July Sees Large Increase in Flights from Icelandair, Play

Keflavík airport Icelandair

In recent press releases, both of Iceland’s international airlines, Icelandair and PLAY, have reported significant increases in passenger counts in July 2022.

In the previous month, Icelandair’s total international and domestic passenger count was 529,000, representing a 141% increase from July 2021, which saw only 219,000. June 2022 saw some 431,000 passengers. The July totals for 2022 are 89% of the July 2019 numbers, signaling a recovery in the travel industry from COVD-19.

However, Icelandair has not been immune to the many travel disruptions caused by difficult conditions in international airports, with a 64% on-time performance rate. Icelandair is not unique in this, and many other airlines have reported similar problems as travel has begun resuming at pre-pandemic levels. Many international airports had to lay off staff during the pandemic, and are only now beginning to work again at full capacity. An influx of new, untrained staff and sudden ramp-up in operations has resulted in many reports of lost baggage and delayed flights.

A highlight for Icelandair is a load capacity of 89.6%, which they state reflects both a well-optimized route network, and also the pent-up travel demand from COVID-19.

PLAY also sees increase

The story is much the same for Iceland’s most recent budget airline, PLAY.

July 2022 saw PLAY servicing some 110,000 passengers, an increase of 25% from the previous month’s 88,000. Notably, the recent July figure is greater than PLAY’s entire 2021 year.

PLAY has enjoyed a passenger load of 87.9%, an increase of June’s figure of 79.2% and May’s 69.6%. As in the case of Icelandair, this likely reflects a pent-up travel demand following relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The budget airline has also enjoyed a comparatively higher on-time performance rate of 79%, which is seen as particularly impressive given the difficult situation seen in many international airports.

July 2022 also saw the introduction of PLAY’s latest aircraft, and Airbus A320neo, bringing their total fleet to six.

I want to find information on Icelandic eiderdown duvets

eider down duvet sæng

The term eiderdown is actually a rather interesting one, as it’s a good example of a loanword from Old Norse. The original Old Norse dunna referred to a wild duck, with other terms like dúnn, dúnbeðr and dúnkoddi referring to down blankets, beds, and pillows. Presumably, settlers and traders brought these over to the Anglo Saxons, who realized how nice they were and adopted the name. 

As for eider ducks themselves, they’re a species of duck that lives in the Northern Hemisphere. Iceland has a population of them, and they’re actually one of the largest ducks in Europe. Much of the down sold in jackets, sleeping bags, and pillows is not from wild eider ducks, but instead farm-raised from geese and other ducks species. 

Eider ducks will use their down, a special kind of soft feather, to line their nests. Historically, eiderdown harvesting could harm duck populations, but sustainable down harvesting can also be practised after the ducklings leave the nest. Because of the method of harvesting real eiderdown, a pure eiderdown sæng (Icelandic duvet) or pillow is mostly a rarity these days, and if you do manage to find one, expect to pay a premium price for it.

Scenes from Meradalir

Meradalir eruption 2022

Yes, eruptions are serious business. One has to bring the right equipment, check the conditions, and above all, exercise caution. It is not every day, after all, that one is confronted with the raw, boiling power of earth’s mantle shooting up in glow-in-the-dark orange jets.

It is not an everyday experience. Everywhere around you, you see the signs of something exceptional. A holiday air reigns, alternately feeling like a solemn pilgrimage and carnival.

Everyone seems to have come for something different. Old couples picnic off to the side of the main event, and wispy teenage boys are wired into VR headsets, piloting their drones over the lava field. Some enjoy a moment of silent contemplation, and others are clearly here for the spectacle and fun of it all. For others, such as geologists and the search and rescue team, the eruption site is an office.

Here, we briefly show a few of the many faces and scenes of Meradalir.

Meradalir eruption 2022

The slopes above the eruption serves as the perfect vantage point to view the eruption from. The eruption is obscured until the moment hikers crest the hill behind it, and visitors new to the scene can often be heard gasping in surprise when they first see the eruption below.

Meradalir eruption 2022

The angle provides an excellent view over the eruption, but doesn’t quite capture the scale of the jets. As we descended the slope, we could better appreciate the magnitude of the eruption.

Meradalir eruption 2022

Katrin and Tomas, a German couple, pause on the slopes for a water break. They had taken an even longer route to the eruption site, and had walked some 30km that day.

Meradalir eruption 2022

Tóta Maja, from the Search and Rescue team Björgunsveitin Ok, stands by with her partner, Jóhannes. Asked how she felt about the most recent eruption, she said she was very excited, and that so far everyone has been behaving very well.

Meradalir eruption 2022

Fashion designer Eva Poleschinski and her photographer struck digital gold last year when one of her pictures from Fagradalsfjall went viral. Here, they hope lightning strikes twice for them.

Meradalir eruption 2022

Berglind and Ragnar saw all of the drone footage from last year and just recently got one for themselves. Here they are taking their new drone on its maiden flight.

