Icelandic Sheep Fetch Handsome Prices at First-Ever Online Auction

sheep

Icelandic sheep were auctioned in the UK’s first-ever online auction, Bændablaðið reports. The auction was handled by the Scottish “livestock marketing company” Harrison & Hetherington.

Twenty-six animals were auctioned in the two-day auction in early September. The highest-earning sheep was the only ewe on offer, Alfifa, who, according to the auction catalog, “had a single ram in 2020 and twin ewe lambs in 2021.” Alfifa fetched ISK 56,000 [£317; $438; €371].

Screenshot from Harrison & Hetherington Sheep Auction Catalog

Also for sale was Bijarni, a Shearling Ram who “[w]as commended by Tim Tyne [author of The Sheep Book for Smallholders, known as ‘the bible for sheepkeepers’] in last years [sic] show despite not being entered in ram class.” Bijarni was commended as being “Gentle natured [with] well spaced horns” and noted to “stand on his feet well.” A gimmer, or female sheep that has been weaned but not sheared, named Not Splodge was also sold, as were whether lambs, and a number of ram and ewe lambs.

The average price for ewes was ISK 53,875 [£305; $422; €357]. Rams fetched a lower average price, or ISK39,000 [£134; $185; €156]. The whethers fared a little better, with an average price of ISK 33,000 [£185; $256; €216].

Screenshot from Harrison & Hetherington Sheep Auction Catalog

Interest in Icelandic sheep has ‘completely spiralled’

The first Icelandic sheep were imported to the UK in 1979. The Icelandic Sheep Breeders of the British Isles (ISBOBI) was founded nine years later, in 1988. Per Cumberland’s News&Star, in recent years, British breeders have cross-bred Icelandic sheep with “…Blackface and Shetlands with much success; others have had particularly good results crossing with the larger continentals.”

“Icelandic rams have come into their own,” the article continues, “producing cross breeds which are considered by members of the breed society to be lighter on the ground than some heavy breeds and producing better quality meat than some smaller breeds.”

Screenshot from Harrison & Hetherington Sheep Auction Catalog

There are currently around 300 Pedigree Icelandic Sheep in the UK, and the Scottish Farmer reports that they are increasingly in demand, hence auctioneers’ decision to sell them via the more accessible, online platform. “In the past our Icelandic Sheep sales have been held as part of our wider rare breeds sales, and in holding an online sale, the aim is to open the breed up to a broader UK wide audience,” remarked Harrison & Hetherington auctioneer Grant Anderson.

“In recent years there has been so much interest in Icelandic Sheep, it has completely spiralled,” added Ruth Stanton, assistant secretary of ISBOBI. “The aim of this auction is to help provide us with a measure as to what is happening as well as a benchmark for the breed.”

Iceland’s First Hamburger Was Sold in 1941

Hamburger and fries in Iceland

The first hamburger may have been sold in Iceland as early as 1941, Vísir reports. Visitors to the island may be more likely to think of lamb soup or cod cheeks when thinking of classic Icelandic fare, but while these are certainly more homegrown dishes, the country has long maintained a love affair with the hamburger. As such, Iceland’s preeminent food historian, Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, has set out to determine when and where this delicacy was first sold to hungry Icelanders.

Nanna has been outlining her research for Vísir and also in televised interviews, which has yielded a great deal of information from the public about early sightings of the fast food favorite. In October 1956, Kjörbar in downtown Reykjavík started advertising “hamburgers all day” and a rest stop grill near the Hvítá bridge in West Iceland also had them on the menu. A restaurant called Ísborg in downtown Reykjavík began selling burgers and French fries in 1957. The much-beloved rest stop grill and gas station Staðarskáli began serving up hamburgers during the summer of 1960. And in January of the same year, a restaurant called Smárabar in the Westman Islands started advertising them on their menu.

Fittingly, it now seems that the earliest documented hamburger in Iceland was likely sold at a restaurant on Aðalstræti, Reykjavík’s oldest street.

“The American army arrived in July 1941,” notes Nanna, “and that same month, they start offering hamburgers there.”

There are also stories of American soldiers teaching Jakobína Ámundadóttir, the owner of a cafe near Öskjuhlíð (the hill on which Perlan is located), how to make hamburgers during the war years. According to her sister Íris, Jakobína opened her café when the British built their base on the site of the Reykjavík Domestic airport and intended it to serve Icelanders who worked on the base. When the American soldiers arrived, however, they craved burgers and French fries from home and in addition to teaching Jakobína how to make a hamburger are said to have also baked hamburger buns for her to try as well.

These early hamburger-adopters would have been among several places that advertised burgers in newspapers that were published specially for servicemen, such as The Daily Post and The White Falcon.

