Autopsies Expected to Clarify Bolungarvík Couple’s Deaths

A couple in their sixties were found dead at their home in Bolungarvík yesterday. The police suspect no foul play and are hopeful that autopsies will reveal the cause of their deaths.

Await autopsy results

As reported this morning, the Westfjords police requested assistance from the forensics department of the Metropolitan Police following a death in the town of Bolungarvík yesterday evening.

It has now been confirmed that two deaths occurred; a couple in their sixties, a man and a woman, passed away at their private residence. Their cause of death remains unknown.

In an interview with RÚV today, Helgi Jensson, Chief of the Westfjords Police, stated that the forensics team’s fieldwork was complete: “We have managed to cover the scene quite well. We do not know exactly what happened; an autopsy should clarify things.”

When asked if the police had established a time of death for the two individuals, Helgi replied in the negative: “Not precisely, no. But the autopsy will also provide a more precise time of death.”

No suspicion of foul play

Helgi also explained that the Westfjords Police had requested assistance from the forensics department of the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police because two individuals had died.

“It occasionally happens that elderly individuals die at home. If one person dies, the investigation might not be so extensive. Since this incident involved two individuals, however, it immediately raised questions. Which is why we decided to bring in the forensics team and a forensic pathologist.”

As noted by RÚV, the police investigation is ongoing and there is currently no suspicion of foul play. Helgi stressed that the police could not make any assertions until the investigation was complete.

“We hope that the autopsy will provide clarity,” Helgi stated, estimating that the autopsy would take a few days as opposed to weeks.

Metropolitan Police Assist in Westfjords Death Inquiry

Bolungarvík

The Westfjords police are investigating a death in a Bolungarvík home with assistance from the Metropolitan Police’s forensics department. No arrests have been made, and further details will be provided in a forthcoming statement.

Official statement expected soon

The Westfjords police requested assistance from the Metropolitan Police’s forensics department following a death in Bolungarvík yesterday evening.

According to Vísir, the incident occurred in a detached, single-story home on Hlíðarvegur street, where a couple in their sixties resides. Around 7 PM, police cars with flashing lights and an ambulance arrived at the scene. Sources indicated that police officers were seen entering the house by removing a plywood board from a window.

Speaking to Vísir this morning, Hlynur Snorrason, Chief of Police in the Westfjords, stated that no arrests had been made in connection with the death. He declined to comment further but announced that a statement would be made later.

Exploring the Westfjords in 24, 48, and 72 hours

Summer in Hornstrandir, Westfjords.

With many unpaved, narrow and meandering mountain roads, the Westfjords are a place of slow and careful travel. Seemingly short distances can be long in reality, which will be your main obstacle when visiting the Westfjords with a limited amount of days at hand. Having a predetermined plan with estimated travel times can come in handy to tackle this, but being flexible is also key. Most importantly, though, enjoy the scenic journey, not just the destinations!

Day one

7-9 AM

Make your way to the Westfjords. If you have a long drive before reaching them, for example, travelling from Reykjavík, we recommend heading off at 7 AM to make the most of your day. The itinerary includes lunch and dinner stops where you can buy food, but pack something to snack on between meals. 

11:30 PM

Your first stop will be for lunch at Flókalundur in Vatnsfjörður fjord. If you brought your own lunch, head up to the campsite picnic tables or spread out on the grass by the shore. You can also purchase lunch at Hótel Flókalundur. 

12:30 PM

Depart from Flókalundur and drive to your next destination: Rauðisandur Beach.  The journey will take a bit more than an hour. Rauðisandur, or Red Sand, is a truly magnificent place picked as one of the top 100 beaches of the world by Lonely Planet. The beach, stretching for 12-13 km [7.5-8 miles], gets its name from the uniquely pink and reddish shades of its sand, stemming from the shell of the Icelandic Scallop.

A mountain road in the Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. A mountain road in the Westfjords.

2:30 PM

Head off to your next destination, which is the renowned Dynjandi Waterfall. 100 metres [328 feet] tall and spreading out on the cliffs like a veil, it‘s a spectacular sight. You can hike up to the waterfall on a rocky path, passing by several other smaller waterfalls on the way. The area is a natural protected monument, so please stay on the paths to help preserve it. To take in more of the Westfjords’ unique landscape on the way to Dynjandi, opt for road 63 rather than 62, which you drove from Flókalundur. The drive will be about 2 hours. Should you be in need of an atmospheric snack spot before you arrive at Dynjandi, stop by the Abandoned Barn of Fossfjörður fjord. 

