The Heath

seyðisfjörður jessica auer

Jessica Auer is a Canadian photographer and filmmaker. Through her work, she examines our social, political, and aesthetic attitudes towards places, including historical sites, tourist destinations, and small communities. Jessica received her MFA from Concordia University in Montréal, where she teaches part-time. While in Iceland, Jessica runs Ströndin Studio, an educational and experimental centre for […]

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60 Years Since Start of Surtsey Eruption

Surtsey island

Today marks exactly 60 years since the start of the eruption that formed Surtsey island, off Iceland’s south coast. The island, which has been closed to the public since its formation, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The opening of a photographic exhibition to mark the anniversary has been delayed as Iceland awaits a potential eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, where one town has been evacuated.

The Environment Agency had planned to open a photographic exhibition on Surtsey in the Westman Islands today, November 14, but a notice from the agency says the opening will be delayed. “In light of the serious situation that has emerged, we don’t consider it appropriate to celebrate this milestone at this moment,” the notice reads.

While the exhibit’s opening party has been delayed, the photo exhibition itself remains open to visitors. It features the work of Iceland Review’s principal photographer Golli, who received rare permission to accompany a scientific expedition to Surtsey this past summer. His article and photos from the expedition, Island in the Making, are available to subscribers on the Iceland Review website.

Mud, Sweat, and Gears

motorsports iceland

The motorsport Formula Offroad began in Iceland in the 1960s. The history of the sport is traced to rescue teams, who in an effort to generate additional funding for their chapters, began showcasing their 4×4 trucks navigating challenging Icelandic terrain. And what started as a demonstration evolved into a competitive endeavour among teams, with custom-built […]

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On the Edge of Glory

Tindastóll Iceland basketball

By the start of Iceland’s latest basketball season, the northerners of Tindastóll, from Sauðárkrókur (pop. 2,612), had made it to the league finals on four occasions. Four times, they left without a trophy. No other team had made it so far, so often, without anything to show for it.

Tindastóll Iceland basketball

This year, the Fates seemed set on weaving a familiar narrative. Excitement brewed, and crescendoed, as the Championship trophy was driven to Sauðárkrókur, Tindastóll’s home turf, during game four of the finals, in anticipation of the team’s first title.

icelandic basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball
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Game five began ominously. It was Tindastóll’s final chance to take the title, but Valur dominated the first quarter, and by the closing minutes of the fourth, appeared to have the championship within its grasp: 77-72.

Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball

A minute is a long time in basketball.

Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball

In a scene ripped straight out of a sports film, during one of thosehalfunbelievable sequences of events, which occur so rarely so late inthe season – Tindastóll levelled the game with 15 seconds to go.

Tindastóll Iceland basketball

79-79.

Valur’s head coach, Finnur Freyr Stefánsson, called a timeout and drew up a play for Kári Jónsson. He drove past Tindastóll’s defence and netted a tough shot with five seconds left on the clock.
81-79. All hope seemed to have faded.

As the players huddled around, Pavel Ermolinskij – head coach ofTindastóll for all of four months, eight-time national champion, and a former player for Valur – took to the playbook.

Tindastóll Iceland basketball

When play resumed, Tindastóll’s Keyshawn Woods drew a foul on a three point attempt. With the weight of the entire season on his shoulders, he sank the first of three free throws. The next two bounced precariously around the rim – before ultimately sealing Tindastóll’svictory.
81-82.

Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball
Tindastóll Iceland basketball

Net Profit

In 2021, when a lower capelin quota was issued in Iceland than had been anticipated, Landsbankinn bank lowered its GDP growth forecast for the year from 3.4 to 3.3%. Capelin may be a little fish, but as a key food source for many other marine species, it makes a big impact on Iceland’s economy and ecology. Commercially, capelin is one of the most important fish stocks in Iceland, accounting for around 13% of export earnings. Only cod brings in more, and it bears pointing out that cod is also dependent on capelin, which may account for up to 40% of its total food. 

