Local Stories


The Arctic Coast Way connects you to its rough and unspoiled nature and takes you to diversified landscapes between seaside and mountains. It captivates you with its peaceful coastal villages and authentic people, whose stories and culture are formed by the live at the ocean close to the Arctic Circle. You are freed up to slow down and leave feeling uplifted and fulfilled with unique memories.
Feel the freedom of breathing with the rhythm of waves and wind while listening to stories of the locals.

Akureyri - Danish on Sundays

Did people in Akureyri speak Danish on Sundays? Listen to a story from Tryggvi Gíslason, the former headmaster of Akureyri Junior College. He has lived in Akureyri for many years and knows plenty of interesting stories.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Vilhjálmur Bermann Bragason.


"Akureyri has sometimes been called “The Danish Town.” Its first inhabitants were Danish merchants who resided in the “old” part of Akureyri during the winter, according to history, for the first time in 1718–1719. In Akureyri there was no population center as such until the mid-18th century, or until Danish authorities commanded in 1777 that merchants should stay the winter. Remains of the town’s Danish heritage can still be seen in many places in Akureyri, mainly in the names of house. Another influence on town life was the Danish slang which supposedly was more common in Akureyri than elsewhere. According to hearsay, the locals spoke Danish amongst themselves on Sundays, which outsiders thought was quite funny. But there might be a logical explanation for this practice.

When Akureyri first became populated, there was no church in town, as few people lived there apart from the Danish merchants. The parish church was in Hrafnagil some 20 km away and the locals went there for church services, everyone except for the Danish merchants. Around 1850, the townspeople requested to have their own church built as an annex from Hrafnagil. Their request was originally turned down. Then, by royal decree on 18 May, 1851, the people of Akureyri and the surrounding countryside were given permission to build a church in Akureyri at their own expense. For various reasons, construction didn’t begin until 1861 and the new church was completed in 1863. The new church only had one entrance, as was the case with most Icelandic churches at that time. Danish upper class women went to see Reverend Daníel Halldórsson in Hrafnagil and asked him to make sure that the church be fitted with a second entrance so that the dignified merchant families would not have to enter by the same door as the common people. As the story goes, the pastor responded that he had never heard that there were two entrances to Heaven and that was the end of that.

Stories started circulating of services that were given by Danish merchants in Akureyri, both before and after the church was built, because the Danish ladies were unwilling to enter by the same door as the commoners. During these services, Danish was spoken, Bible readings were in Danish and psalms were sung in Danish, naturally, as that was the merchant families’ native language. The Icelanders became aware of this because most of the servants were local, mainly from the farms around Akureyri. They heard that Danish was spoken during these Sunday services and began spreading the word in the surrounding countryside that Akureyri residents spoke Danish on Sundays – which was absolutely true. On weekdays, the merchants tried to speak Icelandic with the locals with varying success."


Ánastaðir - How a whale beaching saved the people

Did you know that the whale beaching at Ánastaðir in 1882, saved many people from starvation?
Listen to a story from Sólveig Benjamínsdóttir, the director of museums in the municipality Húnaþing vestra.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"My name is Sólveig H. Benjamínsdóttir and I’m the director of museums in the municipality Húnaþing vestra. The following text is the retelling of a story, originally told by Guðmundur Jónsson from Ánastaðir in 1939.

The story of the whale beaching at Ánastaðir, which occurred on 25 May 1882, begins, in fact, two days earlier. That day, a crazy snowstorm was raging in every region with sea ice all around the country. The storm blew the sea ice closer to land so that it filled all fjords. On May 25, when the weather finally began calming down, Eggert Jónsson, the farmer at Ánastaðir, noticed dozens of whales in a cove south of the farm. The whales were trapped by the ice which had drifted to the shore the days before. Eggert realised that this was an ideal setting for killing the whales and went down to the cove where they were trapped. He had himself tied to land by rope in case he would fall into the sea and walked out onto the sea ice. He used a machete to cut through the whales’ fat layer, making sure to position the cut right above their hearts so that killing them would be easy. Yet the whales took such an intense jolt of pain that Eggert almost lost his balance on the slippery surface and fell into the water. However, the whales died quickly and sank. After the slaughtering was finished, the farmers had to wait for a few days for gas to form in the whales’ intestines so that they would become bloated and resurface. Then the cutting began. The pieces of whale meat saved many people from starvation the following winter.

