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This Summer of Iceland


(photo by Jack Ives)


This summer a few CNS members visited Iceland, which seemed to be steadily in the news for one reason or another, so it seemed to me that a good way to launch our new season would be to catch up on recent happenings in and about Iceland. Many of us were in attendance when His Excellency Sturla Sigurjónsson, Iceland’s Ambassador to Canada, addressed the CNS on April 20. If you missed it (or even if you were there), you may want to check out the detailed article about this event, including a photo of the Ambassador with CNS President Tim Mark, in the June 15, 2016 issue of Lögberg Heimskringla. Based in Manitoba, the Lögberg Heimskringla newspaper covers events of interest to the Icelandic community all over North America and Iceland. (To view the June 15, 2016 issue, go to http:// canadiannordicsociety.com/newsletters/jun16_icelandic-news.pdf. To have a look at their website, go to http://www.lh-inc.ca)


It came as a shock to the “football” world when Iceland beat England in Euro 2016. It seemed unthinkable that a nation of some 330,000 souls could eliminate a country of 54 million! Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson summed it up when he said “It should benefit not only kids in football but kids in sport in general that you can achieve anything if you believe in it and you work hard.” When the Ottawa Citizen contacted CNS and asked us if we knew where local Icelanders would be watching the next big match in the series, Iceland vs. France, CNS spread the word that the place to be was the Georgetown Pub. An article appeared in the front section of the paper the following day (http:// ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/euro-2016-dream-run-ends-for-iceland-but-not-due-to-a-lackof-support-in-ottawa). Although the results were a little disappointing, CNS was thrilled to have been among those cheering on the plucky team from little Iceland.


In the days leading up to Iceland’s national election this summer, I had come across an article or two mentioning the possibility that Iceland’s next first lady might be a Canadian, in fact not only a Canadian, but an Ottawa Valley girl. This was news to me, but I simply assumed that this was a long shot and not something that was likely to actually occur. Well I was wrong! Eliza Reid grew up on a farm near Ashton, just east of Carleton Place. She met her husband, Gudni Johannesson, when they were both studying history in England. And now they are making history themselves. He was elected President of Iceland in June, and she is now Iceland’s first Canadian-born first lady.


Iceland again made the headlines this summer with announcements of “ground shaking” discoveries by Icelandic volcano researchers into “caldera”, the mysterious cauldron-like depressions that form atop volcanoes. The Bardarbunga volcano began to erupt on August 29, 2014, and continued erupting until February 27, 2015. It was the strongest eruption in Europe in more than 240 years and produced the largest caldera ever observed. Analysis of Bardarbunga revealed that the caldera began when magma seeped up from a depth of 12 km below the surface. This magma didn’t just shoot straight up—it flowed perpendicular to the surface along an underground canal for a distance of 45 km, before erupting as a major lava flow northeast of the actual volcano.


CNS member Jack Ives, a holder of The Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Falcon (Iceland) amongst other distinctions, and his wife Pauline visited Iceland in June ‘for old times’ sake’ mostly to visit friends in the Skaftafell area of southern Iceland. This resulted in their taking the Ring Road to effect a four-day reunion at the exquisite “lake of the flies” – Myvatn - where son Tony is undertaking research. Jack brought back the photos of Myvatn above.


In late July, on our way to Oslo, my mother and I flew from Halifax to Reykjavik via Air Iceland. It was difficult to get much of an impression of Iceland from the airport in the middle of the night, other than to say that it looked flatter than we expected, and was definitely very chilly. When we politely asked the security guard who guided us through the airport if this was the usual temperature for late July, she replied rather drily “This is Iceland!” (In other words, if you are looking for a tropical beach, look elsewhere!) President Tim Mark and his wife Chris had a better look when they took a cruise that went right around the island. Here are some of Tim’s comments from that trip: Iceland is experiencing a huge tourist boom. In 2015 there were around 1, 289,000 visitors. For a population of about 332,000 people that is a very large figure indeed, especially as this has been a very recent development. Tourists now account for more foreign exchange earnings than fishing or the aluminum industry. Highlights from our cruise? Many and impressive waterfalls, the historic sites, the accordion collection at the Ísafjörður museum and of course, nibbling on fermented shark (kæstur hákarl).Definitely a taste sensation.


A new attraction for visitors to Iceland will be the reconstruction of a Viking village that is being built in Mosfellsdalur, near Reykjavik. Around 20 buildings will be constructed in all, and construction is set to begin in September. Once ready, people dressed as settlers will be on the site to show guests how the Vikings made clothing, milked their cows and conducted their daily lives. It is expected to take about five years to complete. When we posted an article about this on our Facebook page (http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/nature_and_travel/2016/07/07/ viking_village_to_be_built_near_reykjavik/), a visitor to our page commented that he hoped there would be good accommodation for visitors nearby. Iceland is certainly becoming a going concern for visitors and tourists, and seems to be gearing up for more and greater things. Stay tuned!

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