Stocks of capelin in Icelandic waters have been volatile, making it difficult to predict or plan fishing seasons. The fish have a short life cycle, procreating only once before their ultimate demise, which makes the stock vulnerable to overfishing and changes in the marine environment. In 2019 and 2020, in accordance with the recommendations of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute, no capelin quota was issued at all, while last year’s catch amounted to nearly 600,000 tonnes. In recent years, however, capelin catch has averaged around 350,000 tonnes annually. The bulk of the quota is caught during four weeks in spring.

Capelin is often described as the most ecologically important fish species in Icelandic waters. It is the main source of food for Atlantic cod (another commercially important species in Iceland), and is also a food source for whales, seals, squid, mackerel, and seabirds.

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Icelandic boats began fishing capelin in the late 1960s when herring stocks in Icelandic waters collapsed.

 

Net Profit

Capelin is a small forage fish belonging to the smelt family and is found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. It is silver in colour and usually measures between 15-18 cm long [6-7 in].

Golli. A Brim ship in Akranes, West Iceland

About 80% of capelin caught in Iceland is used to produce fishmeal and oil, while a small amount (less than 20%) is used to produce roe for human consumption. The roe, called masago, is yellow in colour and is popularly used in sushi. 

Net Profit

Icelandic fishing boats caught some 477,000 tonnes of capelin last season, the full quota issued. This included around 20,000 tonnes of roe. The total value of the catch is estimated at around ISK 42-45 billion [$305 million, €280 million].

Up until the early 80s, Icelanders sometimes caught over a million tonnes of capelin in a single season. 

Net Profit

Despite being common in Icelandic fishing nets, capelin is not normally sold in local stores. Hólmgeir Einarsson, a seafood store owner in Reykjavík, decided to stock some this year and has so far sold over 200 kilos [440 lbs]. He says the primary purchasers have been immigrants, who are familiar with the fish from abroad. Some Reykjavík restaurants are also discovering this important fish.

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Icelandic capelin migrate seasonally. In spring and summer, they go north of the Icelandic mainland to feed in the plankton-rich waters between Greenland, Iceland, and Jan Mayen.

Net Profit

Due to rising sea temperatures, capelin has moved further north in search of colder waters. Young capelin now tend to dwell near and under the sea ice around Greenland, making stock sizes difficult to assess.

Climate change and changes in the ocean’s temperature have a direct effect on capelin behaviour. It’s one of the most direct effects of climate change Icelanders can expect in the coming years.

Net Profit

Tubs of roe ready for export.

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Net Profit

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, restaurateur at Brút in the Reykjavík city centre, occasionally serves roe-filled capelin.

Full Haus

There are many theories as to what fosters creativity and innovation in society: education, inspiration, even suffering. Yet from SoHo to Montmartre, there’s one simple ingredient that never fails to foster creative communities: affordable rent. The new hafnar.haus creative hub in downtown Reykjavík is providing just that – as well as a vision to unite […]

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Frost

Individually, snowflakes are fragile, easily broken, dissolving into droplets of water at the mere touch of a finger or a breath of air, while en masse, they’re capable of wreaking havoc on the city streets and causing catastrophe when avalanching down a mountainside.

Contrary to expectation, the correlation between outside temperature and the feeling of cold is less straightforward than people would think. It’s the wind that gets you.

At -19°C [-2.2°F], everything feels crisp. The air, certainly, but also the few rays of light that make it all the way up north at this time of year. The horizon turns an impossibly pastel shade of blue or pink and the grey streaks on the sides of the mountains solidify into a texture that, from a distance, looks soft to the touch.

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather: only a bad attitude to whatever conditions nature offers. Besides, bad weather is good weather under the right conditions. Snuggling beneath a warm blanket wouldn’t be half as nice if the sun were out and temperatures were warm.The weather is an opportunity: a not-so-blank canvas on which one can impose one’s limited imagination.

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These past two months have suggested, however, that the gods have come to show a more determined frigidity towards their human subjects: a lasting and glowering disapproval for our nonchalance towards nature.

Temperatures in Iceland usually vacillate. The weather here is infamously fickle. As if the product of temperamental gods, bestowing, depending on their mood – commendation or condemnation on the mortals dwelling below them.

It’s hard to describe the feeling when you breathe deep in -19°C weather and – for a split second – your nose freezes shut.

We care about the cold weather only as it affects our human lives. We lament that the accompanying snow has blocked the road to the airport. That the municipalities have been lacklustre in their clearing of sidewalks.