Even as the meal gained popularity at cafes serving soldiers stationed in Iceland, however, it does not seem to have made a big impression on Icelanders as a whole for close to ten years. In a travel article written by Vísir journalist Thorolf Smith after a trip to America in 1952, for example, he describes hamburgers as a strange, unknown phenomenon: “some kind of ground beefsteak between two pieces of bread.” Another news article describes an Icelandic man’s shock at being served a hamburger for dinner by the chef of a canteen at the American base in Keflavík.

Nanna says that the American base in Keflavík became the de facto home of the hamburger in Iceland, but that by 1956, it had made its way to Reykjavík and had given rise to a number of hamburger joints, such as those mentioned above. All of these early restaurants are closed now, except for the Staðarskáli rest stop and grill. Nanna believes that it’s likely that Staðarskáli holds the honor of being the place that has sold hamburgers longest in Iceland.

Núpsvötn Driver Remembers Little of Crash

fatal accident Iceland

Police have designated the driver of the Toyota Land Cruiser that drove over the Núpsvötn bridge in late December, as a “defendant” in their investigation, Vísir and RÚV report. According to the police press release on the incident, this legal status is automatically given to the driver in any fatal traffic accident and affords the individual certain legal protections.

The accident – which, in terms of fatalities, is one of the worst in Icelandic history – ended in the deaths of two adults and one child. Two brothers and their families were driving in the car, seven passengers in total, all of whom were British citizens. Both brothers were seriously injured in the accident, and both of their wives died. Two other young children were transported to the hospital in critical condition but survived.

The investigation into the incident remains open while police await the results of various reports, such as field measurements, site surveys, vehicle analysis, and autopsy results. Although he has been named a “defendant” in the incident, however, the driver will not be detained in connection with the accident investigation and judicial proceedings. This decision was made in light of the injuries that he sustained, as well as the medical treatment he needs to undergo as a result.

Police reported that the driver was questioned in the hospital on Tuesday but appeared unable to remember much about the accident itself. He, his brother, and the two surviving children are still in the hospital in Reykjavík, awaiting a doctor’s certificate that confirms that they have been cleared for travel back to the UK. It is assumed that all four individuals will need to be admitted into the hospital again when they arrive home, as they have all suffered injuries of varying severity.

Núpsvötn Car Accident Among Worst in Icelandic History

fatal accident Iceland

The car accident in which three British citizens, including a child, lost their lives on Thursday morning is among the worst car accidents to have ever occurred in Iceland, RÚV reports.

There have only been three traffic incidents in Iceland in which more than three people died. There were four victims in each of those accidents. There have been nineteen accidents in Iceland in which there were an equal number of fatalities. The most recent of these occurred last November. The earliest happened in 2000, a year in which there were actually three serious traffic accidents with three fatalities apiece.

Thursday morning’s accident occurred when a car drove off the bridge over Núpsvötn on the south coast. Two brothers and their families were driving in the car, seven passengers in total, all of whom were British citizens who were born in India. Both of the brothers were seriously injured in the accident, and both of their wives died. Two other young children were transported to the hospital after the accident and remain in critical condition.

The Indian embassy in Iceland confirmed the above details and has also been in touch with the brothers’ family in India. British friends of the family were expected to arrive in Iceland on Thursday night.

Iceland and UK Reach Withdrawal Agreement

Iceland and the UK have come to a reciprocal agreement which “protects the rights of our respective citizens in each other’s countries, based on the similar Withdrawal Agreement made with the EU.” So confirmed an announcement made by Michael Nevin, the British ambassador to Iceland, on the UK in Iceland Facebook page on Thursday.

The agreement, which also extends to citizens of Norway and Liechtenstein, ensures that British citizens currently living in Iceland – 1,591 people as of January 1, 2018 – can “go on living here” after the UK leaves the EU. It also guarantees that the over 15,000 nationals from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein who live in the UK will not be deported from their homes after Brexit.

“It means that UK and Icelandic citizens living in each other’s countries at the end of the implementation period in December 2020 will be able to continue on with their lives,” affirmed Nevin. Importantly, “[t]he agreement includes continuity arrangements on residency, healthcare, pensions and education, social security coordination and mutual recognition of defined professional qualifications. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the UK or Iceland to stay together.”

Nevin also emphasizes that “both the UK and Iceland governments have made commitments to each other’s citizens in the event of “no deal”. Citizens resident in our respective countries at the time of the UK’s departure from the EU will be able to continue living, working and studying here and in the UK as before.”

Although specific instructions regarding “administrative arrangements” for British citizens living in Iceland have yet to be finalised, the agreement undoubtedly will come as a relief to citizens on both sides who have been living in a state of limbo for some time.

“I hope that brings some certainty for your own future during a time of change,” writes Nevin. “The Iceland government is as keen as we are to not only ensure that you go on living here if you want to, but also to work as partners in trying to resolve any issues you still might have.”

Read the official statements on the Icelandic governmental website and on the UK governmental website.