University of Akureyri to Offer Courses for Non-native Icelandic Speakers

Akureyri Iceland

The University of Akureyri recently announced on its website that it will offer four new courses of study suited for students with native languages other than Icelandic.

Beginning in the fall semester of 2024, students at the University of Akureyri will be able to study Media Studies, Modern Studies, Social Sciences, and Preschool Education at the University.

The new courses are offered in collaboration with University of Iceland.

Read more: Icelandic Language Strengthened in “Landmark” Initiative

According to the University of Akureyri, the new courses are designed for students with basic skills in the Icelandic language in order to make accessible study programmes predominantly taught in Icelandic.

The new courses will be taught in both English and Icelandic. The courses will each last 4 years, and will comprise 240 ECTS credits.

The courses will all be taught as distance-learning courses online, with language classes taught online in real-time.

There will additionally be in-person sessions built into the courses, with students meeting once a semester in Akureyri. Students in the Preschool and Primary Education programme will meet more than the other courses, 2-3 times a semester in Akureyri.

Applications for the programmes are open from March 2 to June 5.

Read more about education and the Icelandic language.

New Presidential Poll Shows Reversal Between Baldur, Katrín

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Latest polling figures indicate that professor of political science Baldur Þórhallsson and now-former PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir currently lead the race. Baldur stands at 25.8%, while Katrín stands at 22.1%.

The poll was conducted by market research company Prósent on behalf of Mogunblaðið.

A slight reversal from previous results

Polling last week showed Katrín with an advantage over Baldur, with 30% support over his 26%. This week’s polling seems to represent something of a switch between the two frontrunners.

However, given the proximity of the latest results and with plenty of time to go until the June 1 election, it seems it’s still a close race.

The poll was conducted from April 9 to 14, sampling some 2,300 individuals across Iceland.

Clear frontrunners, but still a crowded field

Following them is Jón Gnarr, an actor and former mayor of Reykjavík, with 16.8%. Following Jón Gnarr is Halla Hrund Logadóttir, director of the National Energy Regulatory, with some 10.6% in the latest poll. This makes four candidates with more than 10% support.

Three other candidates in the poll, Halla Tómasdóttir, Arnar Þór Jónsson, and Steinunn Ólina Þorsteinsdóttir, had levels of support under 5%, with the remaining candidates all falling under 1%.

It’s important to note, however, that the deadline for candidacy is April 26, so more candidates may yet announce their campaigns.

 

 

 

When do puffins arrive in Iceland?

Puffin Iceland

The Atlantic puffin (in Icelandic, lundi), is something of a national symbol, with many tourists and Icelanders alike flocking to bird cliffs to catch a glimpse of these brightly-coloured seabirds.

Of course, if you’re planning your trip to Iceland around seeing these birds, then it helps to know when, exactly, they’re here!

When does the puffin arrive in Iceland?

Puffins spend much of their life at sea and are actually only in Iceland for a relatively short time to breed and nest. They tend to arrive in Iceland beginning in April (usually later in the month, just before May) and generally begin to leave in August. The puffins are usually gone by September. The height of breeding- and nesting-season is from June through August.

In 2024, some of the first puffins of the year were recorded on April 11, when small groups of the black and white seabird arrived on the island of Grímsey and in Borgarfjörður eystri, in East Iceland.

Although the puffin typically begins arriving in April, most puffin tours only begin in May, to guarantee better conditions for sighting the seabird.

More about the Atlantic puffin

Unlike many other cliff-dwelling seabirds, Atlantic puffins will actually dig little holes to build their nests in. Puffins monogamously mate for life, and generally just produce one egg each breeding season. Male puffins tend to spend more time at home with the chick and organising the nest, while female puffins tend to be more involved with feeding the young. Raising their young takes around 40 days.

Until recently, it was actually unknown where, exactly, Atlantic puffins spent the rest of the year. But with modern tracking technologies, these little birds have been found to range as far south as the Mediterranean during the winter season. When puffins leave the nest, they will head off on their own without their parents, finding their own feeding and winter grounds. Over their lives, they will remember and repeat their lonely journey. They don’t always head to warmer climates in the winter, however. Icelandic puffins have been found to winter in Newfoundland and in the open sea south of Greenland.

