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  • Travel

    Residents in Westfjords fishing town debate how to deal with window-peeking visitors

    By Staff

    A cruise ship in Ísafjörður Locals are looking at ways to solve problems which have come with the growing numbers of visitors. Photo/Pjetur

    This year 104 cruise ships will visit Ísafjörður town in the Westfjords. Five years ago the town was only visited by 32 ships. This dramatic increase in the number of visitors has caused some friction. The town council formed a commission to look into how these could be eased, as well as surveying local residents about what problems they were concerned with. The top concern residents have: Foreign visitors who peek through the windows of beautiful homes.

    Think people's homes are museum exhibits
    "What seems annoy people most, according to the survey we did, is foreign travellers disturbing their homes. There are many beautiful old homes in the town, and some visitors on cruise ships seem to think these are museums or something similar," the chairwoman of the commission told the local newspaper Fréttablaðið

    Read more: Police orders Spanish travellers to clean up a trail of toilet paper they left in a hotel parking lot

    She said that other problems which needed to be addressed included access to public toilets: "There have to be adequate public toilets, and we do have plenty of public toilets available to visitors, but we must identify these better, by setting up signs. We must also ensure that the cruise ships and fishing vessels can coexist peacefully in the harbour."

     

  • Business

    British billionaire now one of Iceland's largest landowners, owns 0.3% of entire island

    By Staff

    At Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum The British billionaire has bought a number of farms in N.E. Iceland, including the highland farm Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum. Photo/Höfði fasteignasala

    The British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has risen to become the largest landowner in Iceland. The farms Ratcliffe has purchased in N.E. Iceland make up nearly a third of a percent of the surface of Iceland, including a large stretch of the Central Highlands. Ratcliffe has not revealed what he paid for the land, but he tells the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that his purchases are inspired by his believe that untouched wildernesses will only become more valuable and important. 

    From fracking to conservation
    Ratcliffe's fortune is based in the chemical industry. He has come under fire in the UK for extracting natural gas with hydraulic fracking. Environmentalists have argued that fracking pollutes groundwater. His investments in Iceland, however, have all been focused on natural conservation and protection of pristine wilderness. Ratcliffe is particularly concerned with protecting the water quality of salmon fishing rivers in North East Iceland.

    Read more: British billionaire buys vast farm in the highlands. Intends to do “absolutely nothing” with it

    The lands Ratcliffe has been acquiring are all in North East Iceland, clustered around the salmon fishing rivers of Vopnafjörður fjord. He owns three farms in the fjord, Síreksstaðir, Háteigur and Gruðmundarstaðir, as well as a third of a fishing club which owns 23 farms in the fjord. His most important acquisition was a 72% stake in the Highland farm Grímsstaðir á fjöllum. The state owns 25% of the farm, and one local landowner 3%.

    Protecting the North Atlantic salmon
    Some locals have expressed concern that land purchases by foreign billionaires can disrupt farming and local communities. Ratcliffe, however, has promised that his intention is to allow farming to continue on the lands he has purchased, offering the pastures and fields rent free to local farmers to cultivate.

    Ratcliffe tells the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that his purchases are motivated by conservation: "Man has damaged a lot of the environment around the world, in one way or the other, and there is a sort of uniqueness about places which are untouched by humans, and I think that inherently there will be a value, because people like to go to places where the landscape is untouched."

    He told RÚV that he did not intend to build or change the properties he has acquired: His main goal is to protect the salmon fishing rivers in North East Iceland, and thus help strengthen the North Atlantic salmon population.

  • Nature

    Drone video follows a group of hikers to the summit of Eyjafjallajökull glacier

    By Staff

    Ascending the glacier The entire hike took 9 hours. Photo/Screenshot from video, see below

    Last week a group of 30 local hikers conquered the summit of Eyjafjallajökull glacier in South Iceland on mountain skis. After having conquered the top of the 1,666 m (x ft) glacier the group skied down its slopes. 

    Read more: Spectacular video follows a local ophthalmologist on his Iceland hikes in summer of 2016

    Ólafur Már Björnsson, who captured the entire trip on video with the help of an aerial drone, told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið that most of the nine hour long hike was spent on the way up. Climbing the glacier on skis is no slower than regular hiking he explained, "We are quick to descend, but it takes us as long to ascend as regular hikers."

    You can follow the group on its trek in the video below:

    Eyjafjallajökull ´17 from Olafur Mar Bjornsson on Vimeo.

     

     

  • Weather

    On a wintry First Day of Summer travellers are rescued from bus stuck in snow on heath

    By Staff

    Holtavörðuheiði heath The Ring Road between West and North Iceland crosses the heath which had to be closed on the morning of the first day of summer. Photo/GVA

    The summer has officially started in Iceland, as Icelanders celebrated the First Day of Summer yesterday. While everyone knows actual summer weather is still several weeks away Icelanders take this day rather seriously: The appropriate greeting on the First Day of Summer and the next couple of days is "Happy Summer".  

    Weather 21.4.17
    Sunny but chilly The weather forecast for Friday's morning Photo/Icelandic Met Office

    Despite this the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority has warned that conditions on large parts of the Ring Road remain difficult due to ice and icy patches. Travellers are especially cautioned that conditions on most mountain roads are still extremely difficult and that the condition on many heaths can be extremely difficult for small cars not equipped for winter driving.

