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Grimsey Island

Region: North Iceland
Coordinates: 66.5456205° N 18.0386071° W

About Grimsey

Island Grimsey is the northernmost inhabited part of Iceland. It has an area of 5,3 km² and is situated 41 km north of the main island. The Arctic Circle crosses it and the sun does not set there at summer solstice. The island is framed with precipice except the southern part and its highest point is 105m. Although the island is on the Arctic Circle, the weather is relatively mild: The average temperature of the coldest month, January, is -1,1°C and the warmest, August, +8,3°C. Grimsey is a community with about 100 inhabitants, who base their livelyhood almost solely on the fisheries but also on limited tourism and agriculture and the bird cliffs, which saved them several times from famine and the scurvy grass growing there from scorbutic disease. Polar bears have often appeared on the island, being brought there by the drifting ice flows from Greenland. When it happened in 1969, one polar bear was shot and is preserved stuffed in the district museum in the village Husavik. The number of inhabitants was 102 on December 1. 1996.

The island’s structure is basalt, sometimes columnar, especially in the south and west. There are thick strata of sandstone in the cove Basavik in the northwest. Grimsey is the remnants of a bigger island, which has been and still is being worn down by the sea. It is totally vegetated, not a single gravel plain or a cliff protrudes through it. The main vegetation is grass growing in peat soil, heather and shrubs are not to be found, but extensive patches of mosses are widespread. At least 119 species of peat plants have been discovered there. The avifauna is rich in species and individuals. At least 60 species either breed there or stay for the summer. Traditionally people are roped down the cliffs the first three weeks of June to collect eggs.

It is known, that the island was settled very early in historical times, but no available documentation confirms when. According to legends there were up to 50 farms on the island at one time but that is very unlikely. The number of farms was probably never greater than 12 and all of them belonged to the monastery at Modruvellir in the Eyjafiord Valley most of the catholic era. The present settlement is solely located on the southern- and western parts of Grimsey, most of it around the little harbour, which has been much improved during the last few years, even to the extent to transport big rocks from the mainland.

Grimsey is a community with about 100 inhabitants, who base their livelihood almost solely on the fisheries but also on limited agriculture and the bird cliffs, which saved them several times from famine and the scurvy grass growing there from scorbutic disease.

The church site Midgardur, was a parsonage until a few years ago. Now the reverends of Akureyri serve the island. The islanders have a community centre and a branch of the Eyjafiord cooperative shop. This cooperative society was founded in 1941. They also have an airstrip and a ferry also connects them with the mainland. They got a wireless station in 1929 and were connected with the automatic telephone network in 1973. A post office has been operated since the turn of the last century. The lighthouse was built in 1937 and the weather station was established in 1874.

The island is referred to in legends and the Saga literature.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century word got out, that the islanders were good chess players. A wealthy American, Willard Fiske, then gave the islanders quite a few chessboards, a good library on chess and funds to support and develope it.
See Selfoss waterfalls

In 1793 the island was almost abandoned when a disease killed all but 6 of the male population. The remaining 6 were sent to the mainland to fetch more of their kind. On the way back the boat was lost at sea and everyone drowned leaving the clergyman the as the only one remaining of the male species.

Polar bears have often appeared on the island, being brought there by the drifting ice flows from Greenland. When it happened in 1969, one polar bear was shot and is preserved stuffed in the folk museum in the small town Husavik.

North Iceland Saga Trail

Photo Credit: Visit North Iceland

 

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