The Day the World Came to Iceland (Photos of Graf Zeppelin from 1930) Skip to content

The Day the World Came to Iceland (Photos of Graf Zeppelin from 1930)

In 1930 Iceland was far, far away from the rest of the world. Then for a day, it was part of the world when the German airship Graf Zeppelin crossed the skies. Helgi Hrafn Guðmundsson tells us more about it in his history blog:

“On Thursday, July 17, at around 11:00 am, the citizens of Reykjavík looked up at the sky in astonishment as the magnificent German airship Graf Zeppelin sailed towards the city. Slowly and majestically it approached, its grey body shining in the sunlight. It flew very slowly over the city in a circular pattern and its beauty captivated everybody who witnessed this great sight. It was a truly unforgettable scene as Iceland has never had a more distinguished airborne visitor.” (Fálkinn magazine, August 1930).

Graf Zeppelin and Ingólfur Arnarson

Graf Zeppelin in 1930 over the statue of Reykjavík’s (and Iceland’s) first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson.

Reading this caption today, it’s as if the small village of Reykjavík had been visited by an alien spaceship. In 1930, Iceland was still a very remote and obscure island nation struggling to keep up with the pace of modernisation in Northern Europe. Pessimism was on the rise as Iceland’s fragile economy had been severely affected by the onset of the Great Depression the year prior. Airplanes were an uncommon sight, so it must have been “a truly unforgettable scene” when that elegant German airship appeared above Reykjavík in July 1930.

Graf Zeppelin over Reykjavík

Graf Zeppelin over Reykjavík in 1930. From Fálkinn magazine.

The Zeppelins navigated the globe to demonstrate and test the airships. The Zeppelins transported passengers and mail on transatlantic flights in the 1930s before the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, and other political and economic issues, which hastened the demise of the airships. Iceland was visited a second time in 1931.

The third time Zeppelin came to Iceland it was the world famous Led Zeppelin in 1970, but that is another story.

Photos by hobby photographer Ingimundur Guðmundsson.

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