As the whale beaching had occurred on the land of Ánastaðir, of which Eggert Jónsson was the majority owner, the largest part of the whale meat belonged to him. When people showed up for the cutting, he decided that each person could claim half of the meat on the whale that they cut. This was unusually generous of him, because habitually, the cutters only got a fourth or a third share. However, Eggert believed the whale beaching to be a gift from God and that it was his responsibility to share the meat with as many households as possible during the ongoing times of hardship. Every single home in Húnavatnssýsla county received a portion of the whale meat. Part of the meat was also delivered to the surrounding regions: Skagafjörður, northern Borgarfjarðar- and Mýrarsýsla, Dalasýsla and the Strandir region in the north. Eggert had an entire whale sent to Saurbæjarhreppur district in Dalasýsla, which was in the worst position for coping during the hunger period.

Eggert’s generosity was invaluable because even harder times were to come. In the summer following the beaching, the weather was cold with a constant wind from the north. Until mid-summer, most nights were frosty with snowfall. Farming was difficult under such circumstances; the farmers had no hay and many sheep died. At a number of farms, no lamb survived, and adult sheep died, too. The situation worsened still because no freight ship arrived in Húnaflói bay that autumn, as was customary. Necessities were therefore unavailable and famine was imminent. The only food people had that autumn were dairy products and the good whale meat from Ánastaðir. The great whale beaching saved people from many districts from starvation during these difficult times."


Dalvík - The war between Iceland and Britain

Have you heard about the Cod war between Iceland and Britain?
Listen to a story from Jóhann Antonsson.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Vilhjálmur Bermann Bragason.


"In 2020, 44 years had passed from the ending of last of the Cod Wars between Iceland and Britain, when Iceland’s territorial waters were extended from 50 to 200 nautical miles. I’d like to discuss a Dalvíkian angle to the last Cod War, which some say contributed greatly to the dispute’s peaceful ending.

Aðalsteinn Loftsson, a fishing operator from Dalvík, had had a stern trawler made in Poland, which arrived in Dalvík in June 1974. Aðalsteinn also owned the herring ship Loftur Baldvinsson EA 24, which for many years had held the record as the highest-grossing ship of the Icelandic fleet. The investment was part of the upcoming reorganisation of Aðalstein’s fishing and fish processing enterprise. The trawler, which was named Baldur EA 124, was the sister ship of a few other trawlers that arrived in the country at a similar time.

The vessels were considered to be quite grand. The facilities on board, both the crew’s living quarters and their working environment, were top notch. It was a huge change from the side trawlers which these new trawlers were to replace. They were approximately 60 metres long and 11 metres wide and measured 741 GRT.

However, Aðalsteinn’s situation changed so that he had to sell the trawler. It was bought by the state treasury. The government’s intention was to turn it into a research vessel for the Maritime & Freshwater Research Institute but first it was given to the Icelandic Coast Guard. Baldur became a Coast Guard cruiser and was sent off to war.

The third Cod War was the final dispute over the limits of Iceland’s territorial waters between Iceland and Britain, from 1975 to 1976. The Icelandic government decided to extend the Icelandic jurisdiction again, and this time to 200 nautical miles. The legislation took effect on 15 November 1975. The British protested loudly, as usual, and refused to accept the extension. On 16 November 1975, only 24 hours after the legislation took effect, British trawler Primella from Hull had arrived with the trawler wire cutters. The dispute was taken to a new and dangerous level; the British used both tugboats and frigates to hit the Icelandic Coast Guard cruisers, while the Icelandic Coast Guard kept on cutting the trawl nets of the British fishing vessels. The Icelanders had changed stern trawler Baldur EA 124 to a Coast Guard cruiser and used it to ram the British ships. It was successful as such, become no fewer than three British frigates had to return home for repairs before the war ended. The Icelanders terminated their diplomatic relationship with the British in February 1976 and threatened to leave NATO. However, the disputing governments met in Oslo on 23 May 1976 and finally managed to settle their disagreement. The third Cod War officially ended in June that year."

Drangey - Trapped on Drangey island

Can you imagine being trapped on island like Drangey for a couple of days? Maybe even with very little food.
Listen to a story from Viggó Jónsson who loves spending his time on the island.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Vilhjálmur Bermann Bragason.


