Tourists Caught by Waves in Reynisfjara

Tourist guide Pascale Elísabet Skúladóttir caught a video early Saturday of fierce waves in Reynisfjara that threatened to wash unsuspecting tourists to sea, RÚV reports. Pascale says that all too often, tourists ignore warning signs on the beach, putting themselves in danger.

Reynisfjara beach is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, routinely appearing on lists of must-see non-tropical beaches. Its black sands and opportune view of the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall are a consistent draw for tourists. 

Reynisfjara beach, however, can be a dangerous spot in bad weather. Pascale’s video, shown below, depicts tourists who venture too close to the water and are suddenly swept off their feet by a powerful wave. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt, but the sudden chaos shown in the video is a powerful reminder of how quickly the tides can turn in Reynisfjara.

Pascale says that on bad weather days like last Saturday, she doesn’t take her clients far beyond the beach’s designated walking path. The tourists in the video, however, were about ten meters closer to the sea than is recommended.

“There are prominent warning signs in a few languages along the beach, but they are ignored by at least half of the tourists visiting. When I warn people, they often tell me to mind my own business” Pascale says. She further recommends that people avoid areas of the beach where the sand is smooth, which tends to indicate areas where the waves have reached.

https://www.facebook.com/pascalee.skuladottir/videos/2588556661175778/

The Disappearance of the Icelandic Walrus

New research spearheaded by the Icelandic Museum of Natural History suggests that a special breed of walruses lived in and around Iceland millennia ago but became extinct around the year 1100, RÚV reports. The extinction has been suggested as being one of the earliest examples of overharvesting of marine life by humans.

According to Hilmar J. Malmquist, biologist and director of the Icelandic Museum of Natural History, the mysterious breed of walruses were highly coveted by early settlers for their meat, tusks and hide.

Walrus hide was reportedly used for clothing and rope that was used to secure the sails of the settlers’ boat fleet, furthermore walrus oil was used as ship insulation and to ward off crustaceans that would burrow into ship hulls, causing damage.

Walrus tusks were called the ivory of the North and were considered quite precious. Artists would often carve intricate patterns into the tusks. “Kings were gifted walrus tusks and heads, such was the importance of these artefacts,” Hilmir says.

Other factors, like rising temperatures and volcanic eruptions, could also have contributed to the eventual demise of the Icelandic walrus. According to Hilmir, Iceland was relatively warm during their heyday and had little ice. Furthermore, extreme volcanic activity is thought to have characterised the locations where the walrus lived.

“The newest theories, put forth by scientists studying Icelandic settlers and natural history, suggest that an interest for Iceland’s abundant marine and bird life might have been a driving force behind early settlements here, rather than hardship and political disputes in Norway,” Hilmar says.

The disappearance of walruses in Iceland has long been a puzzle to scientists, but the new research, spearheaded by the Icelandic Museum of Natural History and conducted by Icelandic, Danish and Dutch researchers has shed new light on the matter. The scientists studied walrus bone samples found in western and south-western parts of Iceland. Their findings were recently reported in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Chief of Police to Meet with Minister of Justice over Recent Conflict 

Iceland’s chief of police Haraldur Johannessen will meet with Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir today to discuss recent turmoil within the ranks of the Icelandic police department, Fréttablaðið reports. An interview with Johannessen in Morgunblaðið over the weekend is reported to have ruffled quite a few feathers. In the interview, Johannessen talks about a “smear campaign” made against him by other police officials with “outrageous tactics”, done in an attempt to remove him from office. He also insinuated that corruption is widespread within Iceland’s police department. This is contradicted by an anonymous source who told Fréttablaðið that Johannessen has only been asked to ensure proper working conditions for his underlings.

The squabbling within the police department is mainly centred around Johannessen’s supposed poor handling of funds, his inability to maintain the police car fleet and ensure that police uniforms are in check.

An anonymous police chief, working under Johannessen is quoted by Fréttablaðið as saying he is bewildered by the Morgunblaðið interview and that there is no smear campaign happening. However, the anonymous source says that many within Iceland’s police department have contacted Johannessen recently in order to seek improvement of the police car fleet and uniforms, who are reportedly not up to code at the moment.

Chernobyl Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Wins Emmy

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir received an Emmy last night for her score for HBO’s historical drama miniseries Chernobyl, Vísir reports. The miniseries chronicles the tragic events of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and features a score by Guðnadóttir, entirely made from sounds recorded at the site of the infamous calamity. This is the first Emmy win for Guðnadóttir, whose upcoming scores include Todd Phillips’ highly anticipated Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

The 71st Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards were held over the weekend to honour outstanding achievements in U.S. primetime television, with Chernobyl sweeping up seven awards, including one for Guðnadóttir’s score.

As previously reported, Guðnadóttir’s score is made from sounds recorded on-site at a nuclear power plant. “I wanted to explore what a nuclear disaster sounds like – to go into the plant, put on the gear, walk through the huge spaces, smell how it smells,” Guðnadóttir told Iceland Review in a recent interview.

Read the interview with Hildur Guðnadóttir

Guðnadóttir’s next score is for Todd Phillips’ upcoming Joker film, which is awaiting an October release. Joker has already garnered considerable praise, winning the coveted Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, with Guðnadóttir winning the Premio Soundtrack Stars Award for her score.