Meradalir eruption 2022

University of Iceland geologists, Catherine Gallagher and Jóna Sigurlína Pálmadóttir, conduct some fieldwork. When we came across them, they were breaking off a chunk of lava to take back for sampling. They said the Meradalir eruption was a very nice, polite eruption: no surprises so far, and away from roads and settlements.

Meradalir eruption 2022

J.J. and Carlos were in Iceland for the first time. This was their first eruption, and they seemed like they were having a great time!

Meradalir eruption 2022

Laimis has been living in Iceland for three years. He saw many of the pictures from the eruption last year and thought he’d give lava-grilled hot dogs a try (which, by the way, we don’t recommend!).

Meradalir eruption 2022

Lucia, Alexandra, and Lila were having a great time taking pictures. Having just moved here two months ago, it was quite the welcoming for Alexandra.

Those visiting the eruption site should be sure to read our Ask Iceland Review article on the Meradalir eruption for information on safety, parking, and weather conditions.

Shifting Winds Could Mean Gas in Vogar, Garður

meradalir eruption 2022

According to the most recent information from the Meteorological Office of Iceland, shifting winds could blow gas plumes from the eruption north and northwest of the eruption site, towards the towns of Vogar, Reykjanesbær, and Garður.

Winds from the South and Southeast are expected today, ranging from 5 to 10m/s. The model below shows a possible distribution for the gas today around 13:00.

meradalir eruption 2022
Veðurstofa Íslands

However, the Meteorological Office warns that SO2 levels in the model may not be entirely up to date. For the most current air quality levels, residents and tourists are encouraged to refer to the Environmental Agency of Iceland’s website.

The gas plume currently poses no significant hazard, and the capital area will not be affected.

Nevertheless, visitors to the eruption site are urged to exercise caution. The Meteorological Office states that gas levels near the eruption site can exceed safe levels, especially in low wind conditions when gas can accumulate in the valley. In such conditions, it is recommended to stay high on the slopes. When visiting the eruption, it is best to position oneself upwind of the eruption to avoid potentially dangerous exposure.

Following the eruption, the magma has seen a relief of pressure, meaning a potential decrease in flow. Seismic activity has likewise decreased, with far fewer earthquakes detected than preceding the eruption.


Eruption in Meradalir: Everything We Know So Far

Meradalir eruption 3 august 2022

Yesterday, August 3, an eruption began in Meradalir, near the site of the 2021 Fagradalsfjall eruption.

The magma flow is said to be at least five times larger than that of last year’s eruption, although it is still considered a relatively minor eruption. The location of the eruption is especially favourable, as it is unlikely to affect infrastructure such as roads. The original fissure was recorded as 260m long, but has since shrunk to some 130m. This is common for such fissure eruptions, which tend to isolate around one or two craters.

Meradalir eruption Iceland 2022
From Veðurstofa Íslands

The above picture from the Meteorological Office of Iceland shows a model of the most likely lava flow. While the model is an older one and was generated before the current eruption, it assumes a fissure in the same areas that are now active. As of now, the eruption and model conform to each other well, and it seems likely that the lava flow will follow the predicted path, away from important infrastructure. The Meteorological Office is currently at work generating a new, updated model.

Einar Hjörleifson, natural scientist at the Meteorological Office, has indicated that the eruption has very little ash, and as such does not pose any danger to air traffic. The prevailing northerly wind is also blowing most of the volcanic gas south towards the ocean. However, visitors to the site are still advised to use caution and not approach the lava, as the fumes can prove dangers in high concentration and over a long time. Einar also stated that although we cannot know for certain, the earthquakes are likely to abate during the eruption as pressure is relieved. So far, the eruption is behaving similarly to the Fagradalsfjall eruption of last year, and there is reason to believe it will continue doing so. As of today, August 4, there has already been a reduction in seismic activity by half, with the largest earthquake in the last 24 hours registered at M3.4.

As of now, the government has asked the public to avoid the area. Traffic to the eruption was originally closed as the situation was assessed, but people are currently not being turned away. However, there have already been search and rescue calls to the eruption site due to hikers sustaining injuries. The walk to the eruption site is a difficult one, at 17km [10.6mi] round trip. As always in Iceland, proper equipment and footwear are key, and visitors are advised to inform themselves of the conditions before setting out.

The Reykjanes peninsula is a very geologically active area. More can be read about it here.


Southwest Iceland Experiences String of Earthquakes Overnight

Kleifarvatn - Krísuvík - Reykjanes

Residents of Southwest Iceland, including the capital area, experienced a series of strong earthquakes last night, August 1, according to the Meteorological Office of Iceland.

The largest registered earthquake was 5.4 magnitude, which occurred around 5:48pm yesterday evening near Grindavík. In total, some 15 earthquakes of magnitude 4 or greater have occurred since Saturday. The recent series of quakes have their origins near Kleifarvatn, a lake and popular nature area in the Reykjanes peninsula.

The recent increase in seismological activity has led to a declaration of a State of Uncertainty in the event that the Fagradalsfjall eruption becomes active again, as similar conditions were observed before the eruptions of 2021. The recent earthquakes are attributed to magma intrusion, which is in line with the pattern from last year, where a series of earthquakes preceded the eruption. However, according to the Meteorological Office, the magma intrusion is small than last year’s. As of yet, hiking trails remain open in the area, and the Civil Defense has not closed off the area.