"My name is Viggó Jónsson and I’ve hunted birds and collected eggs on Drangey island for more than 40 years. Hunting for food is a part of life.

Hunting has been practiced on the island, as a part of the “food chest of Skagafjörður” – as far back as anyone can remember. For a few weeks in the spring, around 200 people would live in tents at the beach, on the otherwise uninhabited island. They hunted birds and collected eggs and rowed out to catch fish in the fjord as well.

It was mostly the farmers from the surrounding countryside who took part in this labour because Sauðárkrókur didn’t become a proper town until after 1850. All winter long, people had eaten salted fish, pickled meat and other preserved food and so they were ecstatic when the farmers returned on their horses, bringing fresh food.

Hunting is still practiced on the island but on a much smaller scale. It is quite risky to collect eggs because you have to lower yourself down cliffs in ropes and sometimes there is rockfall.

I have three children, two boys and a girl. They first started hunting for birds with me when they were around 6 years old.

The weather can change quickly and even though you can make it to the island it isn’t a given that you can make it back home again. I have sometimes been weatherbound on Drangey for a few days. One time, I was there with my daughter, who was 11 at the time, and we were weatherbound for five days! The only thing we had left to eat were potatoes – but she didn´t like potatoes. I made this fancy mash which was the best she had ever tasted and today still she talks about how good that mash was. It was a great adventure and the kids experienced it first-hand. Now that they’re adults, these are the memories that stand out from their childhood.

It also happened once when I took a German tourist with us to the island. He had planned to go there on a daytrip but ended up being stuck there with us for five days. After his stay with strangers on this deserted island, he returned a changed man with a new vision of hunting animals."

Grenivík - Born in a snowstorm

The weather in Iceland is constantly changing and the winters can be very tough with snowstorms and impassable roads.
Listen to a story from Ingólfur Kristinn Ásgeirsson. He tells us about a day his mother will never forget – the day he was born.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Vilhjálmur Bermann Bragason.


"My name is Ingólfur Kristinn Ásgeirsson.

I grew up in Grenivík where I was free play as I liked and, in my memory, the weather was always good in the summer. We went out in the mornings and played until late in the evenings; we just went home when we were hungry. In the winter, it usually snowed a lot. Blizzards often raged for days, making the roads impassable. That’s what the weather was like the day when I was born, 3 January 1968. I would like to tell you briefly about that day, even though I don’t remember it myself—but my mum will hardly forget it.

In the morning, my mum experienced growing labour pains and realised that her baby would soon arrive. She became anxious because the weather outside was crazy, an absolute whiteout, so she couldn’t even see the next house. All roads were completely impassable. The decision was made to take her to the delivery room in Akureyri by snowmobile, some 40 km away. The local search and rescue squad had a small snowmobile and my dad decided to drive it. He asked his search and rescue friends to help him dig the snowmobile up, because all buildings and vehicles were snowed under.

When the snowmobile was ready and they went to pick up my mum, the search and rescue members realised that the snowmobile didn’t have any license plates. As they were law-abiding men, they determined to go to the district commissioner’s house and pick up the license plates; they didn’t like the thought of running into the Akureyri police and ending up getting fined. The district commissioner lived 3 km south of Grenivík and the journey there and back took one hour.

The women were quite unhappy about the arrangement, to waste time on picking up the license plates, because it didn’t really matter whether the snowmobile was plated or not during the crazy snowstorm. When everything was finally ready, my mum was put on a stretcher and carried out into the tiny snowmobile and then they headed off. My dad was accompanied by two assistants, and luckily so. One of them had to hold the stretcher steady and the other walk ahead of the car during long stretches of the journey to help the driver find the road in zero visibility. The snowmobile moved slowly but surely in the right direction for the first 15 km. Then they nearly had an accident; the vehicle almost rolled over on its side and off the road. The men managed to pull the snowmobile back down and all went well. It edged forward, kilometre by kilometre. When they were approaching Akureyri, the weather had cleared somewhat and they could pick up the speed—fortunately, because the little boy was eager to enter the world. When they arrived at the hospital, my mum was carried inside on the stretches and placed on a bed and my dad just barely managed to bid her farewell before leaving back for Grenivík. At that time, fathers were not allowed to be present at childbirth. My mum was rushed to the delivery room, and just in time, because she had barely passed through the door when I shot out and into the world, crying at the top of my lungs—and I haven’t shut up since, some people say!