Hildur Guðnadóttir was not the only Icelander who was victorious over the Emmy weekend. Aron Hjartarson won an award alongside his team at Framestone, a production and visual effects company, for their involvement in Free Solo, the documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold.

 

 

Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise Warns Against Companies Raising Prices

Halldór Benjamín

Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, head of the SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, warns against businesses raising their prices in the wake of recent union deals in Iceland, RÚV reports.

Union leaders have been negotiating with the confederation over the last weeks and months in order to raise salaries of their members. But many companies have said that they in turn intend to raise their prices to deal with the added expenditure that comes with the new deals.

“It is no secret that the negotiated increases in salary will be tough on some companies, but that should test the possibility of businesses rearranging operations and searching for more advantageous ways to do business,” Halldór said in a post on the confederation’s website. “Everybody must contribute and be responsible. That goes for those with the highest salaries too,” he added.

A few companies have come out recently, saying that they are forced to raise the prices of their products in the wake of the new union deals. One such company, ÍSAM, caused outrage when they declared that they intend to raise their prices by 3.9% and the prices of imported goods by 1.9%

In his new post, Halldór talks about the recent deals, explaining how they center around a four-pronged solution: “Higher salaries, especially for those with low incomes, an increased flexibility to shorten the workweek, lower taxes and ways to create an atmosphere that is conducive to lowering taxes in Iceland, indefinitely.”

Big “Plogging” Day a Roaring Success

plastic

Yesterday, citizens of Iceland were encouraged to go out and pick up garbage in their neighbourhood as a part of the big “plogging” day.

The initiative, spearheaded by Einar Bárðason amongst others has quickly gained traction, with Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson both taking part. “I think it’s safe to say that the initiative grew by thousands of percentages,” a pleased Einar told reporters at the end of the day.

“Plogging” is a relatively new term, that combines the verb “jogging” and “picking”. It has been used to describe the act of going out for a jog with a bag in hand, picking up garbage as it is discovered. In Icelandic the verb “plokka” has been used, which literally means “plucking”. It is unclear how much jogging was involved yesterday but according to Einar, the day was a smashing success, with around nine planned locations in and around Reykjavík attracting nature lovers of all ages.

The proceedings were kicked off early yesterday by Guðmundur Ingi and Atli Svavarsson, a young environmentalist, as they ceremoniously cut a plastic ribbon that had become entangled in a birch tree.

“I’ve been plogging for a while,” Guðmundur Ingi told reporters. “I worked as a park ranger for a while and that’s where I picked it up. If there’s garbage in front of you, you pick it up! It’s as simple as that.”

At the end of the day, Einar estimated that around one thousand garbage bags had been filled in the proceedings.

The Guitar is Dead

guitar

If you only read the headlines, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the guitar is having a tough time recently. After all, electric guitar sales have been steadily declining for some time. Today, the guitar heroes of yore seem to have been replaced by laptop-wielding electronic producers and perennial mega pop stars. On May 1, 2018, the Gibson company, one of the most celebrated and well-known guitar manufacturers in the world, filed for bankruptcy protection, sending shockwaves through the music industry and sparking all kinds of speculation about the future of the six-stringed instrument. “I don’t know. Maybe the guitar is over,” Eric Clapton himself wondered in an interview.

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The Directorate of Labour Cancels Annual Celebration Due to Increased Workload

The Directorate of Labour has cancelled its intended annual workplace celebration due to an increased workload resulting from the bankruptcy of WOW Air, RÚV reports. The government agency has fielded around 700 applications for unemployment benefits this month alone.

According to Unnur Sverrisdóttir, the head of the Directorate of Labour, the intended trip was supposed to happen last weekend. Ironically, the agency’s workforce had planned on flying abroad via WOW Air, but nothing came of it.

“What we thought would be a normal April month has turned into something completely different,” Unnur says, explaining that the agency’s workload has increased quite a bit in the wake of WOW Air’s collapse.

The airlines bankruptcy caused around 1100 people to lose their job in one day, a record number in the Icelandic labour market according to Unnur.

The Directorate of Labour is planning on another trip for its workers, intended to take place once things slow down at their offices. Meanwhile, Unnur and other administrators at the agency urge people to show their employees their gratitude for a job well done, whilst they wait for their well-deserved annual celebration.

Icelandic Man Killed In Norway

fatal accident Iceland

Gísli Þór Þórarinsson, a forty year old Icelander residing in Mehamn in Norway was shot and killed last Saturday morning, Fréttablaðið reports. The man’s half-brother is in police custody, thought to have pulled the trigger. A third Icelander who is believed to have been present has been questioned by local police, but denies direct involvement in the tragedy.

Police in Mehamn was notified that a man had been shot around half-past five, early Saturday morning. When they arrived on the scene they found a man in critical condition. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful.

The man arrested for the murder is the deceased’s half-brother. Shortly after the shooting he took to Facebook, asking for forgiveness in a post, admitting that he had committed a “heinous act that will follow me for the rest of my life”.

The third man will be brought before a judge today and is expected to be taken into custody while Mehamn police investigates.

According to Vísir, police has been unable to interrogate the suspected shooter, who has been in custody since early Saturday morning, but he is reported to have threatened the deceased before the shooting. In fact, a restraining order is was issued against him by Norwegian authorities on april 17.

According to reports Gísli Þór was a respected member of the Mehamn community. A vigil was held in his memory at a local church Saturday evening.