Of the Great Mortality

Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir is a novelist and a journalist living in Reykjavík. Her novels have been translated into many languages, and include the dystopian thriller Island (2016), and The Fires (2020), which foreshadowed the ongoing volcanic eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula, published in English by Amazon Crossing in 2023. Her latest novel, DEUS (2023), is […]

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Keeping in Step

Icelandic folk dancing, Árbæjarsafn

It was a Friday night in Reykjavík, and I was looking for a dance floor. You may expect, dear reader, that I was on my way to one of the dimly lit clubs that line Laugavegur street, where young bodies sway to pulsing, electronic beats. Actually, I was heading somewhere entirely different: to a wood-panelled […]

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Short-term Rentals, Long-term Effects

Reykjavík from above, housing crisis Iceland

As the Reykjavík peninsula rumbles with volcanic activity, the world’s eyes are once again drawn to Iceland’s nature. This free publicity and the uptick in tourist visits it generates come with a price – and local renters are footing the bill.By now, Icelanders know what to expect in the aftermath of volcanic activity. When Eyjafjallajökull […]

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Hvalur Files Claim Against Icelandic State Over Whaling Ban

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

The whaling company Hvalur hf. has filed a claim against the Icelandic state, citing significant financial losses due to a temporary whaling ban imposed by the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir last year. The claim, supported by the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s conclusion that the ban lacked legal basis, seeks compensation for the company and its employees.

A right to claim damages

The whaling company Hvalur hf. has filed a claim against the Icelandic state, asserting that the decision to temporarily ban the hunting of fin whales last year — which was made by Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir — had resulted in substantial revenue loss and financial expenditures, RÚV reports.

The claim was sent to the State’s Attorney after the Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded that the decision by the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries to temporarily suspend whaling last year was not legally sound; Svandís’s ban took effect on June 20, 2023, and remained in place until September 1 of the same year.

In line with the Ombudsman’s findings

The claim begins by noting that Hvalur hf. had lodged a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsman regarding the drafting and implementation of regulation that barred the start of whaling in the summer of 2023. The claim subsequently cites the Ombudsman’s opinion on the matter, wherein the former concluded that the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries lacked a sufficiently clear legal basis for the regulation to be considered valid.

In light of this, Hvalur hf. believes it has a right to claim damages from the Icelandic state for any financial losses incurred due to the ban. The claim acknowledges that any costs saved while the ban was active, particularly in labour expenses, should be considered for deduction.

The claim further notes that the Akranes Trade Union (Verkalýðsfélag Akraness) had declared that the employees of Hvalur had wage claims against the company for the period during which the ban was in effect. Similarly, the Association of Ship Captains (Félag skipstjórnamanna) voiced the same position for its union members.

Therefore, Hvalur considers it most practical for the Icelandic state to compensate the company’s employees and other affected parties in line with their income losses. The claim also asks for talks with the Icelandic state to settle this compensation based on the stated reasons.

Third-party assessment

Lastly, the claim suggests that the Icelandic state and Hvalur could agree on a third party to evaluate the company’s damages through an out-of-court expert assessment. However, this agreement would not be legally binding for either Hvalur or the Icelandic state.

Safety Concerns, Poor Weather Halt Grindavík Property Visits

Grindavík residents are currently unable to visit their properties due to ongoing efforts to fill and assess dangerous crevasses, with work being hampered by recent bad weather. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management is focusing on evaluating the town’s safety this weekend, with hopes to soon allow brief returns for residents.

Efforts being made to fill crevasses

Grindavík residents will not be able to visit their properties today, Víðir Reynisson, head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, stated yesterday. Efforts are being made to fill the cracks and assess their danger with the help of ground-penetrating radars, but the work has been delayed due to bad weather in recent days. 

Víðir observed that the civil protection authorities intended to spend the weekend assessing the situation in town, which has been divided into areas east and west of Víkurbraut; the eastern area is much more dangerous. 

“The danger of earth collapse and the opening of new crevasses is still considered high. What we have been focused on in recent days is filling these cracks and scanning them with ground-penetrating radars. We have also been trying to assess which areas are safer than others so as to prepare to allow the people of Grindavík to come home and visit their properties,” Víðir stated in an interview in the evening news on Stöð 2 yesterday.

Inauspicious weather conditions

Víðir added that the weather had not been on the authorities’ side in recent days and the forecasts for the weekend don’t look especially heartening. Hopefully, however, work over the weekend could continue: “There is significant wind and precipitation forecasted, so we have to take into account whether this is actually feasible, but we will see it more clearly tomorrow,” Víðir noted yesterday.

Víðir stated that he understood that people were eager to return to their homes and that the lack of electricity and heating in the town was a further cause for concern for residents; many were hoping to move their belongings to new homes outside the town: “Hopefully, we can get everyone living west of Víkurbraut back home in a short time, and that means each person might get about four hours at home,” Víðir remarked.

A meeting will be held this morning to review the situation and assess what needs to be done to allow residents to enter the town. The authorities hope to allow residents to return home for a brief period, two to four at a time, in one or two cars.

Wall of Fire

Reykjanes peninsula eruptions

Sunday, bloody Sunday On Sunday morning, January 14, around 4:30 AM, Ari Guðmundsson’s phone rang. The Reykjanes peninsula was trembling. Three and a half hours later, it rang again. This time it was Víðir Reynisson, the head of Iceland’s Civil Protection Department. A fissure had opened and an eruption had begun.The long, earthen lava barriers […]

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Deep North News: Help For Grindavík, AI, Eurovision And More!

In this episode of Deep North News, we go in-depth on what assistance Grindavík residence will get, the valiant efforts being made to make the town safer and livable again, as well as how the financial recovery package has affected recent collective bargaining negotiations.

Also, a bill that could greatly restrict the use of AI in Iceland, a controversial new twist in Iceland’s possible participation in Eurovision, along with weather, road conditions, and much more!

Deep North News brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Blackout and Snow Storm Cause Dozens of Car Crashes

Reykjavík from above, housing crisis Iceland

A power outage coincided with a snow storm in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon, leading to traffic chaos. A number of central neighbourhoods experienced blackouts due to a high-voltage breakdown, while at the same time, motorists braved the storm with little help from malfunctioning traffic lights.

“What happened is that it snowed a lot in a very short amount of time, the snow got compressed down and became very slippery,” Árni Friðleifsson of the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police told RÚV.

Around 30 traffic accidents had been reported to roadside assistance firm Arekstur when RÚV contacted them in the late afternoon. “We’ve dispatched all our cars and the traffic is completely halted,” said Arekstur CEO Kristján Kristjánsson.

Hospitals on back-up power

Due to the power outage, Landspítali hospitals in Fossvogur and at Hringbraut had to pull from back-up power. This was also the case for Reykjavík airport (RVK), which mostly services domestic flights. However, while both the airport itself and the air traffic control centre were operational, a blackout at the terminal delayed a flight to Akureyri for about an hour, as all luggage had to be manually checked in.

By evening, power had been restored. The rush hour traffic cleared up as traffic lights came back on and the storm cleared.