Two in Custody After Accident at Sea

Coast Guard vessel Freyja in Húnaflói Bay

Questioning of the captain and first mate of the cargo ship Longdawn continue today following an incident yesterday. The two individuals are suspected of having abandoned the scene of an accident after the coastal fishing boat Hadda capsized the night before last.

May have caused an accident, abandoned the scene

Vísir states that evidence suggests that the cargo ship collided with the man’s coastal fishing boat, causing him to fall into the sea, though he was narrowly rescued.

The accident occurred around 3 a.m. during the night of May 16.

According to Ásgeir Erlendsson, communications officer from the Icelandic Coast Guard, an investigation of the fishing boat’s movements and a comparison with other ships in the area revealed that the Longdawn was in the same location at the same time. Consequently, the cargo ship’s crew was taken in for questioning.

Karl Gauti Hjaltason, the police chief in Vestmannaeyjar, confirmed that the captain in question is a Russian national.

Transferred to Keflavík

RÚV reports that the men in question were taken into custody in the Westman islands last night, but were then transferred to Keflavík.

The investigation of the maritime accident is under the jurisdiction of the Suðurnes police. Two crew members, a mate and a deckhand, were released after questioning yesterday.

Man Rescued Near Eruption Site Following SOS Signal

Reykjanes eruption Iceland eruption

The Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter and rescue teams were called out last night to search for a man near the eruption area who had sent a distress signal to a passing aeroplane. The man was subsequently found, cold and exhausted.

SOS signal sent near Litli-Hrútur

At around 8.30 PM yesterday, pilot Ernir Snær Bjarnason, flying a small private plane over Litli-Hrútur – the site of a former eruption site on the Reykjanes peninsula (and not far from the site of the current eruption) – spotted an SOS signal.

Ernir informed a control tower, which then relayed the information to the operations centre in Suðurnes. Jón Þór Víglundsson, a spokesperson for Landsbjörg, told Vísir yesterday that the SOS signal may have been sent from a phone, possibly using a dedicated smartphone app (Ernir later stated that he believed the man had used a flashlight):

“The signal involves a sequence of light flashes: three short, three long, and three short bursts, with brief pauses in between. This sequence is recognized internationally as an SOS signal,” Jón Þór explained yesterday.

Two people initially believed to have sent the signal

Following this alert, the helicopter of the Icelandic Coast Guard, alongside a sizeable rescue team, was deployed to the area, which had experienced frost and a significant drop in temperature. Meanwhile, Ernir and his copilot circled above the distress signal for an hour, or until the helicopter swooped down to rescue the man. 

At ca. 9.30 PM yesterday, Ásgeir Erlendsson, a spokesperson for the Icelandic Coast Guard, confirmed that the man had been located between Keilir and Kistufell. The man was cold and exhausted and transported back to Reykjavik for medical care. He had left his equipment behind with flashing lights, which initially led to the belief that there were two people who had sent the SOS signal.

In an interview published on Vísir just before midnight yesterday, Ernir stated that the Icelandic Coast Guard had conjectured that the man would likely have died from exposure had Ernir not spotted the SOS signal.

Mystery of the Langjökull “Polar Bear” Likely Solved

https://www.naturespicsonline.com/copyright

The suspected polar bear tracks on Langjökull glacier, which prompted an investigation by the Icelandic Coast Guard, have been attributed to American mountaineer Jon Kedrowski. Kedrowski, training for a South Pole expedition, had switched to oversized, insulated boots after his rented ski boots caused him discomfort, leading to the misidentification.

Mysterious tracks in the snow

On Monday, the West Iceland Police received a tip regarding possible polar bear tracks on the Langjökull glacier in West Iceland. To investigate, the Icelandic Coast Guard conducted an aerial survey of the glacier yesterday afternoon.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Kristján Ingi Kristjánsson, temporarily appointed Chief Constable for the West Iceland Police, stated that the survey was being conducted as a safety precaution, although he doubted that the search would yield any meaningful results.

“Have people gone mad?”

A few hours after the media reported on the Coast Guard’s expedition, Arngrímur Hermannsson, a seasoned guide known for pioneering glacier and winter tours in Iceland, shed possible light on the mysterious tracks: “A polar bear on the Langjökull glacier – have people gone mad?” Arngrímur wrote in a post on Facebook.

Arngrímur went on to explain that ski-mountaineer Jon Kedrowski and explorer Colin O’Brady had visited the Langjökull glacier last week to train for a cross-country ski expedition to the South Pole. “Jon had rented cross-country ski boots that ended up hurting him, so after two days, he packed the boots away and switched to these huge polar boots, like those used in the South Pole for setting up tents.”

Jon is not a small man.

“Jon is 194 cm tall and weighs 83 kg; he wears size 48 shoes. Over the next four days, he trudged around Langjökull in these boots, which are more like giant socks.”

