country skiing on the same day she broke a 29-year-old record in the indoor 5,000-metre run.

Anton Sveinn McKee, a swimmer from Sundfélag Hafnarfjarðar. He won silver in the 200 m breaststroke at the European Championships in a 25 m pool in Romania in December and finished seventh in the same event at the World Championships in a 50 m pool in Japan. Anton is currently second in the world rankings for the 200 m breaststroke in a 25 m pool.

Elvar Már Friðriksson, a basketball player with PAOK in Greece. He played major roles for his club teams in Lithuania and Greece during the year and was instrumental in the Icelandic national team, which was very close to qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. In November, Elvar became the first player in the history of the FIBA Champions League to achieve a triple-double in an away game.

Gísli Þorgeir Kristjánsson, a handball player with Magdeburg in Germany. He was named the best player in the European Champions League finals, securing the European championship title for his team. Gísli was also voted the best player in German handball for the 2022-2023 season.

Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir, a footballer with Bayern Munich in Germany. She was a key player for Bayern when the team won the German championship in the spring of 2023 and was considered one of the best players in the league. Glódís took over as captain for both Bayern and the Icelandic national team in 2023.

Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, a footballer playing for Burnley in England. He played a significant role in the club’s dominant win in the English Championship Division and is now competing in the English Premier League in the current season.

Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir, a swimmer at Aalborg Svømmeklub in Denmark. She finished 7th in the 200 m freestyle at the European Championships in a 25 m pool in Romania and 14th in the same event at the World Championships in a 50 m pool in Japan. Snæfríður set 13 Icelandic records over the year.

Sóley Margrét Jónsdóttir, a powerlifter from Breiðablik. She became the European champion in the women’s +84 kg category in equipped powerlifting. Sóley also won silver in the same event at the World Championships in Lithuania, narrowly missing the world champion title.

Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir, a footballer at Wolfsburg in Germany. She became the German Cup champion with her team and was the second Icelandic woman to play in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, where Wolfsburg lost to Barcelona, playing the entire match.

Thelma Aðalsteinsdóttir, a gymnast from Gerpla. She became the Nordic champion on uneven bars, reached the vault finals at a World Cup event in Hungary, and was close to securing an Olympic spot at the World Championships. Thelma won the Icelandic championship in all-around and uneven bars and became the cup champion with Gerpla.

Six of these ten have previously been among the top finalists in the selection.

Premature to Declare Official End of Eruption, Experts Caution

A volcanic eruption near Sýlingafell in 2023

Experts are in consensus that the volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula has ceased, though an official declaration marking the end of the eruption is still pending. The Chief of the Suðurnes Police hopes that after today’s meeting with the Icelandic MET Office, the authorities will be able to lift the restrictions in Grindavík.

Important to proceed cautiously

In an interview with RÚV published this morning, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated that the eruption near Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes peninsula was over. Kristín Jónsdóttir, a department head with the Icelandic MET Office, agreed with his assertion; there is no longer any measurable volcanic activity in the area.

Nevertheless, Kristín cautioned that it was too soon to officially declare the end of the eruption given that the situation could change rapidly; it is important to proceed cautiously, especially given the proximity of the eruption site to critical infrastructure.

Magma accumulation resumed

As reported by IR yesterday, there are indications that magma accumulation has resumed beneath Svartsengi. Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a geophysics professor at the University of Iceland, told RÚV that this renewed magma accumulation at Svartsengi closely resembles the conditions prior to the Sýlingafell eruption.

“If the magma continues its upward movement into the chamber beneath Svartsengi, we may witness a similar series of events,” he noted. Magnús Tumi added that it could take weeks or months for this to occur, however, and there’s also a possibility that the process might cease entirely.

Hoping for a homecoming

Úlfar Lúðvíksson, the Chief of Police in Suðurnes, told RÚV yesterday that scientists would review new data this morning, with a meeting with the Icelandic MET Office being scheduled for 1 PM today.

“I expect that the meeting will involve a review of the risk assessment map and, of course, I hope for a change that will allow residents to return home,” Úlfar stated. He mentioned that such speculations had already started before the eruption completely subsided. “One is always hopeful, and we will lift these restrictions if we find that such a thing is warranted.”

As noted by RÚV, applications for rental apartments for residents of Grindavík through the leasing company Bríet opened today. The application deadline is 10 AM tomorrow. The aim is to allocate most of the apartments on the same day.

Iceland’s Christmas Book Flood Tradition Goes Global

Iceland Publishers' Association 2023 book fair

The Icelandic tradition of jólabókaflóðið, or the Christmas Book Flood, seems to have achieved global popularity. Heiðar Ingi Svansson, Chair of the Association of Icelandic Publishers, has told Morgunblaðið that while he has long sensed interest in the phenomenon among international publishers, the enthusiasm among the general public has been surprising.

“Thousands of posts” on social media

As noted in an article published in the newspaper Morgunblaðið this morning, reading enthusiasts around the world have increasingly shown interest in the phenomenon of the Christmas book flood (i.e. jólabókaflóðið, referring to the Icelandic tradition of gifting books for Christmas and spending the holiday reading in cosy surroundings, often with a cup of hot cocoa or chocolate in hand). Morgunblaðið claimed that thousands of posts celebrating this tradition can be observed on social media.

To substantiate this claim, the news outlet pointed to a post from Junía Lin Jónsdóttir, sister of Icelandic musician Laufey, who recently introduced her followers on TikTok to the Christmas book flood. Likewise, actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who boasts approximately 10 million followers, shared an Instagram post about the phenomenon.

The origins of the Christmas Book Flood can be attributed to Iceland’s deep-rooted literary history and, during World War II, stringent currency restrictions. These restrictions curtailed the import of various gifts, but with more relaxed rules on importing paper, books emerged as the go-to Christmas present.

Surprising popularity

Morgunblaðið spoke to Heiðar Ingi Svansson, Chairman of the Association of Icelandic Publishers, who agreed that the Christmas Book Flood appeared to have attracted global attention: “I’m on the board of an international publishers association, and I am often asked about this phenomenon. But it’s surprising to see how widespread it has become among the general public. It travels through some channels on social media, and you see people all over the world celebrating the tradition,” Heiðar Ingi stated.

Morgunblaðið noted that determining the exact origins of this trend was challenging. The Christmas Book Flood may have gained international attention in 2012 with coverage on NPR’s website, possibly marking a sort of inception point. Whatever the case,  media attention has steadily grown annually, contributing to the widespread popularity of the phenomenon. “A quick online search reveals that the Christmas Book Flood has now reached audiences in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and various European countries,” Morgunblaðið noted.

Eschewing the phones, embracing the books

“This romantic idea of us cuddling in log cabins with hot cocoa, in a land of fire and ice, is appealing. Many people may also want to encourage more family time during the holidays, with people uniting over books instead of spending time on their phones,” Heiðar Ingi stated.

Morgunblaðið also noted that there are instances where bookstores offer specially assembled packages for people to enjoy the Christmas Book Flood. One such package, advertised for sale on Instagram, includes three books, cosy socks, a festive candle, and chocolate. Customers being offered free gift-wrapping and chocolate with every book purchase is also common. Publishers and bloggers have also seized upon the Christmas book flood for marketing purposes.

Heiðar Ingi told Morgunblaðið that he has often been interviewed by foreign media about this phenomenon. Next week, for instance, he has been invited for a live interview on CNN. “It will be fun. I had to send them an audio clip because they wanted to prepare for the pronunciation of jólabókaflóð.”