Monday, 19 December 2016

Grimsey Island at the end of the earth

Grimsey is a small Icelandic island about five km2 and situated 41 kilometers north of Iceland. The island is experiencing growing popularity because the Arctic Circle passes through it, and many travelers come for that reason.

Grimsey Island at the end of the earth

Grimsey is inhabited since the Vikings settled in Iceland, and the story goes that the name of the island links to the first man named Grímur who discovered it; he most likely came from Norway. The first written mention of Grimsey is in the saga Heimskringla, dating back to 1024; the tale tells that King Ólafur of Norway asked the people of Grimsey for ownership of the island in exchange for his friendship, but proud and independent Icelanders, reluctant to share Ólafur's idea refused his proposal. 

Grimsey is well-known for its natural resources and rich fishing banks, and Iceland rely on these resources for the local people, not on the Norwegian king! When Christianity arrived in Iceland, the island became the property of the monks, who requested rent from the dried-fish farmers in exchange for land use.

Grimsey Island at the end of the earth

In the eighteenth century, many men died at sea or from diseases such as pneumonia, and this led to the belief that the island's population would eventually disappear. But it did not happen, and nearly 100 Grímseyingar (robust and healthy!) now live on Grímsey. In 2009, the island became a town in the municipality of Akureyri.

Grimsey is the northernmost point of Iceland at the 66th degrees North: 66 ° 33'N 18 ° 01'W. It is an island with no trees, where the harsh climate sculpts vegetation. The upside is that it is very rich in bird species and has one of the largest puffin colonies in Iceland. From time to time, a polar bear gets stranded on Grimsey -this happened in 1969. Nowadays, you can admire this beautiful animal at the museum in Húsavík. If you happen to stay on Grimsey, the rich Arctic ocean around the island is a place where one can view seals, whales, and other mammals.

The church in Grímsey was built in 1867 from the driftwood that got washed up by the Arctic Ocean and ran aground on its shores. There is also a school which educates children until the fourth grade, but after that, a young person should go to school in Akureyri. Also, on the island is a grocery store, a campsite and a few guesthouses, a café, a gallery and of course a swimming pool. 

Grimsey Island at the end of the earth

The island has a regular boat and plane service from the mainland. By boat from Dalvik, you can reach Grimsey in three hours, three times a week. By plane, you can reach the island every day in summer and three times a week in winter, departing from Akureyri. Fishing is the Islands main source of income, the Island's people also depends on agriculture, collecting birds eggs, and of course tourism.

Despite its small population, Grimsey’s people obtain a rather rich cultural life and are best known for their interest in chess. In the nineteenth century, an American scholar and lover of chess, who admired the island and its people (although, he never set foot there), sent a chess game to every family on the island, along with food and money to promote the culture of Grimsey.

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