About one week later my dad picked us up at the hospital and drove us home to Grenivík. By then, the weather had improved considerably, the road had been cleared and the journey was much easier. On that day, 3 January 1968, the drive to Akureyri—which on a normal day is only about 30 minutes—took 6 hours!"

Grímsey - Childhood in Grímsey

How is childhood in Grímsey?

Listen to a story from Hulda Signý Gylfadóttir who is born and raised on the island.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"My name is Hulda Signý Gylfadóttir and I was born in 1975. I grew up on Grímsey island with my brothers. I also have two older half-sisters who were raised on the mainland.

It was wonderful to grow up on Grímsey. The island community was very tight-knit and people socialised a lot. The kids were surrounded by people of all ages and often conversed with the adults. We took part in everything. There was no playschool or after-school programmes, so we joined in on the haymaking and tagged along when the grownups collected eggs from the guillemot nests.

When collecting eggs, the procedure was as follows: Three men (it was only men in my youth) would go to the edge of a bird cliff. One was tied to a rope, which was tied to a tractor, and then he abseiled down the cliff. The second man would stay in the tractor and hoist or lower the one in the rope, and the third would lie flat on cliff’s edge to explain what the sigmaður, the one in the rope, wanted. It was always exciting to count the eggs when the sigmaður came back up with his bag.

My parents had sheep but it was mainly my brothers who helped care for them. I loved playing with the lambs in the spring but I wasn’t of much use in the barn. In the spring we went searching for Arctic tern eggs, ate seabird eggs and enjoyed our school break.

The school only had two classrooms, one for the older kids and one for the younger kids, and a few classes studied together in each of them. There was no swimming pool, so the parents tried to find swimming courses for the kids on the mainland in the summer.

We played a lot outside, all over the island, in the summer and winter. We went on long beach walks and collected conches and seashells, sailed on the Sandvíkurtjörn pond, played house in a small hut, had fun in the snow, went skating on the pond when it froze over and played all kinds of games outside in the evening.

Usually we were on the island all year round and only visit the mainland once a year during the summer break. I experienced a great sense of freedom and I loved living on my island. However, the local school was only until the age of 12 so after that, the kids had to move away and stay on the mainland the entire winter. I went to Ísafjörður when I was 12 and I missed the island and my family a lot."


Hrísey - The medicine of Angelica

Did you know, Angelica has been used for medicinal purposes since early times?
Listen to a story from Linda María Ásgeirsdóttir who lives on the island. Linda owns a restaurant and uses the Angelica in many of her dishes.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Vilhjálmur Bermann Bragason.


"Angelica has been used for medicinal purposes since early times. Wild Angelica grows on Hrísey and has been harvested on the island for producing various remedies and supplements since the beginning of this century. Angelica is considered to be particularly effective against bladder ailments and Hrísey island’s oldest residents state that the need to go to the bathroom during the night has disappeared after they started drinking tea from Angelica leaves. The plant also contains the same active ingredients as Viagra (minus the blue colour), so we say that it’s healthier than Viagra. Most recently, experiments have been made with powder from dried and ground Angelica roots in cooperation with producers of wine and natural goods.

Hrísiðn is a tool production company founded in 2004 by local couple Bjarni Thorarensen, a mechanic and marine engineer, and Sigríður Magnúsdóttir, a fish factory worker and homemaker. Hrísiðn makes and sells rakes of different shapes and sizes, as well as scythes, and dried Angelica. Hrísiðn has been certified by Tún for its organic and sustainable production of natural products. In 2007, Hrísiðn began cooperating with Saga Medica on the experimental production of Angelica from Hrísey for supplements and two years later larger-scale production was launched. In the summer of 2010, Hrísiðn invested in a container for drying the plant, along with a processing facility, increasing its production capacity. Today, Hrísiðn has three containers for drying and sells one tonne of dried Angelica to SagaNatura (as the company is now called) every year for its production of natural supplements.

In a six-week period from mid-June to mid-August (depending on the weather and the plant’s growth status), six to ten employees are hired to pick Angelica leaves. The leaves that each employee picks are weighed after each workday. The workers are mainly teenagers from the island, who are assisted by older residents, or foreign laborers who come specifically to participate in the harvest. In the last four years, the workforce has consisted of foreign laborers who return every summer and enjoy their stay on Hrísey during the best time of year.

