Sail from Sweden to Iceland to Mark 250th Anniversary of Scientific Expedition

Solander 250 Embassy of Sweden in Reykjavík

The year 2022 marks 250 years since the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander made a scientific expedition to Iceland. To commemorate the expedition, the Embassy of Sweden has collaborated with Icelandic partners to organise a sailing trip, an art exhibition, workshops, nature walks, and other projects that will be held at over 30 locations across Iceland over the next one and a half years.

“Together Iceland and Sweden continue a dialogue on history, biology, geology, anthropology and culture which has spanned over many centuries. The project deals with our common past, present and future,” Sweden’s Ambassador to Iceland Pär Ahlberger told Iceland Review. “I am very grateful to the Government of Iceland and our more than 30 Icelandic partners for the very generous support to this, the most comprehensive Swedish – Icelandic project ever.”

Daniel Solander (1733-1782) was a Swedish naturalist who studied under celebrated professor of botany Carl Linnaeus. He travelled as far as Australia and New Zealand for scientific expeditions, where he helped make and describe collections of plants from various regions.

Solander visited Iceland in 1772. A travelogue from the expedition, Letters on Iceland, first published in 1777, is available in full on the Icelandic National Library website.

Icelandic artists interpret Solander’s expedition

One of the cornerstones of the commemorative project is the art exhibition Solander 250: Bréf frá Íslandi (e. Solander 250: Letters from Iceland), which features the work of ten Icelandic artists who contribute with their perspectives of Daniel Solander’s expedition to Iceland. The exhibition opens in Hafnarborg gallery in the town of Hafnarfjörður on August 27, but will travel to nine other locations in Iceland over the coming 18 months.

The exhibition Paradise Lost – Daniel Solander’s Legacy, first exhibited in New Zealand and Australia in 2019-2021 and focusing on the first encounter between Sweden and the Pacific Region, will be shown across Iceland alongside Bréf frá Íslandi.

Other events that will be part of the commemorative project include musical performances and educational events.

Sailing Competitors Seek Safe Harbour in East Iceland

Twenty-three of the competitors in France’s Vendée Artique sailing competition are seeking shelter in Fákrúðsfjörður Bay in East Iceland due to dangerous weather conditions on the Atlantic Ocean, RÚV reports. This is the first time that skippers participating in the race were supposed to have crossed the Arctic Circle north of Iceland, but given the current weather conditions on the course, race organizers have elected to end the race in Fákrúðsfjörður.

Three of the skippers had already arrived in Fáskrúðsfjörður as of Friday night, with the rest expected in the early hours of Saturday morning. Roughly a third of the sailboats were known to have been damaged in the difficult weather on the way to Iceland, where the East Iceland Sailing Club was preparing to receive them.

Route designed to be difficult

Vendée Artique Course 2022

The newly-extended 3,500-nautical-mile Vendée Artique begins and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne in France and circumnavigates Iceland. It is the first qualifying race for the Vendée Globe, a single-handed, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race. As it is intended to help participating skippers test their boats and get a feel for the Vendée Globe, the course was designed to be difficult, with purposefully difficult weather conditions. Sailing from north to south “is a particular technical exercise,” explains the competition website, “requiring numerous manoeuvres and sail changes […] when rounding Iceland.”


Siglingaklúbbur Austurlands, FB

In its explanation for why the race was suspended, the organizers wrote that “a low pressure system is threatening the fleet. The skippers are likely to face tough conditions and the back of the fleet already have more than 40kts at times and gusts to 60kts.” Given the fact that the race “is quite isolated,” there was also the additional risk that rescue would be complicated in the event it was necessary.

The next Vendée Globe will take place in 2024; in order to be entered in the race, skippers must take place in at least two of five qualifying races. The next qualifying race is the Route du Rhum in November, which sales from Saint Malo, in Brittany, France, to Pointe-á-Pitre, Guadelopue.

Russia Gives No Explanation of Navy Ships off Iceland’s Coast

Russia ship navy military severomorsk

In late summer of this year, a convoy of Russian military ships set off from the northern port of Severomorsk. The expedition was intended to be a routine Arctic voyage, but it did not end up that way. Three ships from the convoy took an unexpected turn west, sailing close to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and then into Icelandic waters on August 20, RÚV reports. The ships made their presence clear to Icelandic authorities, yet Russia has not answered their inquiries as to why the ships entered Icelandic waters, or why the destroyer Severomorsk circumnavigated the country.

A press release from the Russian Ministry of Defence states that the ships were directed to Iceland to respond to and monitor NATO warships and unexpected air exercises in the northeastern part of the Norwegian Sea, east of Iceland. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said it was far-fetched that Russia needed to carry out military exercises near Iceland to defend itself. “But they of course have their own approach to international affairs, as we know,” Guðlaugur stated. Still, he added, it was not surprising that Russia would use NATO exercises as an excuse for such activity.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Guðlaugur Þór in Reykjavík last spring, where he expressed his concern about the military conduct of neighbouring countries, stating that “There are unresolved issues related to militarisation and reconstruction in Norway and the Baltic states.”

Iceland’s defence policy is founded on its membership in NATO and the 1951 defence agreement signed with the United States. Iceland has greatly increased its defence spending in recent years, increasing spending by 37% between 2017 and 2019. In its 2020 budget, the US Air Force allocated ISK 7 billion [$56.2 million, €49.5 million] to construction projects at Iceland’s Keflavík Airport.

Heaved on to Helicopter After Sailboat Stranded

TF-GRÓ Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter

The Icelandic Coast Guard rescued four sailors by helicopter last night after their boat stranded on Æðey island in Ísafjarðardjúp in the Westfjords. The Coast Guard command centre received a report of the stranding just after midnight last night.

The sailboat did not spring a leak when it stranded, and while the weather was not good, the four crew members remained safe while they waited for assistance. Ships that were called to the scene could not approach the sailboat due to the weather, wind, and shallow water where the boat was located. The crew was finally rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter that arrived at the scene just before 2:00 AM. By 2:15 AM the four crew members (one Icelander and three UK citizens) had been lifted into the aircraft. The sailboat was recovered today and is in fine shape.

The rescue was captured on video and can be seen below.

Safety First

Iceland Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

Hilmar Snorrason doesn’t care what you think.

Last December, he attended a Christmas buffet with his family, and as the dinner was set relatively close to home, he suggested they walk. Adorning himself in his most elegant suit, thrusting his toes into his polished dress shoes, Hilmar stepped into the foyer, where, in the eyes of his family, he proceeded to ruin an otherwise fashionable ensemble – with the addition of a bright-yellow safety vest.

“Fashion, to us Icelanders,” Hilmar muses, from inside his office on the ship Sæbjörg on the Reykjavík harbour, “is often synonymous with the colour black, but I’m not going to walk in the dark wearing dark clothes.”

It’s not an unreasonable statement to make – in a country where December affords four hours of daylight – especially not if one is the headmaster of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre.

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