Puffins are relatively small seabirds, averaging about 47 to 63cm [18 to 25in] in wingspan and weighing generally between 300 and 500g [10 to 17oz].

There are an estimated 8 million adult Atlantic puffins, with a majority of the world’s puffing population, around 60%, nesting in Iceland. Besides Iceland, puffins can also be found nesting in Ireland, the UK, Norway, Russia, the Faroe islands, and Greenland.

The Westman islands, an archipelago off the South Coast of Iceland, has by far the largest puffin colony in Iceland, with around 800,000 breeding pairs. Second place goes to Breiðafjörður, with around 400,000 breeding pairs. A less populated, but stunningly beautiful, bird cliff is Látrabjarg, the western-most point of Iceland.

Read more about bird watching in Iceland.

Landsvirkjun Restrictions to Last Longer than Expected

Landsvirkjun, the National Power Company of Iceland, has had to restrict power supplied to industrial production companies to a greater degree than expected, RÚV reports.

Though the power company often reduces its production in the winter, poor reservoir conditions have led to a greater than usual reduction in service. The reductions could have an impact in the hundreds of millions of ISK.

Nearly 10% of power

The reduction began shortly before the new year, and now amounts to around 10% of power delivered to industrial production companies.

In a statement to RÚV, Director of Management Valur Ægisson stated that the ongoing restrictions can be chalked up to poor water flow, as water levels in reservoirs have dropped rapidly. He cited that Blöndulón, a reservoir in North Iceland, has never been this low at this time of year.

The restrictions were initially applied to fish processing plants and data centres. However, restrictions were then also applied to industrial plants such as Elkem, Norðurál, and Rio Tinto.

Waiting for spring

Valur stated further to RÚV that the extent of the restriction amounts to tens of gigawatt-hours per month. The average monthly sales of Landsvirkjun are around 1250 gigawatt-hours.

The restrictions could result in considerable lost revenue for Landsvirkjun. “I can’t give an exact figure, but it measures in hundreds of millions,” stated Valur to RÚV.

Like much of the nation, the situation has the energy company waiting on the arrival of spring and the accompanying meltwater.  “That’s essentially what we’re waiting for, for warmer weather, rain, and see the snow melting in the highlands. When that happens, we can turn things around relatively quickly,” Valur stated.

 

 

March Labour Report Shows Slight Decrease in Unemployment

reykjavík construction

The monthly report issued yesterday by the Directorate of Labour shows a slight decrease in March unemployment numbers.

The Directorate of Labour report shows March 2024 unemployment rates sitting at 3.8%, a decrease from February’s rate of 3.9%. In total, the report shows an average of 7,518 unemployed individuals in March 2024.

Differences by gender, region

Of the total unemployed in March 2024, some 4,344 were men, and 3,174 were women.

There were also some regional differences in unemployment. As might be expected, unemployment rates were higher on the Reykjanes peninsula, the area affected by the ongoing eruptions near Grindavík. Unemployment on the Reykjanes peninsula was recorded at 6.5% for March 2024, a slight decrease from 6.9% in February.

Unemployment rates generally went down for the entire nation except in the capital region. In the capital region, rates remained stable at 3.8%.

North Iceland saw the lowes rates, at 1.5%, and the next-lowest rates were recorded in East and West Iceland, around 2.7%.

Other figures from the report

A total of 283 new jobs were advertised in March through the Public Employment Service.

In March, 81 individuals received recruitment subsidies within companies or institutions, and eight individuals received start-up subsidies.

In March 2024, the Public Employment Service issued 142 work permits to foreign nationals to work in Iceland, 110 of which were in the capital area.

 

 

 

Rainy Across Most of Iceland Today

rain iceland traffic

Today, April 11, will be rainy across much of the nation.

By evening, a low-pressure system will move over the southern parts of the country and then towards the east. The Met Office expects this will decrease winds and precipitation for most of the nation.

Rain and sleet for much of Iceland

Much of South Iceland, including the capital region and the South Coast, will be rainy today. The precipitation will change to sleet and snow in more northerly parts of the country, and higher elevation areas. Much of East and Northeast Iceland can expect snow today.

