Winter One Day, Summer the Next

30 04 2013

A blizzard on Sunday that dropped 6 inches of snow and then windless and sunny today!

My housemates chillin' outside in the sun.

My housemates chillin’ outside in the sun.





A Quiet Place

29 04 2013

The Library was built in 1925 and was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, then-State Architect, and at that time was one of the most elegant houses of its kind in the country. The building served the role of hospital until 1989 when a new hospital was opened. In various rooms and corners there are indications of the building’s past use as a hospital – an old hospital bed stands on display, as well as a showcase of the old instruments used. It is my favorite place to study and write.

The library is one of the most prominent and beautiful buildings in town.

The library is one of the most prominent and beautiful buildings in town.

The library of Ísafjörður is part of the Eyrartuni culture house today. Before its restoration the building housed the hospital of the city, in its founding days the most advanced in Iceland. As is customary, people know a lot of stories about the hospital, lucky ones about being born or getting cured there and sad ones about accidents and strokes of fate.

The library of Ísafjörður is part of the Eyrartuni culture house today. Before its restoration the building housed the hospital of the city, in its founding days the most advanced in Iceland. As is customary, people know a lot of stories about the hospital, lucky ones about being born or getting cured there and sad ones about accidents and strokes of fate.

 

Working hard!

Working hard!





The Next Day

28 04 2013

Most people stayed up late into the night to await election results. And many are not happy with the results… the party that is said to be responsible for the 2008 economic crash was voted back into power.
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Election Saturday

27 04 2013

Iceland’s opposition parties, the Independence Party and Progressive Party, have secured 51 percent of the vote and 19 seats each in yesterday’s parliamentary election with 193, 792 votes, or 100 percent of the vote, counted.

You know it is election time when 1 meter tall heads show up on the local cafe window!

You know it is election time when 1 meter tall heads show up on the local cafe window!

Twenty-one-year old sheep farmer from Mjóafjörður fjord in the West Fjords and candidate for the Progressive Party, Jóhanna María Sigurðardóttir, has become the youngest ever parliamentarian to be elected to Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, after Saturday’s election.





Seal is for dinner…

26 04 2013
The Norwegians gave us some seal meat to try so we had a giant dinner. It is the meat from the back and is very much like steak. But very dark in color and 'gamey'.

The Norwegians gave us some seal meat to try so we had a giant dinner. It is the meat from the back and is very much like steak. But very dark in color and ‘gamey’.

Because these ‘cute little seals’ and ‘beautiful majestic whales’ are being used for the consumption of humans, the ‘civilised world’ often sees the hunting and killing of these creatures as barbaric. At first I was a little bit ‘iffy’ about the idea until I did some research to understand the Norwegian point of view. As seals and whales cannot be domesticated, like cows, they must be hunted in the wild. This enables the animals to have a wonderful life, free and happy without pens or genetically modified food, in their natural environment. Each year has a specific quota set by the industry to control numbers. The whalers and fishermen follow set guidelines in capturing and slaughtering, and also waste control (and if you know anything about Norway’s environmental and humane standards you will know that these animals are treated with the highest respect). Seals are actually considered quite pesky animals, similar to seagulls – they eat through fishermen’s nets and if their numbers aren’t controlled they can cause havoc on the environment. The Minke whales are not endangered or threatened. In fact, the whales have some of the highest numbers in the world.

Norwegian sealing currently receives state support. This is necessary to ensure sound regulation of seal stocks and to maintain traditional hunting skills so that seal populations can continue to be appropriately regulated. At the same time, purposeful efforts are being made to develop markets for new seal products, so that the industry can become independent of subsidies.

Norway has strict, detailed legislation governing sealing, including dates for the sealing season, quotas, methods of killing, mandatory training for sealers, approval of vessels and inspection.

According to the legislation, animals must be killed as quickly, humanely and painlessly as possible. The only types of equipment Norwegian sealers are allowed to use are rifles and the hakapik (a kind of gaff). The hakapik may look primitive, but is in fact an efficient tool that stuns an animal immediately and kills it quickly. Sealers are required to take a course and a shooting test every year before the sealing season. Each sealing vessel carries an inspector on board. The inspectors have veterinary qualifications or the equivalent, and report directly to the fisheries authorities.

Independent international studies show that in Norwegian seal hunting the killing is faster and more considerate than the game hunting on land.  This was confirmed in 2007 in a report by the European food safety agency.

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Norwegians don’t excessively eat whale or seal – it is a normal part of life that is good for a well balanced diet in Norway. In fact, seal is more valued for its fur and leather but Norwegians eat the seal meat not to be wasteful. The meat is also very high in unsaturated fats, even more so than fish oil. Omega 3 is especially important for living in an Arctic climate where there is six months of darkness every year.

The EU has banned import of seal products. Animal rights activists also have campaigned to halt the hunt… so this may be my only chance to try seal meat!





First Day of Summer!

25 04 2013
The first day of summer is April 25 in Iceland. I have to think that this has something to do with the day length because a fresh layer of snow fell in the morning!

The first day of summer is April 25 in Iceland. I have to think that this has something to do with the day length because a fresh layer of snow fell in the morning!





Double Life

24 04 2013

The Norwegian vessel, the Havsel experienced engine trouble and was at dock in Ísafjörður. We met the crew in town and they invited us on board. They showed us videos of the seal hunt AND documentaries filmed from the vessel. Who would have thought the boat that infuriates environmentalists also produces the films that inspire them!

The Havsel is distinct because of the crows nest used for spotting seals.

The Havsel is distinct because of the crows nest used for spotting seals.

The captain is from northern Norway, and has taken part in the seal hunt for 40 years. He told us that in the 1970s, around 40 Norwegian boats took part. A few decades before that, 70 to 80 boats set out every year. People in Tromsø would line up to buy the seal meat in old times. To Norwegians, the meat is a delicacy.

The killing takes place with record speed. In 9 days they had already killed 1600 seals.

The killing takes place with record speed. In 9 days they had already killed 1600 seals.

As a result of population concerns, Norway’s seal hunt is now controlled by quotas based on recommendations from International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), However, sealing in Norway has declined in recent years, and the quotas have not been reached.Norway had a quota of 30,000 seals this year. Usually the catch is 20% of this number and the seal population is quite strong. But now the market for both seal and whale meat has declined markedly. Demand for seal oil is up, but the future is uncertain.

The guys showed us this film about polar bears from the BBC. They also had Frozen Planet crews, history crews, and other filmmakers. The Havsel is an icebreaker and the crew is well trained, so it is a perfect boat to film the Arctic.