Nature’s Treasure Chest

Snæfellsjökull National Park

The area surrounding Snæfellsjökull glacier is one of Iceland’s most beautiful. Snæfellsjökull National Park is dominated by the glacier, which sits at a height of 1,446 metres (4,744 feet) atop a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano. Diverse bird life, seals dozing on black sand beaches, fantastic natural rock formations along with beautiful caves hidden in lava fields – there’s no question that such a natural treasure should be protected at all costs. Luckily, there seem to be more economic benefits than costs – at least according to Finnish researcher Jukka Siltanen’s work. The natural pearl of Snæfellsjökull has proven to be a gem of sorts for the Icelandic economy.

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In Focus: The Alleged Death of Haukur Hilmarsson

Since the news of his death broke, two videos have been posted of Haukur. In the videos, he states his intent to fight fascism, admonishing the West for its lack of reaction to the problems in the Middle East, and describes himself as an anarchist at heart. When news broke out that Haukur Hilmarsson had been killed […]

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Helping the World Breathe

wetlands Iceland

For a long time, wetlands were an underestimated part of the Icelandic ecosystem. But times are changing. People are starting to realise that wetlands are an indispensable water resource and serve a significant ecological purpose. Wetlands are home to a variety of species, ranging from plants to small animals, which depend on the conditions provided by wetlands for survival. Amongst those are birds – over 90% of birds that breed in Iceland rely, to some extent, on wetlands.

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Respecting Mother Earth

Eygló and Eymundur in Vallanes

Iceland famously has almost no forests. In most places that is. In the east of Iceland, you could almost imagine that you’re in another climate, especially if you visit Vallanes farm. On the farm, run by Eymundur Magnússon and his wife Eygló Björk Ólafsdóttir, mature forests meet fields of organic barley, rapeseed, salad greens, and other vegetables. It’s one of the first organic farms in Iceland and not a lot of people believed in Eymundur’s vision when he first abandoned the more traditional dairy farming.

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Ragnheiður, the Bishop’s Daughter

Ragnheiður biskupsdóttir

Some characters and events in history are so memorable that their stories have been told and retold many times over. Facts become stories and stories become legends, and even though the only people that know the true events are long gone, they still hold a place in people’s hearts. For Icelanders, one such story is the story of Ragnheiður Brynjólfsdóttir, the Bishop’s daughter. It has captured the hearts and minds of Icelanders throughout generations, leaving them wondering to this day about the feelings and motives that drove her tumultuous life.

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Lights, Camera, Activism

Actress Halldóra Geirharðs looking out of her greenhouse

Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is one of the nation’s most beloved actors. Some of the previous roles she’s known for have been comedic, even clownish (her turn as Barbara the clown was beloved by an entire generation of Icelandic children). Recently, however, it is her role as an environmental terrorist that has gained her some well-deserved attention. The role is another fruitful partnership with frequent collaborator director Benedikt Erlingsson, her partner in Ormstunga, a comedy play based on one of the Icelandic sagas, her director in Of Horses and Men and most recently, Woman at War.

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Falco Rusticolus

Gyrfalcon researcher Ólafur Nielsen

“The gyrfalcon’s whole life revolves around the ptarmigan,” ornithologist Ólafur Nielsen tells me as I sit in the back of his pickup truck. We’re navigating a trail through spiky black lava in the northeast on the longest day of the year. At his side is his son and namesake, Ólafur Nielsen Junior, known as Óli to distinguish him from his father. He’s been accompanying his father on his falcon trips since he was 10 years old and can’t imagine a summer without them. In order to get to follow the father-son duo on their trip for a day, I had to apply for a special permit from the Environment Agency of Iceland, months in advance. The purpose of our trip is to visit two or three gyrfalcon nests to mark and measure the nestlings. Even approaching gyrfalcon nests in Iceland is illegal, and only a few researchers and scientists are exempted. Ólafur is one of Iceland’s most notable falcon scholars.

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World Cup Adventure

Iceland FIFA world cup 2018

Last year, Iceland became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup tournament in men’s football. For a nation just about a century old, living on a small island north of almost everything, making such an achievement on an international scale is something that will go down in history.

For the past few decades, Icelanders put a lot of energy and pride into building up top-notch training facilities and quality youth programs for sports of all kinds. Icelanders have excelled in sports such as gymnastics, handball, and golf but the crowning glory of Iceland’s sporting industry are the national football teams. Excelling in the world’s favourite sport, and certainly, the most-watched sport in Iceland has unlocked new levels of national pride in this small group of 350 000 souls.

As the men’s football team travelled to Russia to compete with the best of the best, the whole nation held its breath. Airline tickets to Russia sold like hotcakes, as did the official team shirts. Buses, offices, homes, and faces were decorated with the Icelandic flag, and the national broadcasting company scored record ratings on game days. Every football enthusiast was in an emotional uproar as the game against Argentina, led by Messi, ended in a draw, but even when the team wasn’t winning, the boys had the love and attention of supporters from Russia to Akureyri, and even a small gas station in Blönduós.

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“You Don’t Have to Be a Genius to Be in a Band”

Ateria band winner of Músíktilraunir 2018

Composer Béla Bartók once famously said, “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” The Iceland Music Experiments (IME) have proven him wrong many times over. A yearly competition for up-and-coming Icelandic musicians, IME have since 1982 been a stepping stone to success for bands such as Mammút, Agent Fresco, and Of Monsters and Men. This year’s winning band, Ateria, says horsing around together is key to making good music.

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