West Iceland, including the Snæfellsnes peninsula and the Westfjords, will be comparatively dry.

Temperatures mild around capital, colder in the North

Temperatures will range from around freezing to 8° C [46° F] throughout Iceland today. The mildest temperatures will be felt along the South Coast. The capital region is expected to be slightly cooler, around 5° C [41° F].

Temperatures will drop up north and in higher elevation areas, such as the highland. East and Northeast Iceland, in addition to the Westfjords, can all expect temperatures hovering around freezing today.

Wind sharper in the South

East and northeast Iceland will see moderate wind gusts, with sharper winds in the south. The Met Office predicts that winds will sharpen in the late morning, and it advises drivers in South Iceland to exercise caution.

As the day wears on, winds in Northwest Iceland are expected to pick up.

Useful resources for travellers

As always, travellers are advised to stay up to date with the latest weather conditions in Iceland.

Get the latest updates on weather at the Icelandic Met Office.

Live updates on road conditions in Iceland.

General safety tips at Safetravel.

Travellers in Iceland may also find our guides on driving in Iceland during the summer and winter helpful.

 

Deep North Episode 69: Melting Hearts

Ice Guys boyband

Jón Jónsson had the idea for Ice Guys in early 2023.

It all began as a kind of a joke.

He was, after all, 38 years old and probably a bit too long in the tooth to start a boy band.

But, despite his advanced age – in boy-band years, that is – he still had his boyish good looks and those teeth, no matter how long, would become the focal point of a Colgate Christmas campaign later that year.

Besides, Jón had a slew of popular singles to his name and years of experience in the Icelandic music business.

So why not?

Read the article here.

Journalists to Have Same Access as First Responders to Grindavík

grindavík iceland

The Icelandic Journalists’ Association (Blaðamannafélag Íslands) reached an agreement with the government regarding journalists’ access to sites during emergencies today, April 4. This agreement, presented during a court proceeding, acknowledges journalists’ crucial role in monitoring and providing information during emergencies. It states that restrictions on journalists’ freedom of expression must be justified by significant reasons. It also ensures that journalists’ access to hazardous areas should generally be no less than that of other responders, taking into account their specific rights and media roles.

A significant victory for freedom of expression

Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir, the association’s chairperson, views the agreement as a significant victory for the profession and freedom of expression. In a statement on the Icelandic Journalists’ Association website, she emphasizes the importance of journalists having equal access to sites as other responders, such as rescue teams and police, enabling them to fulfill their duties unhindered.

Flóki Ásgeirsson, a lawyer for the association, highlights that the agreement aligns with constitutional and international human rights standards regarding journalists’ freedom of expression. He notes that courts have recognized the unique position of journalists, necessitating greater scrutiny before limiting their freedom of expression.

Restrictions to not exceed those imposed on other responders

The association previously reached a similar agreement with the police in the Reykjanes region, ensuring journalists’ access to hazardous areas while considering safety measures. Sigríður Dögg expresses satisfaction with this agreement, stating that journalists’ access has improved, allowing them to carry out their duties effectively.

The agreement specifies that authorities may impose restrictions on journalists during emergencies but should generally not exceed those imposed on other responders for security reasons and should consider journalists’ specific rights and media roles. The agreement reached with the Reykjanes police reflects these principles as well.

A translated text of the agreement can be found below:

After a meeting between representatives of the Icelandic Journalists’ Association and the Ministry of Justice, it is clear that there is agreement among the parties involved regarding the significant role journalists play in monitoring and providing information, and that substantial reasons are necessary to restrict their freedom of expression. Based on emergency laws, authorities have specific powers to respond swiftly and decisively when emergencies arise, including limiting access to certain areas. Any limitations imposed on journalists in emergency situations should generally not exceed those placed on other responders for security reasons and should also take into account journalists’ specific rights and the role of the media. On March 8th, the Icelandic Journalists’ Association and the police commissioner in the Reykjanes region reached an agreement to improve media access to disaster areas, considering these principles. In light of the above, all parties agree that this matter should be settled without costs.