    Rather wintry First Day of Summer
    Yesterday's weather was relatively cold and wintry, Teitur Arason, Iceland's most trusted weatherman told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið. "The weather has been unseasonably unstable and erratic in the past few weeks," he told Morgunblaðið. Winter will linger on over the weather he added, but by next week there will be more spring in the air he told Morgunblaðið.

    According to an old tradition a frosty morning on the First Day of Summer is foretells a good warm summer. 

    Travellers stuck on heaths
    A winter storm which hit on the last day of winter caused the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority to close several heaths in North and West Iceland, including the Ring Road between West and North Iceland. The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV reports that close to 40 foreign travellers had to be rescued after they got stuck on the heath. A trailer truck was blown off the road on the Ring Road over Holtavörðuheiði heath, between N and W Iceland.  

    RÚV reports that a tour bus with 17 foreign travellers got stuck on the Ring Road on Öxnadalsheiði heath in North Iceland. Search and Rescue teams had to assist the people from the heath. Several heaths remained closed until late morning yesterday, and Morgunblaðið reports that conditions continue to be very wintry on most heaths and mountain roads.

    The IRCA warns that drivers can expect ice and icy patches on the Ring Road where it crosses heaths. People are advised to check road conditions with the IRCA before heading off, and to pay attention to the weather forecast. The weather can change rapidly, and mountain roads and conditions on mountain roads and heaths can change with short notice.

  • Economy

    Reykjavík real-estate market booms: 20% increase since March 2016

    By Staff

    Rushing to meet demand The main drivers of rising prices are rising real-incomes and demand which outstrips supply. Photo/Vilhelm

    The housing market in Reykjavík is in the middle of the largest boom since 2006. Real-estate prices rose on average by 2.7% in March, bringing the 12 month increase to 20.9%. According to analysis by Landsbankinn bank (pdf) the real-estate market has now made up virtually all the decrease it experienced following the 2008 financial crash. In real terms the prices are now just 1% below the previous peak in October 2007.

    Read more: Iceland led the global real estate price increases in 2016

    Rising real-estate prices in the capital are now the only driver of inflation in Iceland: In the absence of real-estate prices the consumer price index fell by 1.7% year-over-year.

    The major drivers of rising real-estate prices, according to Landsbnakinn, are the strong economic growth and low unemployment which have ensured steadily rising real-incomes for the past few years. Demand for housing has also exceeded supply for some time. Too few new homes were built in the years following the 2008 financial crash. 

    Read more: More than 1/10 of overnight stays in Airbnbs, almost as many at campgrounds, in camper vans

    In recent years demand has also spiked, due to a variety of factors, several of which have to do with tourism. Recent years have seen increasing immigration by workers in the tourism industry who are needed to fill positions which the domestic labour market cannot fill. A shortage of hotel space has also generated a growing demand for properties on Airbnb and similar sites.

  • Nature

    Prospectors pledge a million dollars to gold exploration on the outskirts of Reykjavík

    By Staff

    Þormóðsdalur valley One of the sites prospectors believe might contain gold in recoverable quantities is Þormóðsdalur valley on the outskirts of Reykjavík. Photo/Vilhelm.

    The Canadian mining company St-Georges Platinum and Base Metals Ltd recently acquired a majority stake in the Icelandic gold exploration company Iceland Resources. The Canadian firm has pledged one million dollars to gold exploration in Iceland in the next 24 months, with a focus on Þormóðsdalur valley in North Iceland.

    Geothermal gold
    Under certain circumstances gold can be found in geothermal areas where it is carried to the surface by geothermal water. The gold the collects in geothermal vents. While this process is well known, and gold has been found in geothermal areas in the past, it is not clear whether it is found in high enough concentration to justify its extraction.

    Read more: Gold prospectors interested in Icelandic geothermal areas

    The Icelandic exploration company has been searching for gold for several years, especially at Þormóðsdalur valley, a geothermal area by Hafravatn lake, on the outskirts of Reykjavík. In addition to Þormóðsdalur the company intends to explore sites on Reykjanes peninsula and in Vopnafjörður fjord in N.E. Iceland.

    A potential high quality gold mine
    The company plans to explore several historical drill holes in Þormóðsdalur and add new holes to gather enough data to be able to estimate the gold concentration at the site. Thormodsdalur is located S.E. of the lake Hafravatn, a small lake on the outskirts of Reykjavík, ca 20 km (12 miles). 

    In 1908 it was discovered that small amounts of gold were found in old geothermal areas in the valley. Between 1911 and 1925 more than 300 meters (1000 ft) of mines were dug in the valley, producing significant quantities of material which was exported to Germany where it was studied. According to Iceland Resources these samples revealed gold concentration between 11g/t and 315g/t, which would qualify Þormóðsdalur as a very high quality mine.

    Recent studies have confirmed that gold is found in Þormóðsdalur, although its concentration is unclear. Studies between 2005 and 2013, in which 32 holes were drilled, produced samples with gold values which varied from less than 0.5 g/t to a maximum of 415 g/t.

    The World Gold Council defines a high-quality mine as having a gold ore density between 8 and 10 g/t, while low quality mines, which tend to be open pit mines, as having a density of 1 to 4 g/t. The highest-grade gold mine in the world is Tua tona in South Africa, which has a gold ore density of 28 g/t.

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