Bjarni himself makes almost all of the company’s tools and machines and the technology he has invented is incredible. Hrísiðn is in operation all year round; in the winter they make the rakes by hand, which is rather time consuming. Both the leaves and seeds from the Angelica are used, the leaves are ground and used for tea and the seeds as spice."


Kópasker - The Kópasker earthquake

Have you experienced an earthquake?
Listen to a story from Hólmfríður Halldórsdóttir who lived in Kópasker when the major earthquake hit, in 1976.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"My name is Hólmfríður Halldórsdóttir and I live in Kópasker.

On 13 January 1976, a major earthquake (around magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale) hit Kópasker. The epicentre was offshore, only 12 km from the village. It was the largest earthquake in a series which began on 20 December 1975 in connection with the Kröflueldar volcanic eruptions further south, closer to Lake Mývatn. Most of the seismic activity also occurred closer to the eruptions. Only the largest quakes could be felt in Kópasker, including the biggest quake which had hit until then, on Christmas Day.

Around noon on that day in January, I had gone to the store with my son and his friend, whom I was babysitting (both were turning 5). There were many people in the store, including children, but most of them had left the store before the earthquake hit. When I had finished my grocery shopping, I told the boys to wait outside while I took care of an errand in an office in the same building. I had just taken a seat at the end of the table, opposite the cashier, when we heard loud rumbling. The cashier jumped to his feet along with the other two office workers. At the same time everything started moving, folders fell from the shelves and the men fell to the floor. I didn’t try to get up but held onto the table for dear life. The time was exactly 1:29 pm. I don’t know how long it lasted but it felt as if the building would never stop shaking after the earthquake had passed.

When the shaking finally stopped, we all shouted at the same time: “What about the freezing plant?” We knew that many workers had been inside, taking down hanging lambs and replacing them with new carcasses. I was also afraid that the boys might have wandered back into the store, because the other boy’s mum worked there. But they had obeyed me and were waiting outside when I exited the building. We walked back home and they were like hares, jumping across the cracks which had opened up in the snow. They talked about the earthquake and came to the conclusion that it would be best to hit it with a giant sledgehammer so that it would stop.

I left my son’s friend with his father, who was home by then, and began tidying up my house. There weren’t a lot of damages, so we went to another house where I knew the women had been nervous because of the earthquakes. They were among the first people who were moved away from the village. Soon it was decided to move all women, children and elderly people away as all water pipes were broken, another earthquake could have been imminent (although it never came) and it was unknown how badly damaged buildings were.

But at that point, my son and I helped pick up objects that had fallen on the kitchen floor in the other house and placed everything that was in one piece back in the shelves. Then we went outside to get some snow, so that we could wipe the berry and rhubarb jam off the tiles, which were brand new; they had been installed just before Christmas.

When we returned to our house, my husband had come home, too. He had been out at sea on a fishing ship, almost exactly above the epicentre of the earthquake. He said it felt as if they had hit something at full speed, but there was nothing there that they could have hit and no other ship around. The men had all been in the forecastle having lunch. When they walked out onto the deck, they observed that the sea was bubbling, as far as they could see. Our son described the earthquake to his dad “as if the ground had jumped around like a madman.”

Around the same time that the first people were moved away, a storm hit from the northeast and it started snowing. At about 5 pm a car arrived which was to take me, my son, another woman and three other children to Húsavík. In the evening, the weather worsened. When we were driving on the western Tjörnnes peninsula, where the road went down three deep gullies, the visibility was so poor that I, who was sitting in the passenger seat, had to stick my head out the window to tell the driver where the edge of the road was because he couldn’t see it. That’s how we made it to Húsavík where we spent the night at my brother’s.

The next day the weather had improved and I decided to go to Akureyri with the mail van to my sister’s. However, the van was full, so my son and I were given a ride with a lorry, which was going to Svalbarðsströnd near Akureyri to pick up potatoes. The vehicles departed at the same time. At Ljósavatn lake there was a huge snowdrift. When we made it through the driver was given orders to drive back because it had become so frosty that it would damage the potatoes to transport them on the open platform. The lorry driver towed the mail van across the snowdrift and then turned back to Húsavík, but my son and I were given permission to sit on the mail bags.