Civil Protection Downgrades Reykjanes Eruption

reykjanes eruption march 2024

Yesterday, April 3, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in consultation with the Chief of Police of the Reykjanes peninsula, made the decision to downgrade the emergency preparedness level. The volcanic eruption between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell is now considered to be an “alert phase,” where it was previously an “emergency phase.”

Emergency phase

The emergency phase was activated when the eruption commenced on March 16th. Despite the ongoing eruption, the situation has remained stable for some time. Civil Protection and the Icelandic Met Office state that no significant ground movements have been detected in the region recently.

While challenges like wildfires near the lava flow and gas pollution persist, the pollution hasn’t reached settlements in the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Misleading headlines

It should be noted that the Civil Protection emergency preparedness levels indicate overall levels of caution taken by authorities and first responders to the localised eruption, and not nation-wide conditions. Some reporting in the foreign media have implied that the “state of emergency” applied to the entire nation.

According to Civil Protection, an alert phase (hættustig) is in place if “a hazard assessment indicates increased threat, immediate measures must be taken to ensure the safety and security of those who are exposed/ in the area. This is done by increasing preparedness of the emergency- and security services in the area and by taking preventive measures, such as restrictions, closures, evacuations and relocation of inhabitants. This level is also characterized by public information, advise and warning messages.”

More information can be found, in English, here.

Further monitoring

Despite the downgraded preparedness level, Civil Protection state that continuous monitoring of wildfires during the eruption will be conducted, and necessary actions will be implemented.

More information can be found at the Icelandic Met Office. Air quality can be monitored live here: www.loftgaedi.is.

 

Snæfellsjökull Glacier Enters Presidential Race

snæfellsjökull glacier iceland

Iceland’s presidential race has a cool new candidate – the glacier Snæfellsjökull. Launched officially on March 15, the campaign emphasises ecology in order to “move towards environmental consciousness and global unity.”

An emblem of Iceland

In a recent press release, the campaign states: “Amidst the conventional political landscape, we believe it’s time to challenge the status quo and elect a candidate that symbolizes endurance, resilience, and global interconnectedness. Snæfellsjökull is already an emblem of Iceland and a custodian of geo-cultural wisdom, representing the very essence of stability and sustainability. With a towering presence and serene demeanor, Snæfellsjökull embodies a balance of steadfastness and adaptability, qualities much needed in today’s rapidly changing world.”

The campaign also stresses the importance of environmental stewardship. By nominating a non-human being to the presidency of Iceland, the campaign hopes to bring greater awareness to sustainability and eco-justice.

Even non-human beings need a kennitala

A kennitala, or civil registration number, is given to all citizens and legal residents of Iceland. In addition to being a minimum 35 years of age (which the glacier well exceeds) and mustering a minimum number of petition endorsements, candidates for the presidency of Iceland are also required to be citizens, and therefore, to have a kennitala.

In a statement on social media, campaign organiser and presidential proxy Angela Marie Snæfellsjökuls Rawlings, stated:

“In early 2024, thirty humans commenced work on a campaign to nominate Snæfellsjökull for the presidency—Snæfellsjökul fyrir forseta. We puzzled through how to work within a digitised administrative system and legislative framework that was not yet purpose-built to support a non-human entity to have a kennitala. Snæfellsjökull fulfilled the requisite age limit (at least 35 years old) and citizenship (Icelandic); the only thing remaining to establish our candidacy and collect enough nomination signatures to get the glacier on the ballot was a kennitala. Could we work with a pre-existing organisation that has a kennitala? Should we form a non-profit to acquire a kennitala for Snæfellsjökull? No, it should be a kennitala of an individual as organisations cannot run for president. And so legal eagles in the campaign team asked if I, as campaign manager, would offer my kennitala as proxy—understanding that I personally do not want to be president. They recommended it would be better if the candidate’s name included Snæfellsjökull so it’s clearly linked to the kennitala in the nomination form.”

Facing up the competition

The presidential race is already a crowded field, and the beloved glacier will face stiff competition, including former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr, popular professor of political science Baldur Þórhallsson, and possibly even current Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

The Snæfellsjökull campaign has also stressed the importance of inclusivity and diversity, and campaign literature is available in Icelandic, English, Polish, and Spanish.

Read more: How do I become the president of Iceland?