Vast Majority Voted with Their Conscience for President

Halla Tómasdottir President

Nearly half of Iceland’s voters decided on election day or the day before who they were going to vote for President, according to a new poll from Gallup. Furthermore, 87% said that they voted for the candidate they most wanted to see become Iceland’s new president.

Majority happy with Halla

As reported, Halla Tómasdóttir won Iceland’s presidential elections, which were held on June 1. According to Vísir, about half of respondents said they were either very pleased to see her take office.

20% said they were moderately pleased with the result; 8% said they were moderately displeased; and 6% said they were very displeased. Those who voted for Katrín Jakobsdóttir or Halla Hrund Logadóttir were the most likely to be pleased, while those who voted for Jón Gnarr were the most likely to be displeased.

Last minute, but with a clean conscience

More than 30% of respondents said that they made their decision on who they were going to vote for on election day itself, with 11% saying they decided the day before.

87% said they voted for the candidate they most wanted to see become president, with the remaining 13% saying that they voted for someone different than who they wanted, but who they felt had a greater chance of winning. Amongst these voters, 23% voted for Halla Tómasdóttir; 15% voted for Halla Hrund; and 6% voted for Katrín.

Parliamentary Party Wants to Ban Whaling by Law

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

In a newsletter sent by the Left-Green Party, they state that the current law on whale hunting is such that issuing a license to hunt whales is unavoidable. They say that they want to ban whale hunting by law, but the parliamentary majority to do so does not yet exist.

128 fin whales

As reported, Minister of Fisheries Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir–who is in the Left-Greens–issued a permit to whaling company Hvalur hf. to hunt 128 fin whales this summer.

Kristján Loftsson, the CEO of Hvalur, was unhappy with the decision anyway, saying that the permit was granted too late for them to do any whaling this summer–despite the fact that this same company hunted 24 fin whales last year when the company had an even shorter season, consisting of just the month of September, following the expiration of the temporary ban issued by former Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

Speaking with Vísir, Kristján affirmed that Hvalur would do no whaling this summer, but would very likely be seeking damages from the government.

Nobody pleased

The newsletter acknowledges that no one has been happy with Bjarkey’s decision, Vísir reports, and that changes will need to be made in the future.

“Regarding the future, work will need to be done to protect the whale stocks and sustainable practices in the whale industry with whale watching and other humane practices, as the International Whaling Commission has increased emphasis on over the past years and decades,” the newsletter reads, adding that whale hunting must be banned by law.

In closing, the newsletter states that until this ban is issued, the party will continue to fight for the lives of whales, and animal welfare in general.

Kringlan Catches Fire; Closed Today and Tomorrow

Firefighters 112

Yesterday afternoon, the roof of the Reykjavík shopping centre Kringlan caught fire.

According to RÚV, the shift manager for the fire department who arrived at the scene said that the fire began where workers were laying down tar paper, which involves the use of fire.

No injuries

Kringlan was immediately evacuated, and firefighters were quick to act to contain the fire.

Fortunately, the fire was contained and extinguished without any serious injuries. There is, however, extensive water and smoke damage within Kringlan. Store owners have been asked to evaluate what damages were done to their locations.

No time frame for cleanup

It is unknown how long it will take to re-open Kringlan. Damage is extensive, according to firefighters, and it will take a considerable amount of time to get the building back into a condition where it will be safe for people to enter it again.

For the time being, Kringlan will be closed both today and tomorrow, at the very least.

VIDEO: The Day The Blue Lagoon Turned Into A Volcanic Paradise

Two weeks after our last volcano update, reporters Alina Maurer and Art Bicnick make their way to the tranquil tourist paradise of the Blue Lagoon. After the most recent eruption began on May 29 and an initial closure, the spa continued to restart operations – with a bubbling crater just 3 kilometres from the famous milky Blue Lagoon.