We stopped at Stjórutjarnir, a school close by, where everyone was given something to eat. A car from Akureyri came to meet us so that everyone would get a ride into town. It was a little strange to listen to the people in the mail van talk about the earthquake. Rumours had started circulating and everything sounded much worse than it actually was, regarding damages and injuries. My son whispered to me: “Mum, are they talking about the earthquake back home? Was it really like that?” Fortunately, no one was seriously injured; the worst injuries were a broken nose and a broken toe, otherwise bruises and scratches. We were incredibly lucky, all of us, and a series of coincidences prevented a major disaster from happening. Two weeks later we returned home, as soon as the water pipes had been fixed."


Siglufjörður - The herring girl

Can you imagine working as a herring girl?
Listen to a story from Birna Björnsdóttir who started working as a herring girl on her 7th birthday.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"My name is Birna Björnsdóttir and I’m 77 years old. On my 7th birthday my dream came true when I was permitted to go with my mother to work and help her salt herring in barrels. As little girls we practiced arranging clothes pegs in Mackintosh boxes – we were so excited about taking part!

I was so small that I couldn’t reach into the herring barrels. Therefore, I stood on a salt box, my mum filled the bottom half of the barrel and then I took over. She taught me the procedure. On that first day, I nicked my mum’s knife while she was on a coffee break. She was not happy when she realised what I had done. But she was quick to notice that I knew how to work the knife and after that she found it hard to forbid me to it.
I was crazy about herring and I still am!

I never thought summer had truly arrived until the first herring boats came – then the town became crowded with all kinds of people. Most of the women in town worked as herring girls in the summer. The town was bustling and it didn’t hurt that it filled up with lots of handsome boys, too. It was such a fun time. Yes, we worked a lot – my longest shift was 36 hours! I had in fact planned to work 48 hours straight and my dad had a hard time dragging me home. We simply had so much fun. We went dancing, and we sang and danced every evening and into the night.

When the boats sailed into the harbour with the herring we had to be prepared to start working. The “call boys”, who were 11 or 12 years old, were tasked with waking us up when the boats came in. They walked between houses and knocked on the bedroom windows. Sometimes we were at the middle of a dance when the horns sounded and we had to go back to work. We just changed from our party dresses to work suits. We never worked by the clock and of course there were no telephones at that time.

I lived on the outskirts of town, some distance away from the salting station, so I kept my party dress at my friend’s house which was closer to the centre. Immediately after work I would go to her place, take off the boots, shower and put on the party dress. We walked along the streets in our heels and danced and enjoyed ourselves…

I love herring and I have been crazy about it all my life, and I still am. It is so much fun to participate in the herring shows organised by the Herring Era Museum in the summer—I have been involved in that for 30 years. Then we salt the herring, sing and dance and have fun, just like in the old days.

Even though I’ve turned 77, I’m in good health and for that I am thankful. I never suffered from back pain and I believe that the herring work has helped keep me in good shape. My only ailment is that one of my knees has become weak – I’m convinced that it’s because I’ve danced so much in my lifetime!"


Skagi - Of monsters, ghosts and even polar bears

Do you think there are ghosts, monsters or even polar bears roaming around the area?
Listen to a story from Sigrún Lárusdóttir that is born and raised in Skagi peninsula.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"Selvík is a cove on the eastern Skagi peninsula, approximately 35 km north of Sauðárkrókur. At the abandoned farm Selnes, on the northern side of the cove, one can clearly see the remains of a fishing station. Foreign merchants also traded there in centuries past. Selvík became a legalised trading centre on 27 November 1903. Merchants from Sauðárkrókur operated a branch there for some time and also a fish processing plant. Selvík was one of the places mentioned in Sturlunga saga, because it was from there that Kolbeinn ungi set off with his fleet of on the Day of St. John (24 June, or Midsummer) in 1244. He headed for the Westfjords but encountered the ships of Þórður kakali halfway across Húnaflói bay. The battle became known as Flóabardagi; Iceland’s only sea battle.

The last resident of Selnes was Jón Norðmann Jónasson, a well-known scholar of ancient studies and he was personally familiar with various ghosts in the area. He was born in 1889 and died in 1976. He worked as a teacher in Reykjavík in the winter and spent his summers at Selnes. People often asked him to foster unruly boys, who thought their time was better spent on something other than schoolbooks. Jón had a way with these boys and often when he went to Selnes in the spring, he took a group of them with him. Over the summer, he worked on improving their behaviour, which was usually a great success and after their stay with Jón, their attitude was quite different.

