Informatory signage has been installed at Reynisfjara beach to better ensure the safety of tourists. Cameras, mounted on masts on the beach ridge, will relay a live stream from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.
Creeping waves and a strong undertow
As noted in an article in Iceland Review from 2019, the tides that lap the beautiful black sand beaches of Reynisfjara beach – a popular travel destination near the town of Vík in South Iceland – possess “an immensely strong undertow,” with waves that “creep quickly upon travellers.” As of last summer, five travellers had died on Reynisfjara beach since 2013.
In response to these tragedies, a consultation team was established last summer in order to better ensure the safety of visitors. The consultation team recommended the installation of informatory signage on the beach, which has now been installed. In addition to the signs, a 300-metre-long chain has been strung along the parking lot, guiding visitors along a path and past the signs. Cameras, which have been installed on a mast on the beach ridge, will also stream live video from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.
“The signs emphasise information,” a press release from the Icelandic Tourist Board reads, “aiming to make the information accessible and interesting, explaining what can be done in the area – as opposed to simply highlighting what is prohibited. One illuminated sign, which relays information from the Icelandic Road Administration’s wave-prediction system; three big informatory signs, one of which highlights the dangers of the undertow; and six guiding signs have been installed.”
Beach divided into zones according to conditions
The press release also notes that the Reynisfjara beach will never be closed to the public. Instead, the beach will be divided into zones, which will serve to guide visitors based on conditions: a flashing yellow light indicates that visitors should not enter the yellow zone, and a flashing red light indicates that visitors should not enter the red zone (i.e. not past the illuminated sign). Visitors are encouraged to stay on the beach ridge, which affords a safe view of the beautiful scenery.
“The safety measures at Reynisfjara beach will only extend as far as signage, and no lifeguards will be employed at this time. Such a thing could, however, prove a logical next step – if only during those days when conditions are labelled ‘red.’ In order to finance such measures, landowners would need to collect fees from visitors.”
Lastly, the parties affiliated with the consultation team hope that the new safety measures will mean that visitors to the beach will become “more mindful of hazards” and comport themselves accordingly. “Signs, no matter how well designed, will not stop anyone from venturing near the tide; they are, however, useful in keeping most visitors within a safe zone, so as to enjoy the beach in all its majesty.”
The consultation team comprised representatives of landowners, the South Icelandic police, the Icelandic Tourist Board, ICE-SAR, the Icelandic Road Administration, and the Katla Geopark.