Júníus Meyvant – The Wonderer

Júníus Meyvant is always impersonating other people, and all the people he impersonates are always yelling. His father when he, Júníus, was learning to play the guitar: “Could you play something else!?” His grandfather, on the eve of his 90th birthday, when told he needed to evacuate his home because of an eruption: “I’m not going anywhere!” He, Júníus, when […]

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Westman Islands Celebration Marred by Offensive Effigy

vestmannaeyjar á þrettándanum

Icelandic journalist, podcaster, and athlete Edda Falak has spoken out against recent racist and misogynistic depictions of her at a holiday celebration in the Westman islands.

The parade in question was organized by the Westman islands municipal council alongside local sports club ÍBV for Þrettándinn, or 12th Night of Christmas. Postponed in recent years by COVID-19 restrictions, the parade traditionally includes playful troll figures, the holiday bearing many associations with folklore and magic.

One troll, however, bore Edda’s misspelled name: Edda Flak.

In the above Twitter post, Edda Falak stated: “This is a very dangerous message. Everyone involved in organizing this event needs to be held accountable and answer for what they plan on doing to fix this disgusting culture of violence that thrives there. This is not humour, this is violence and racism.”

Edda Falak was born to a Lebanese father and Icelandic mother. She has been a key figure in Iceland’s MeToo movement, hosting a podcast where she talks with victims of sexual assault.

Edda made headlines when her story of sexual assault involved a nationally recognized musician. At first unnamed, it later came out that the musician in question was allegedly Ingó, when he sent her a cease and desist order, claiming her statements referred to him. Ingó, a pop singer, is particularly beloved in the Westman islands, where his appearance at the annual music festival there after the allegations caused controversy.

Haraldur Pálsson, manager of sports association ÍBV, made a public statement in which he stated that he was not aware of the effigy in question beforehand. Videos of backstage preparations for the parade, however, clearly show the presence of the offensive effigy in plain sight. When asked if he planned to contact Edda to offer an apology, he stated that he had thought about it, but had not found her number.

The Westman islands’ Twelfth Night Parade traditionally lampoons community figures, but the line between good-natured communal ribbing and bullying and worse is not always clear. Also “satirized” this year was former ÍBV football player Heimir Hallgrímsson, who also coached a Qatari football team for some 2.5 years. In this year’s parade, his likeness appeared in an Arab costume.

Íris Róbertsdóttir, mayor of the Westman islands, has also weighed in on the case. In an interview with Vísir, the mayor said: “I think it is inappropriate to drag the holiday into this in this way, and I have conveyed these comments to the chairman of the ÍBV. I think that the association should not be dragged into such things […] Things that were okay ten years ago are not okay today and we all just have to go along with our changing society. This was just very inappropriate.”

As of yesterday, January 8, Edda Falak has stated on social media that no one has offered her an apology for the incident.

MATEY Seafood Fest Serves Up the Best of the Westman Islands

A new festival seeks to celebrate the produce and producers of Iceland’s Westman Islands. The MATEY Seafood Festival is a collaborative project between the island’s restaurateurs and food producers and will take place from September 8-10.

Restaurants, fish factories, food producers and other food industry service partners collaborate to highlight the food of the islands. With the MATEY festival, islanders hope to spotlight “one of the best culinary destinations in Iceland,” and give guests a taste of “a variety of stunning dishes” that are made solely with ingredients sourced in and around the Westmans. Leading chefs from neighbouring Nordic nations will also take part in the festival, offering their own twists on “authentic local dishes.”

Restaurants Gott, Slippurinn, Einsi Kaldi, and Næs will host menus from guest chefs Chris Golding, Leif Sørensen, Ron McKinlay, and Fjölla Sheholli and Junaid Juman, respectively, serving up local ingredients.

In addition to serving up local cuisine in Heimaey’s restaurants, the festival will also feature events in which businesses in seafood industry open their doors, give some insight into their operations, and discuss the “blue economy” that is so vital to the Westmans’ way of life.