5:30 PM

If you‘re not planning on staying the night in the Westfjords, this is the time to circle back. If you are staying, drive the 50-minute drive to Ísafjörður for dinner at Húsið restaurant. Their fish soup is particularly popular among guests and a must-try if you haven‘t had Icelandic fish soup yet. For those not ready to go to bed after dinner, we recommend driving to the Bolafjall mountain viewing platform, which has an absolutely breathtaking view of the mountains and ocean lying before it. For lodgings, we recommend The Little House or Einarshúsið Guesthouse in Bolungarvík, a small village 15 minutes from the platform. 

Day two

8 AM

Start your day off with a Kringla and Kókómjólk at Kaffihús Bakarans bakery in Ísafjörður. This is a classic Icelandic combo of torus-shaped carraway bread and chocolate milk. 

9:30 AM

Head off on a guided trip to Hesteyri, a tiny village deserted in 1952. Now, it serves as a summer resort for local owners and is a popular starting point for hikers exploring the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Due to its isolation and lack of inhabitants, nature has been left mostly undisturbed. As a result, you will experience Iceland’s most pristine flora and fauna, with wildflowers spreading over the entire area and arctic foxes running between them. You can bring lunch or order it from the local cafe, The Doctor‘s House.

Note: The trip to Hesteyri can only be made from the beginning of June to the end of August. 

An arctic fox on a beach in Hornstrandir, Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. An arctic fox on a beach in Hornstrandir, Westfjords.

2:30 PM

When you get back, take a walk around town and pop into the Westfjords Heritage Museum to gain a better insight into the Westfjord‘s culture and maritime history. If you‘re cold and tired, you can also make your way straight to your accommodations for the night: Heydalur farm guesthouse. There, you‘ll be able to take refuge in their unique swimming pool and natural hot spring before having a delicious locally sourced dinner. If you‘re yet to try the Icelandic lamb, we highly recommend having the lamb fillet. The drive from Ísafjörður to Heydalur will take a bit less than two hours. If your plans do not include another night in the Westfjords, you can start your journey back after dinner.

Day three

8 AM

For your last day in the Westfjords, you‘ll head over to the north side for an adventure in Strandir straight after breakfast. Your destination is Krossneslaug, a small swimming pool on a beach in the middle of nowhere. It‘s probably the most remote swimming pool you‘ll find in Iceland. It‘s been in use since 1954 and has a terrific view of the ocean, where you might be able to spot some whales if you‘re lucky. The drive will take about 3 hours, which sounds like a lot but don‘t worry; half of it is on the most scenic road you can take in Iceland.

Note: Due to road conditions, Krossneslaug can only be reached from mid-May to the end of August.

Krossneslaug swimming pool in Westfjords.
Photo: Golli. Krossneslaug swimming pool in Westfjords.

12:30 PM

Begin the 50-minute drive to Djúpavík, a historical, abandoned and enchanting village where you can have a late lunch at Hótel Djúpavík and a guided tour of the old herring factory. The village is known for its ability to take you back in time and was one of the filming locations of the 2017 Justice League.

3:30 PM

It‘s time to venture back to civilisation for the last stop of your Westfjords tour. The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft is located in Hólmavík, and it will take you approximately an hour and a half to get there from Djúpavík. The museum offers you to step into the time of Galdrafárið, the witch hunt hysteria, and learn about the lives of people in Strandir during that period. The latest time to enter is 5:30 PM, so make sure to leave Djúpavík no later than 3:30 PM. This should give you about an hour to explore, as the drive takes approximately an hour and a half. End your day with a scrumptious meal at Café Riis in Hólmavík, which serves high-quality Icelandic classics and pizzas. 

Icelandic Woman Recovers from COVID-19 in Time for 103rd Birthday

Helga Guðmundsdóttir 102 ára

Helga Guðmundsdóttir, aged 102, has fully recovered from COVID-19 just in time for her 103rd birthday on May 17, RÚV reports. Helga, who was born in 1917, has lived through two world wars and the Spanish flu epidemic, and even beat tuberculosis twice.

“I’ve gotten it all haven’t I?” Helga remarked when reporters came to visit her earlier this week following her release from quarantine. The centenarian lives at the nursing home Berg in the Westfjords town of Bolungarvík (pop. 931), where she is the oldest resident. She was one of several of the home’s residents that developed COVID-19.

Helga’s granddaughter Agnes Veronika Hauksdóttir has been working as a reserve staff member at the nursing home and says it’s a relief to be able to attend to her grandmother again without being fully covered in personal protective equipment. “It’s totally priceless,” Agnes stated.

Agnes says that Helga’s positive attitude has been a key to her longevity. “I am absolutely sure that it’s the positivity that has gotten her this far. We don’t have any memory of her being angry or griping about anything. So she is an incredibly great role model.”

Agnes looks forward to celebrating her grandmother’s birthday in ten days. “If there was ever an occasion, I think this is it.”