Since then, the facility was forced to close down multiple times. Lava flooded one of the roads leading to the lagoon and heavy gas pollution pestered the area for some time. Nevertheless, work to protect the Blue Lagoon and other infrastructure continues and emphasizes Icelanders resilience when it comes to natural disasters. As we like to say: „Þetta reddast“! (It will be fine!)

Many Tourists Unaware of Bus Service at Airport

Keflavík Airport

Tourists at Keflavík International Airport are often completely unaware that it is possible to take a Strætó bus to and from the airport. This is due in part to the fact that Strætó’s service at the airport was not set up with tourists in mind.

Many ways to travel

Upon arrival in Iceland, tourists are greeted with a number of ways to get from the airport to Reykjavík. Shuttle bus service is available just outside the airport, with tickets costing about 4,000 ISK, and have arrivals and departures in harmony with the airport’s flight arrivals and departures. There are also taxis available, with a typical ride from the airport to Reykjavík costing about 20,000 ISK.

However, there is also bus service from Strætó. A ticket from the airport to the greater capital area costs only 2,280 ISK. Even so, many tourists that RÚV spoke with were unaware this was even an option.

Not set up with tourists in mind

There are a number of reasons for this. For one thing, Strætó bus service for the airport does not begin until 6:30 in the morning, and the bus schedule is not harmonised with flight arrivals and departures.

Outside of the capital area, Strætó is operated by the the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA). They have repeatedly asked Isavia, the company which operates the airport, to make the availability of the bus service more available and accessible to tourists.

That said, IRCA is responsible for the schedule for this bus. Bergþóra Kristinsdóttir, the managing director of the service department for IRCA, told RÚV that this schedule was not created with tourists in mind, but rather residents of the Suðurnes peninsula, where the airport is located. She added that they have not bought space close to the airport for this bus because they had not wanted to compete with private companies.

A workgroup within the Ministry of the Interior is working on recommendations regarding travel to and from the airport, and their findings should be in shortly.

Lack of Clarity Over Whale Hunting Contentions

Following the recent decision from Minister of Fisheries Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir to grant the whaling company Hvalur hf. a permit to hunt fin whales this year, Hvalur hf. CEO Kristján Loftsson has made a number of contentions regarding both the operating practices of the Ministry and his own company’s capabilities to engage in fin whale hunting this year. Some of these contentions are contradictory, and do not appear to hold up to scrutiny.

The quota

While whales are mammals, they are subject to many of the same regulations that apply to fishing. Included in that is the quota system. Iceland’s fishing quota system is based on the idea of sustainable fishing, and grants different companies a maximum amount of different types of fish that may be caught in a given time frame based on research from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, amongst others.

The fin whaling quota this year is 128. Speaking to RÚV, Kristján said that it was “without precedent” that the whaling quota is reduced from previous years; that it is instead increased.

The whaling quota over the years is a matter of public record. A look at the numbers shows that whaling quotas are more complex than a continuous rise. For example, in 2018 a quota was granted of 161 fin whales in addition to 20% of the unused quota the year previous; in 2022, it was the same.

So while the total number of fin whales that are hunted in any given year may vary, during these two years the base quota (i.e., the number of fin whales allowed to be hunted before the previous unused quota is factored in) was the same.

Too late to hunt or not

Kristján has also contended multiple times that the license was granted far too late for his company to conduct any whale hunting this year.

In 2023, former Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s temporary fin whaling ban held its final day on August 31. The fin whale hunting season began September 1 ended at the end of that month, with 24 fin whales hunted.

It would therefore not be surprising if Hvalur hf., which this year now has an even longer season in which to hunt fin whales, did go whaling this summer, perhaps underlined by Kristján telling reporters that he does not believe the last whale has been hunted.

Bus Crash in North Iceland

Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter

A tour bus traveling along Öxnadalsheiði, a portion of Route 1 leading through the mountains between Akureyri and Skagaströnd in North Iceland, lost control and tipped over while driving at around five in the afternoon yesterday. Five are reportedly seriously injured but there were no fatalities.

