Invaluable and irreplaceable samples owned by the Institute of Natural History (INH) were lost when the owners of a freezer container that the Institute leased decided to dispose of its contents without the prior consent of the lessees. This was done after the power went off the container last spring, resulting in meat in the freezer going bad. It is unclear whether the power cut was intentional or an accident. This is reported by Morgunbladid and other media.
According to Jón Gunnar Ottóson, director of the INH, the Institute has leased an 8-10 square meter freezer container for the past 16 years, in which it kept over 2,000 bird samples, a small whale, and various other samples. Among birds in the storage container were six eagles, 15 falcons, various rare smaller birds, and a highly valuable set of guillemots. Some of the samples were up to 30 years old and the damage is impossible to replace. In financial terms, it amounts to tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of Icelandic krona.
The incident occurred in the wake of a change of ownership of the freezer containers. The INH has since discovered that last spring the Health Authority was alerted to the fact that the new owners did not have an operating license. The Authority was told by the new owners that they planned to close the business and that all lessees would be informed. INH staff first became aware of the current situation when they visited the container last month. They were told by the new owners at that time that everything in the container had gone bad and had been disposed of. Ottóson points out that many of the samples had retained their value, despite having thawed. A decision has not been made as to whether charges will be pressed in the matter.