Westfjords Nursing Home Heavily Affected by COVID-19

Bolungarvík

Two more deaths by COVID-19 were reported yesterday in Iceland, bringing the country’s total of deaths from the disease to six. A man in his sixties died at Iceland’s National University Hospital in Reykjavík, becoming the fifth in Iceland to lost his battle with the disease. The country’s sixth COVID-19 victim died in at the nursing home Berg in Bolungarvík in the Westfjords yesterday.

The man who died yesterday in Reykjavík was named Sigurður H. Sverrisson and was born in 1953, RÚV reports. His wife had died recently, on March 8. A Facebook post by Sigurður’s brother said the two would be “sorely missed.”

Nursing home relying on reserve force staff

The nursing home resident who died in the Westfjords yesterday was named Gunnsteinn Svavar Sigurðsson and was born in 1938. Two other residents at the nursing home have COVID-19 and three others are in isolation, with test results pending. Five residents are in quarantine though asymptomatic.

A notice from the Westfjords Health Institution states that the majority of the nursing home’s staff is in isolation, and five have tested positive for coronavirus. Other permanent staff, with the exception of three individuals, are in quarantine, and the nursing home residents are therefore being attended to exclusively by staff from the national reserve force or other departments of the health centre. More staff from the reserve force are expected to arrive by helicopter today, weather permitting.

Mayor concerned about small businesses

Bolungarvík (population 931) has banned gatherings of over five people, stricter than the national gathering ban of groups over 20. Jón Páll Hreinsson, the town’s mayor, says there is a lot of solidarity in the community, but expressed concern for small businesses that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. “Those who are making sacrifices in this [situation] are the small service providers,” he told RÚV. “The beauty parlours and the entire restaurant industry which is of course very vulnerable in these small places […] the income disappears.”

The municipality’s response package includes measures to support small businesses. Jón Páll stated that he was in contact with his colleagues across the country who are facing the same challenges. “They are all very concerned about this and most municipalities plan to intervene.”

Year in Review 2019: Most Entertaining

sheep on the road Iceland

Now that we’ve covered some of the heavy hitter news articles this year, it’s time for a different tune. There’s always some news which are just too weird, too random, or even mind-boggling, for us to not mention them in the Year in Review. Last year we witnessed NATO troops drinking Reykjavík dry as 7,000 thirsty troops descended upon the capital. “They were hardworking, the dear boys,” a brewery employee remarked when asked about the military invasion. This year, there’s a lot to look at. Without further ado, here’s the year’s most entertaining news.

Oldest McDonald’s Burger in the World?

In 2009, Hjörtur Smárason purchased the last McDonald’s burger sold in Iceland before the fast-food restaurant ceased operations in the country for good. One decade later, the burger, and its accompanying fries, still look as good as new. The order is currently being displayed at a guesthouse in South Iceland, which provides a live stream of the peculiar exhibit. “I had heard something about McDonald’s never decaying, so I just wanted to find out for myself whether this was true or not,” Hjörtur explained. Hjörtur gifted the burger to the National Museum of Iceland, who sought advice from a Danish specialist on how to preserve the item. The specialist deemed the task impossible – though Hjörtur pointed out it seemed to be doing just fine. “I think he was wrong because this hamburger preserves itself.” Hjörtur eventually reached out to friends who run Snotra House in Þykkvibær, South Iceland, and the burger and fries are now on display in the lounge of the guesthouse. Ten years since their purchase, neither seems to show any signs of decay. McDonald’s opened its doors in Iceland in 1993. In October 2009, the chain announced that it would be closing

Bright start

The year started out with two mini controversies that prove Icelanders have an opinion on everything. The mayor of Westfjords town Bolungarvík complained to Google Maps as satellite images of the town always show it covered in a blanket of snow. Apparently, it isn’t always like that! He got his wish in the end – just have a look for yourself. Bolungarvík hit the news again later as they intend to use piglets for weed control. You do you, Bolungarvík.

In other news – palm trees in Reykjavík? January saw an uproar for planned outdoor palm trees in a glass case which were due to be placed outside Reykjavík apartment complex. Maybe it isn’t the correct climate, as that same month a very rare occurrence happened on a capital-area golf course – picture-perfect snow rolls. Later that month, nude paintings on the walls of the Central Bank of Iceland were taken down due to employee complaints.

Cloning a dog and McAfee

August came and went, with scientists discovering an unidentified creature on Iceland’s ocean floor and the bra fence in Brekkukot continued to grow. Oh, and Parliament passed a bill which finally allowed Icelanders to play bingo on Sundays.

Things took a weird turn as former president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson cloned his dog Sámur and named it Samson. Diligent Iceland Review readers will have known that although there’s a naming committee for humans, you can name animals whatever you want. Unless it’s a horse, of course. Then you must go through the Horse Naming Committee.