No significant damage was caused by the recent quakes, but Mayor of Grindavík, Fannar Jónasson, said to RÚV that some damage was caused to a water pipe, which has since been repaired. Fannar stated that although the earthquakes may be uncomfortable, he believes that everyone is well prepared and that all agencies and businesses in the town have emergency plans.

The Meteorological Office warns of the increased risk of rockfall in Southwest Iceland and advises caution near steep slopes, sea cliffs, and other areas where rocks may be prone to fall.




New Director of National Hospital System Outlines Strategy

landspitali national university hospital iceland

The National University Hospital of Iceland recently had a new board of directors nominated by Alþingi.

Björn Zoëga, orthopaedic surgeon and current director of the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, has been selected as the chairman of the board.

In a statement, Björn said: “I am very grateful for the trust that has been shown to me with this appointment. I care about the interests of the Icelandic healthcare system and I am convinced that my experience will be useful in the projects that lie ahead. Such an arrangement is important, not only in terms of operations but in terms of the interests of patients, staff and society. I am convinced that it will be for the best of the country.”

Other appointments to the National Hospital’s board include:

  • Gunnar Einarsson, former mayor of Garðabær and doctor of management and education.
  • Höskuldur H. Ólafsson, serving as consultant and business analyst.
  • Ingileif Jónsdóttir, Head of Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases at Icelandic Genetics and Professor of Immunology at the University of Iceland.
  • Sólrún Kristjánsdóttir, CEO of Veitur and managing director.

In a recent interview with Morgunblaðið, Björn outlined his strategy for the National Hospital system.

Björn states that he hopes to simplify the organizational structure of the hospital system. Specifically, he highlights as a problem the excess of employees in the hospital system not directly involved with patient care. In the last few years, he says, the amount of middle management has grown much more than those on the frontlines of patient care.

By simplifying the organizational structure and reorganizing the middle management, Björn hopes to bring Iceland’s National Hospital system in line with other modern hospitals.


Record Numbers of Pink Salmon Caught

humpback salmon iceland

Iceland’s Marine Research Institute has issued a report on salmon and trout catches in 2021. 339 pink salmon were reported, an all-time record.

Pink salmon, also called humpback salmon for the prominent bump males develop during their spawn migration, is native to the Pacific ocean and is considered an invasive species in Iceland.

Some 323 pink salmon were caught by anglers, and 16 were caught in nets.

In total, 36,461 salmon catches were registered last year, with 53.7% of them released and 46.3% of them landed. The total catch is recorded as 46,832kg.

In the second half of the 20th century, the fish was stocked in Russian streams. After this introduction, the pink salmon has made its way around the arctic region to the North Atlantic, and the species has been recorded not just in Iceland, but also throughout the UK and Ireland as an invasive species. Environmentalists are concerned that the fish may disrupt native habits and compete with other species for food.

Smiðjan Brewery First to Sell Directly to Customers

icelandic beer

Smiðjan Brewery in Vík was the first to sell alcohol directly to customers when it officially got its license on Wednesday, July 13.

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Sveinn Sigurðsson, one of the founders of Smiðjan, stated that it was important for the brewery to finally be able to sell directly. A majority of the customers that visit the brewery are foreign tourists and beer enthusiasts, and now they will be able to take beer home with them more easily.

At the moment, Smiðjan just has a restaurant and bar, but they are planning to significantly increase their production to meet the rising demand of direct sales.

Smiðjan has been offering brewery tours but expressed frustration that up until now, they were not allowed to sell alcohol directly to their customers after these tours. Smiðjan has also been frustrated that getting their product onto Vínbúðin shelves also takes several weeks, meaning that customers are not getting the freshest product possible.

Iceland has, up until now, had a state monopoly on alcohol. All alcohol must be purchased at Vínbúðin, the state alcohol distributor, except for some light beer which is available in grocery stores. Alþingi recently relaxed these restrictions, leading to a boom in online alcohol sales by private retailers.



Rauðasandur Annual Beach Cleanup Complete


On Saturday, July 2, volunteers cleaned up the Rauðisandur beach for the seventh time, reports Iceland’s Environmental Agency.

The annual cleanup takes place through the cooperation of the Environmental Agency, landowners, and the local municipalities. This year, 22 volunteers were on hand to help clear the beaches.

Small debris is cleared off of the beach with bags, but larger items must be placed in piles to be taken away to containers for sorting. Notably, this year saw significantly less trash than previous years, perhaps due to the lull in tourism brought on by COVID.

Part of the beach cleaning is carried out in accordance with OSPAR, an international agreement for environmental protection in the North-East Atlantic. This entails demarcating a 100m stretch of beach and then measuring and reporting all debris. This is done to better understand the ways in which pollution, such as plastic, accumulates in the ocean.

Unlike other beaches in Iceland with black, volcanic sand, Rauðasandur, located in the West Fjords, is noteworthy for its red sands. This distinctive feature comes from scallops, which grow in particularly high density in Breiðafjörður.