Jón ended his teaching career by tutoring well-behaved country kids from the farms on Skagi. I was one of his pupils. He was a wonderful teacher and it was especially fun to listen to his ghost stories in the evening. We were in a boarding school and he would always tell us stories. As the story progressed, we started lifting our legs from the floor and placing them in our beds, because you never knew what might be lurking underneath and could grab hold of you!

Jón was not fazed by ghosts, monsters or any supernatural creature. But there was someone that he was afraid of and despised: The Russians. He always assumed that they would attack Iceland. One night a ship sailed into Selvík, shining its searchlights straight up Selnesbjörg cliff. But it was only coast guard cruiser Albert trying out its new searchlights! Jón was dead scared. He rounded up all the boys that stayed with him at the time, loaded them onto his Farmal Kubb tractor; some stood at the back and other ran alongside it. He was determined to escape before the Russians would reach shore. Later he realised that there were only Icelanders onboard, so it turned out alright.

Skagi is the part of Iceland were the most polar bears have arrived. In recent decades, three polar bears have swum ashore on Skagi. In my youth, sea ice was common and I was sent to the beach to round up the sheep. The sheep had to be brought home even though polar bears might be near. No one told me to be afraid of them, just to watch out, use my head, be sensible and if I were to spot a strange animal, it would be best to run home and leave the sheep. That never happened but there are many more stories of polar bear arrivals on Skagi."

Ytra Lón - The heartbeat of Mother Earth

Have you experienced the energy so pure and so strong, felt the heartbeat of Mother Earth?
Listen to a story from Mirjam Blekkenhorst and how fate brought her to Iceland in her early twenties.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"I was in my early twenties, that summer I had been on holiday in Swedish Lapland. Just me, a couple of friends and our backpacks. Hiking in the rough wilderness of Sarek National Park. Drinking the fresh water from it’s lakes and rivers, gazing at the golden sunsets over the mountains.
Such heart touching experiences for someone who grew up in an overcrowded, completely cultivated country.
Once back in the Netherlands I felt out of place. Couldn’t find my purpose in the Academy of Arts I was in. Just had this overwhelming feeling I had to get out of the country again.
Just somewhere… into nature…
Fate brought me to Iceland.
There I was in the beginning of November, in Reykjavík…
After a few weeks I had to get out of the city. And this time faith brought me to the North of Iceland.
On Hólssel, a farm close to Iceland’s remote highlands, I woke up on a beautiful clear December day, everything covered in snow. The energy so pure and so strong, I felt the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
I knew I had come Home.

So here I was, for the first time in my life I felt I had come home.
But three years later faith had other plans for us. Me and by that time my husband.
We had to move.
We started looking for a place just as isolated and quiet as we were used to. A place that could offer us enough pastures / grazeland for our sheep, a fertile piece of land where we could keep on farming. All this we found here in Ytra Lón on Langanes peninsula.
Superb land for our sheep. A lake and a river full of trout. Beaches with driftwood. Islands with breeding Eider. Mother Earth providing us with everything we could need.
So we moved…

To be honest, Langanes didn’t feel as home to me from the beginning. Not as Hólssel did so naturally. It took effort, and patience, and adapting.
I saw the birds arriving in spring… But didn’t really see the rich birdlife. I was grateful for the driftwood, of which we used plenty in rebuilding the place. But maybe didn’t really ‘feel’ how special this was.
Every time we went back to Hólssel tears just started flowing. Yes, it took me some years… Yes, I was homesick… To my old home… And sometimes to the Netherlands…
But I always knew that for some reason I had to be here.
We did build Ytra Lón from the ground up after it had been neglected for many years. And we build a family. Our family grew with four children.
It was a lot of work, but the land has been so generous. And I started to see the richness of it more and more each year that past.
Birds returning one after the other each spring. Breeding, raising their young, then leaving for their winter grounds. Our sheep, living with us and providing us with a living every year, again and again. The living of the land and with the land. I couldn’t think of any other way of living.
By now, we also run a guesthouse and retreat on our property. We show our guests around, tell them about the farm, about our way of living. Show them Langanes peninsula, it’s beautiful nature and wildlife and tell it’s stories. I love connecting to people from all over the world like this. It is so amazing, though living remote like us, getting to meet all those people. I’m very grateful for this.
Taking that leap in my early twenties, jumping on a plane to Iceland, has been the best thing I ever did.
The energy here at the Edge of the Arctic is so pure, the people living here are so grounded and connected to their environment.
For me Iceland and the Icelanders was love at first sight. There was never a way back to ‘civilization’…"