Steady Growth on Surtsey Island

Vegetation is growing at a relatively rapid rate on volcanic island Surtsey. A team of biologists from The Icelandic Institute of Natural History found one new plant species and two new bug species in a recent expedition. Expeditions head over there yearly to assess how life has developed on the island, which formed following an undersea volcanic eruption in 1963.

The new plant species is coltsfoot while the recently arrived bugs are lesteva longoelytrata and mitopus morio, an arachnid species often named harvestman. Mitopus morio is quite common all over in Iceland, but scientists believed it to be unlikely for the species to arrive all the way in Surtsey. These species are the first new species to be discovered since 2015.

Grass has slowly and steadily grown around the island, assisted by a sizable seagull population which fertilizes the soil with their droppings. There is now a sizable colony of birds in the area, around 200 pairs in total, most of which are seagulls. Scientists saw at least two exotic butterflies as well.

The team cleared out rubbish from the Surtsey beach, most of which came from fishing vessels. The cleaning has been performed yearly since 2016. For more information on the expedition, albeit in Icelandic, head to https://www.ni.is/frettir/2019/07/surtseyjarleidangur-liffraedinga-2019

Island untouched by humans
Surtsey is the southernmost point in Iceland, just south of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. The volcanic eruption started at a depth of 130 metres below sea level and reached the surface on November 14 1963. The eruption lasted until June 5, 1967. At that point, Surtsey’s surface area reached a maximum of 2.7 square kilometres, which eventually whittled down to the 1.3 square kilometres it is today. Surtsey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a nature reserve, humans are strictly forbidden on the island except for the yearly scientific expedition. The island has a small house, as well as a weather station and a permanent webcam.

Record Amount of Passengers on Westman Islands Ferry

Heimaklettur

A record amount of passengers travelled with the ferry Herjólfur between mainland Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar (The Westman Islands) this past June. The total amount of passengers were 62,545, an increase of 5,400 people when compared to 2018. The last record was set in 2017 when 57,538 travelled with Herjólfur to the islands, RÚV reports.

Guðbjartur Ellert Jónsson, managing director of Herjólfur, stated that there have been more foreign travellers than normal. He stated that the summer has gone off to a good start. The good weather in South Iceland has played its part as well as the fact that Herjólfur sails at a different time than before, as well as the ferry taking more frequent trips.

Just over 4,300 people reside in Vestmannaeyjar, which is famed for its natural beauty in the North Atlantic. The Westman Islands are an archipelago just south of Iceland, rich with birdlife such as puffins. The picturesque islands are rich in history, and a short tour to the island has long been a popular pastime of Icelanders. Two beluga whales have also recently made Vestmannaeyjar their home in an open sea beluga whale sanctuary handled by Sea Life Trust.

Vestmannaeyjar residents have not felt the reduction in the number of travellers following the bankruptcy of WOW air. Íris Róbertsdóttir, Vestmannaeyjar’s mayor, says that the island is always popular in the summertime. She stated that she felt there was even an increase in the number of travellers heading out to the islands.

Laila Pétursdóttir, from local tour operator RibSafari, strikes a similar note as she’s been happy with summer so far. The weather plays its part, but she also feels a marked increase in foreign travellers between years.

“The Earth Ripped Apart”

1973, eldgosið í Heymaey, Vestmannaeyjum. Gosið í fullum gangi, gosefni þeytast upp úr gígnum á Eldfelli. Í forgunni eru tvö íbúðarhús.

It is a cold January night, 23rd day of the month, and most of the inhabitants of Heimaey are already sleeping. The radiogrammer Hjálmar Guðnason had asked his friend Ólafur Granz to accompany him on his daily midnight walk. The two friends were the first to spot the eruption. A 1600-metre long volcanic fissure had opened up on the east side of Heimaey, only 200 metres away from Hjálmar and Ólafur. It was a literal wall of fire, that would come to engulf a large portion of the island in the coming months. They alerted police instantly, and the sceptic policemen were in no hurry to make their way to the scene of what they believed to be a prank call. Once they witnessed the eruption, they wasted no time. Tephra and ash spread around the island in a matter of minutes, while the townspeople rushed to evacuate the island. When the dust settled, the eruption had destroyed over 400 buildings, and to this day, the island still has fewer residents than before the eruption.

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