John McAfee, founder of McAfee Antivirus, was discovered to have been in hiding in Dalvík, North Iceland. The owner of the restaurant which he supposedly lived above didn’t spot him at least. Maybe McAfee knew that Icelanders don’t exactly love talking to strangers.

Iceland vs. Iceland

Iceland – the country – finally won a years-long legal battle against the supermarket chain of the same name, who had secured an EU-wide trademark for the word “Iceland” in 2014. Icelandic authorities sued to have the trademark invalidated on the basis of being far too broad and creating a monopoly that prevented Icelandic companies from registering their products with reference to their country of origin.

This year, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) closed the case, ruling in favour of the country, and invalidating the supermarket’s trademark entirely, noting that “It has been adequately shown that consumers in EU countries know that Iceland is a country in Europe and also that the country has historical and economic ties to EU countries, in addition to geographic proximity.”

Sports can be entertaining – right?

In June, a dishwashing brush and an airport wait strained the diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Iceland. A Belgian man stuck a dishwashing brush in star players’ Emre Belozoglu’s face like a microphone while he was being interviewed by reporters. This happened following an unusually long wait at the airport. The Turkish government issued a diplomatic note to Iceland denouncing what it is calling “disrespectful” and “violent” behaviour against the country’s men’s national football team. Iceland won 2-0, but Turkey has not lost a single match since then.

This July, the Icelandic Cricket Association (an association that, yes, does exist, and is doing quite well) went viral in India as it offered Indian cricket star Ambadi Rayudu to play in Iceland. The offer was not accepted. In November, a Moldovan female choir amazed Icelanders with their beautiful rendition of Iceland’s national anthem before a EURO 2020 qualifier in Moldova.

December delights

December saw contestants in the Great British Bake Off attempt to make Icelandic Christmas delight laufabrauð. Earlier that month, Hollywood felt threatened by a single star in the small town of Hafnarfjörður, as musician Björgvin Halldórsson had his star removed. The beginning of the month saw the Christmas Cat arrived in downtown Reykjavík. The Christmas Cat is a favourite Icelandic Christmas tradition – it will eat children who do not get clothes as Christmas present. Fun? Maybe not. Entertaining? Very much so.

Headline highlights

Iceland Review writers did their part to provide entertainment with some exquisite headlines. Dunkin Donuts’ arrival in Iceland was a failure, having arrived in 2015 and left in 2019. But we did get this headline: ‘Iceland Did Not Go Nuts for Dunkin Donuts’.

Another one to mention is an unfortunate event in Kenya when an airplane once owned by an Icelandic airline went off the runway. But we got the headline ‘Old Icelandic Fokker Skids Off Runway’.

Hope you enjoyed the most entertaining news of the year as much as we did! Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Bolungarvík to Use Piglets for Weed Control

The village of Bolungarvík in Northwest Iceland welcomed its two newest residents last night: a pair of piglets. Vísir reports that the animals have been brought in with the hopes that they will help to root out the glut of wild chervil that has been plaguing the local environment. This is an experimental project that the town has embarked on in collaboration with the Westfjords Nature Research Centre.

Using pigs to control unwanted vegetation is a time-honoured method that farmers used to regularly use and that researchers are starting to appreciate as well. The idea, per a 2015 article in Science Daily, is to let the animals “…do what they do naturally: dig up the roots of weeds and fertilise the land.”

The Bolungarvík piglets are ten weeks old. The village is currently holding a competition in which residents can suggest names for them.

Bolungarvík Announces Plans for New Mountainside Viewing Platform

A new viewing platform extending from Bolafjall mountain is hoped to draws tens of thousands of tourists to the Westfjords village of Bolungarvík when it is completed, Vísir reports. The new platform was the winning entry in a competition sponsored by the town, which is currently in the process of securing funds for the extensive project.

Bolafjall mountain stands at 636 meters [1190 feet] over Bolungarvík, the northernmost village in the Westfjords. The town of 924 people hopes to draw some of the 100,000 cruise ship passengers that arrive every year in Ísafjörður, a mere 13 kilometres away, to enjoy the incredible view that will be offered from the future viewing platform.

Bolungarvík announced the design competition in September and sought applications from 16 design firms, 15 of whom submitted design concepts. Three design teams were designated at random in October. The winning entry, designed by a team of designers from studios Landmótun, Argos, and Sei, was then selected in January.

“The proposal fulfils the competition goal of making the Bollafjall overlook a desirable tourist destination in the West Fjords,” explains the Bolungarvík website, which goes on to say that the viewing platform will be a unique one: “It fits in well with the environment, and, in its proportions and execution, reflects its magnificence.”

Mayor Jón Páll Hreinsson is thrilled with the proposal and says that the town is now in the process of securing building permits and funding for the project, which is expected to cost as much as ISK 100 million [$831,260; € 733,050], although the exact figure is still undetermined.

See a 360° video of the design proposal here.