Þrístapar - The last execution in Iceland

Have you heard about the last execution in Iceland?
Listen to a story from Magnús Ólafsson where he talks about when his father and grandfather dug up the bones of Agnes and Friðrik.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Vilhjálmur Bermann Bragason.


"Agnes Magnúsdóttir and Friðrik Sigurðsson had been sentenced to death for the murder of two men in the night of 14 March 1828, Natan Ketilsson, farmer at Illugastaðir, and Pétur Jónsson from Geitaskarð. The district commissioner, Björn Blöndal, had a place called Þrístapar prepared for the execution. He chose it because it was elevated and easily accessible, so that 150 people could gather around and witness the event. The spectators were asked to stand in three lines and encircle the place of execution and no one was allowed to look away. The farmers who were unable to attend had to send farmhands in their stead.

Friðrik rode to the execution on his horse, dismounted it and greeted the onlookers, district commissioner Blöndal and Guðmundur, the executioner. Friðrik was a young man, not even 20 years old, and he arrived singing to his own execution. Guðmundur performed his duty and after one strike Friðrik’s head rolled off. The spectators probably stood so close that they were splattered with his blood.

Agnes was in a completely different state of mind. She was downhearted when she arrived and felt as if she had not been given the chance to speak up for herself and protest her treatment. She left this world feeling that her case was unresolved. She was very discontent when she died. She may still be discontent, to this day, and of the opinion that no one was willing to listen to her while she was alive. In 1828, poor maids had no advocates. They were supposed to sit and stand according to their master’s command. One has to put oneself in their shoes—what is a young woman to do when trapped as a housemaid with men who control absolutely everything? It’s impossible to get away. It is known that both Agnes and Sigríður, another maid at the same farm, had tried to escape Illugastaðir. But at that time, the masters held the absolute power, and the maids were insignificant.

In that time, criminals could not be buried in sacred ground, so they were buried close to the place of execution. In compliance with the law, their heads were put on spikes. But the following morning, the heads were gone. No one knew what had happened to the heads. But the fact was that Guðrún, the housewife at Þingeyrar, had sent a young farmhand to collect the heads and bury them in a grave in the Þingeyrar cemetery, which had recently been dug. She found the thought of leaving the heads unburied to be unbearable.

Many years later a man came to see my grandfather, who lived at Sveinsstaðir where Þrístapar is located. He said that he had been given permission to dig up the remains of Agnes and Friðrik and asked my grandfather to help him. My grandfather told him that this would be difficult as he didn’t know the exact location of the graves. He had lived at Sveinsstaðir his whole life and had often thought about the graves but didn’t know where they were.

The man said that he had information about the location of the graves. He had been sent by Agnes Magnúsdóttir herself and that she had delivered a message through a woman by psychography. The man added that Agnes had revealed that the farmhand from Þingeyrar had truly gone out the night after the execution but had lost his courage and instead of carrying the heads the 6-km-distance to Þingeyrar, he had buried them close to the coffins. “He was unable to remove my head from the spike, so he broke it,” she elaborated in the psychography.

They started digging: The man, my granddad and my dad, who was 19 at the time. It only took them 15 minutes to find the graves by ramming an iron pole into the ground. They found pieces of wood and underneath them, the bones of Agnes and Friðrik, which had been inside the wooden coffins. When they continued digging, they found two skulls, and next to one of them, a 10-cm-long wooden stick. Their remains were excavated and buried in sacred ground at Tjörn on Tjörnes, 104 years later.

It is remarkable how Agnes made sure to have her and Friðrik’s remains dug up; how she delivered the message through a woman by psychography, stating that she would like their remains to by buried in holy ground. Agnes even pointed out the location of their heads, close to the place of execution. Even the greatest sceptics who refuse to believe in life after death find it hard to object in light of this overwhelming evidence."