And we, worst of all, remain continually apprehensive that the utility companies will announce the indefinite closure of the public pools. Otherwise, the constant cold has made for beautiful weather. Less wind, clearer skies; there’s beauty in steadfastness.

The ground is frozen solid. Icicles form along the gutters of roofs. And birds struggle to eke out their existence. Cars are warmed before passengers clamber inside. Old people slip on the sidewalks. And the unhoused entreat the municipalities to keep the shelters open around the clock. But even so, nature’s long exhalation of cold air provides pleasant relief for a mind dreading the coming warmth. 

Iceland’s Winning Press Photos of 2021

NOT FOR GENERAL USE

The Journalists’ Association of Iceland announced the 2021 Press Photo of the Year winners last Saturday at the 2021 Press Photo exhibition opening at Reykjavík’s Museum of Photography. The winning photo, seen above, was taken by Vilhjálmur Gunnarson, and features, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Geldingadalir eruption, which began in March and lasted until September of 2021.

The jury described the photo as “An interesting, strong and original picture of one of the biggest news stories in a challenging year.”

News Photo of the Year

NOT FOR GENERAL USE

Vilhjálmur also won in the category of News Photo of the Year, for the above photo, titled “Where is Svandís?” The shot features Iceland’s new cabinet following the September 2021 parliamentary elections setting up for a group photo, with Minister of Food and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir nowhere to be found. The jury praised its humorous take on a classic subject.

Sports Photo of the Year

Kristinn Magnússon won in the category of Sports Photo of the Year, for this capture of a tender moment where Deane William’s girlfriend comforts him after his team has lost a game, while the winning team celebrates in the background.

Magazine Photo of the Year

NOT FOR GENERAL USE

This colourful shot by Hörður Sveinsson, featuring musician John Grant, was the winner in the Magazine Photo of the Year category. The jury praised its powerful colours and unusual shapes, which the photographer and subject clearly put a lot of effort into.

Environment Photo of the Year

NOT FOR GENERAL USE

Like the winning Photo of the Year, the winner in the Environment category, taken by Sigtryggur Ari Jóhannsson, also features the Geldingadalir eruption, though in a different light. The jury noted how the image appears black and white, but a closer look reveals subtle colours. The shot shows fresh lava about to flow over earthen dams, built to direct the flow of the eruption. 

Everyday Life Photo of the Year

Photographer Heiða Helgadóttir snapped a winner when she captured Una Margrét Jónsdóttir and Hólmsteinn Eiður Hólmsteinsson, married for 20 years, using a special form of communication that has helped them discuss difficult issues throughout their relationships: letting imaginary “finger people” discuss the topics on their behalf.

Portrait of the Year

NOT FOR GENERAL USE

Páll Stefánsson won the Portrait of the Year category for his shot of artist Shu Yi at the opening of her exhibition at Mutt Gallery last year. The jury praised the photo for its stylistic purity and calm but strong energy.

Photo Series of the Year

Heiða Helgadóttir shot this year’s winning series, which features Pétur Guðmann Guðmannsson, one of Iceland’s two professional forensic pathologists. All the autopsies Pétur carries out have the goal of determining the individual’s cause of death. The jury praised Heiða for her well-thought-out approach, and for portraying difficult subject matter in a way that was tasteful and professional, while still striking.

The exhibition features 102 photos in total, and can be seen at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography until May 29, 2022.

Interested readers can also browse the Press Photos of 2020 and Press Photos of 2019, in which Iceland Review photographer Golli was awarded.

The 2014 Eruption in Holuhraun

As the eruption by Fagradalsfjall in the Reykjanes peninsula began, many feared that air traffic would halt as it did during the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Lucky for us (and the rest of Europe) the Fagradalsfjall eruption is a fissure eruption that isn’t coming up under the ocean, a lake, or a glacier. Instead, it produces slow-flowing lava that sputters up from a long fissure before lazily sliding down the valley until it cools from a bright red or yellow to a dull, craggy black. Only the steam rising from the fresh rock indicates the enormous heat that lies below.
In fact, the eruption has a lot more in common with the 2014 eruption in Holuhraun, albeit on a much smaller scale.

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