Arngrímur then shared a map of Jon’s tracks, explaining that Jon had now left the country and flown to Colorado with Icelandair. “That’s where you’ll find your ‘Polar Bear’.”

This article was updated at 02:14 PM and again on November 10 and 12.57 PM.

President of Iceland Participates in Coast Guard Helicopter Exercise

surtsey helicopter

The Coast Guard helicopter TF-GRO was called out yesterday, October 11, to remove two tires that had washed up on the beach near Bessastaðir.

Attempts to remove the rubbish had proved unsuccessful, and the Coast Guard helicopter was called in to aid in the operation. The tires were successfully removed and flown to Bessastaðir, where they will be disposed of.

president guðni coast guard helicopter
Screenshot – Vísir

Bessastaðir, located on Álftanes peninsula, is also the location of the presidential residence. The former farm was donated to the Icelandic state in 1941 and has been the home of the President of Iceland since the founding of the republic. Because the beach cleaning operation took place near the residence, the coast guard crew took the opportunity to include President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson in a training exercise.

The exercise involved simulating a rescue situation, in which Guðni himself was lifted by winch into the helicopter. He was soon returned in one piece after the conclusion of the exercise, which also involved a brief flight over the Álftanes peninsula. The crew was also invited for coffee at Bessastaðir following the exercise.

The Icelandic Coast Guard currently operates three helicopters, in addition to the turboprop surveillance and rescue aircraft TF-SIF.

 

Grounded Research Vessel in Westfjords Successfully Refloated

A research vessel that ran aground in Tálknafjörður at around 10 PM last night has been refloated. An investigation into the incident is underway.

Weather conditions calm and favourable

At 9:12 PM yesterday, a report was received by the Coast Guard control centre that the research vessel Bjarni Sæmundsson, of the Marine & Freshwater Research Institute, had run aground at Sveinseyri, Tálknafjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland.

The Coast Guard’s helicopter unit, along with the rescue vessel from the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR), and other ships, were dispatched to the scene. There were twenty people on board when the ship ran aground. For maximum safety, it was decided to reduce the number of passengers on board, and thus, eight passengers were evacuated.

The Coast Guard’s helicopter was on standby at Tálknafjörður. The weather conditions at the grounding site were calm and favourable. With the aid of the rescue ship Vörður, along with fishing vessels Fosnafjord and Fosnakongen, the ship was refloated at 11:26 PM during high tide and subsequently moved to a pier in Tálknafjörður. An investigation into the circumstances of the grounding is being conducted by the Transport Accident Investigation Committee (RNSA).

Three Dead in East Iceland Plane Crash

fatal accident Iceland

Three died last night, July 9, in a plane crash southwest of Egilsstaðir.

First responders in East Iceland were called out last night after following reports of a missing plane, reported to be a Cessna 172. The 4-seater aircraft sent out a distress call around 5:01pm. In addition to ICESAR and a coastguard helicopter, Vísir reports that a helicopter from a tourist travel service also joined the search. Nearly all East Iceland first responders were called out.

The wreckage was seen around 8:00pm last night. Initially spotted by an Icelandair flight en route to Egilsstaðir, the crash site was confirmed by the tourism helicopter.

The three, including the pilot and two passengers, were pronounced dead at the scene.

East Iceland police have stated that the case is still in its early stages and they will investigate the matter further with the proper authorities.

Stranded Cargo Ship Refloated

Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói

The cargo ship Wilson Skaw was refloated around 9:00 this morning.

The 113m-long cargo ship ran aground on April 19 in Húnaflói bay, off the north coast of Iceland.

The Freyja coastguard vessel is now towing the ship, but the going is slow to avoid other skerries and reefs in the area.

Read More: Cargo Ship Stranded Off North Iceland

Ásgeir Erlendsson, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, stated to Vísir: “What’s happening now is that the Freyja coastguard vessel is slowly towing the ship in the hope of getting it into deeper water. However, it must be kept in mind that there are quite a few underwater rocks in the area.”

The Coast Guard is now moving the ship to deeper waters, as it has been stranded since Tuesday. The ship was carrying two thousand tonnes of salt and 195 tonnes of oil when it ran aground.

Minor damage to the hull was recorded, but luckily, there was no leakage. The Coast Guard had placed containment nets around the grounded ship as a security measure briefly following its stranding.

“It’s crucial to protect the environment in situations like this. Fortunately, there are no signs of oil leakage into the sea,” Ásgeir further stated.

The Wilson Skaw is operated by Wilson Ship Management AS.

 

Cargo Ship Stranded Off North Iceland

Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói

Cargo ship Wilson Skaw, 4000 tonnes and 113 m long, was stranded on Ennishöfði in Húnaflói Bay yesterday. The ship was on its way from Hvammstangi to Hólmavík when it was stranded. The captain notified the Coast Guard in the afternoon and the Coast Guard sent its vessel Freyja to their location, as well as asking the helicopter crew to prepare. A rescue ship from the Skagaströnd search-and-rescue team was also asked to head to the cargo ship’s location.

Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói
Guðmundur St Valdimarsson. Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói

According to the captain, the cargo ship’s crew felt alright. The conditions at the stranding site were good and the weather was as good as could be expected.

Coast Guard vessel Freyja arrived around seven last night and installed a pollution fence around Wilson Skaw this morning. It shows no signs of oil leakage but the fence was installed as a security measure. Coast Guard divers inspected the ship and found that it was stuck on a 50 m stretch and won’t be budged for a few days at least. The shipping company is preparing a rescue plan, but the Freyja crew is available for aid if the need arises.

The ship might have to be lightened before it can be moved. On board are just under 2,000 tonnes of salt and 195 tonnes of oil.

Pollution fence around Wilson Skaw
Guðmundur St Valdimarsson. Pollution fence around Wilson Skaw

Budget Constraints Force Sale of Nation’s Only Surveillance Aircraft

TF-SIF

The operation of the Coast Guard’s surveillance aircraft, TF-SIF, will be discontinued to meet budgetary constraints. The decision marks “a major step back” in the nation’s response and surveillance capacity, the Director General of the Coast Guard noted in a recent press release.

Operations proven difficult over the recent months

The operation of the Coast Guard’s surveillance aircraft, TF-SIF, will be discontinued this year in order to streamline the Coast Guard’s operational costs, a press release from the Coast Guard notes. The Ministry of Justice sent a letter to the Coast Guard earlier this week asking the Coast Guard to prepare the sale process:

“The operation of the Coast Guard has proven difficult in recent months due to enormous oil price increases; increased operations, including a larger and more powerful patrol vessel; as well as decreased participation from Frontex (The European Border and Coast Guard Agency) than expected.”

In April of last year, Georg Kr. Lárusson, Director General of the Coast Guard, informed the Ministry of Justice that the conditions for Coast Guard’s operational budget “no longer held” owing to the fact that the current budget had not followed more extensive operations and because of increases in the price of oil and other budgetary items.

As noted in the press release, funding for the Coast Guard was increased by ISK 600 million ($4.3 million / €3.9 million) in this year’s budget. This increase was expected to prove insufficient, in light of last year’s operating deficit, unless measures were taken that would “compromise the organisation’s statutory roles and response capacity.”

A major step back in the nation’s response and surveillance capacity

Georg Kr. Lárusson observed that the decision to sell TF-SIF represented “a major step back” in the nation’s response and surveillance capacity.

“When it became clear that the organisation would not receive further financial contributions, a conversation began with the Ministry of Justice concerning possible ways to get the Coast Guard’s finances back on track. There was no good option in the situation, and we are very disappointed to be forced to stop the operation of the surveillance aircraft, given that it is a specially equipped patrol, rescue, and medical transport plane and an important part of the country’s public safety chain.:

“Since 1955, the Coast Guard has operated an aircraft for surveillance and rescue operations along the coast of Iceland. The current decision is, therefore, a major setback in the nation’s response and monitoring capacity. TF-SIF is one of the most important links in the agency’s response chain, and with this difficult decision, a large gap is cut in the Coast Guard’s operations. We also consider the presence of the plane in this country to be an urgent national security issue, especially in light of the changing global political landscape” Georg was quoted as saying.

President Takes Part in Rescue Mission

iceland coast guard

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was involved in a small adventure when his trip to the Westfjords took a small detour yesterday, January 22.

The president was on his way to Patreksfjörður, a small town in the Westfjords, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of an avalanche there that left four residents dead.

Following heavy snowfall in January 1983, two avalanches tore off large parts of the hillside surrounding the town, leaving some 30 residents missing, including many children.

In total, 19 houses in Patreksförður were damaged, and 500 residents sought refuge in group shelters during the night. The avalanches are one of the most significant events in the town’s history and are commemorated annually. This year, a special 40-year anniversary took place, with a church service, musical performances, and a ceremony that included a candle-lighting and laying of commemorative wreaths.

iceland coast guard
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson aboard the coast guard ship Freyja – Forseti Íslands Facebook

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson had also planned to be in attendance at the special ceremony.

However, as the president stated in a public post on Facebook, “not everything goes according to plan.”

On his way to the Westfjords to join in the commemoration, the coast guard ship Freyja, on which he was a passenger, had to make a small detour.

The crew of Freyja was tasked with assisting Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson GK, a fishing ship that needed a tow off of Halamið, an important fishing ground off the northwest coast of the Westfjords.

After Freyja took the ship in tow, they headed their separate ways: Freyja en route to Akureyri, and Hrafn on its way south.

President Guðni added: “It’s no joke to be out on the open sea without light and heat, right by an ice sheet. But luckily it was calm weather, and probably nowhere in Iceland was nicer than out on Halamið today.”