Asphalt bleeding

First responders were at the scene quickly, and after assessing that no one had died in the accident, most injured parties were transported to the hospital in Akureyri, RÚV reports. Five people, the most seriously injured, were flown by helicopter to Reykjavík.

The accident closed Öxnadalsheiði to traffic while the matter was being attended to and investigated. It is now believed that the likely culprit was “asphalt bleeding”, wherein warm temperatures cause binders and oils in the asphalt to rise to the surface.

Drive carefully

Öxnadalsheiði is open again to traffic, Vísir reports.

Iceland may not be known for its warm temperatures, but extended spells of warm and dry weather can lead to asphalt bleeding. Fortunately, Iceland’s road administration posts up-to-date news on road conditions around the country to help plan your trip accordingly. It is very important to consult this site and SafeTravel before you get on the road.

Iceland News Review: Whale Hunting, Eruption in Reykjanes and More!

In this episode of Iceland News Review, The Minister of Fisheries has allowed for fin whale hunting this year, but it remains unclear if any whaling will be done this summer at all. Join us Yelena explores this, and the week’s other top stories, in this episode of Iceland News Review.

Iceland News Review 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!

Volunteers Wanted to Clean the Icelandic Coastline

Akureyri Iceland

The general public is invited to take part in cleaning the coastline of Eyjafjörður, the fjord that is home to Akureyri, North Iceland, starting today. This is part of an ongoing project that aims to clean more of Iceland’s coastline.

Just the beginning

Akureyri.net reports that those wishing to take part in the mission are invited to meet at Akureyri Whale Watching, Oddeyrarbót 2, 600 Akureyri (map link) at 18:00 today. From there, volunteers will depart to the area where the cleanup will begin.

This cleanup will take about two to three hours, and will occur every Sunday until July. Refreshments will be offered by Ocean Missions, who are the main organisers of this project. Anyone wishing to take part who needs a ride to the cleanup site, or who needs more information, is asked to send an email to [email protected].

Part of a larger mission

On the official page about this project, Ocean Missions states that they “follow [a] standardized protocol developed by the OSPAR Commission that will help us to formulate recommendations and to implement effective management to actively find short and long term solutions”.

They seek both individuals and groups to take part in these coastline clean-ups, and the aforementioned page also contains a sign-up form for those wishing to participate in their ongoing projects.

Unknown Man Goes Swimming at Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara black sand beach on the South Coast in Iceland

A man was spotted swimming in the waters of Reynisfjara, the famous (and infamous) black sand beach in South Iceland. This practice is both prohibited and extremely dangerous.

The incident was first reported on in the Facebook group “Stupid things people do in Iceland”, which is dedicated to sharing photos of people doing things that are unsafe, illegal, or both at some of the more popular tourist spots in the country.

Keeping one’s distance

Speaking to Vísir, Barbora Georgsdóttir Fialová, a primary school teacher who witnessed the event and posted the photos to the group, said that she was out with a group of students from the Czech Republic when she noticed the man preparing to swim in the water. She did not speak to the man, as she wanted to concentrate on her student group and keep her distance from the water.

She added that she had never witnessed anyone daring to swim in these waters before.

Beautiful but deadly

Reynisfjara beach is a beautiful place to visit in South Iceland, from the majestic waves and eerie black sand to the basalt pillars overlooking the sea. However, it is also home to sneaker waves–unpredictable large waves that can extend very far up the beach–as well as a powerful undertow.

This is why visitors to the beach will hopefully notice many signs, in many different languages, warning people to stay away from the water. The most recent death at this beach was in 2022, and there have been five deaths in all there over the last seven years.

By all means do visit the beach, enjoy the view, and take plenty of photos–just stay away from the water, much farther away than you might consider a safe distance, for the safety of yourself and others.