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Hvallatur Islands

Region: West Iceland
Coordinates: 65.383886° N 22.896279° W

Islands Hvallatur comprise of three, long and parallel groups of islands. The two channels separating them were important for communications. One of them is not passable when the tide is low and the other one only during spring and autumn tides. When that happens it is possible to travel all over the islands, islets and skerries on foot. The southernmost part is the largest, about 4½ km long from Channel Breidasund. This part is commonly referred to as the Latra Lands. The home island is about one kilometre southwest of the innermost part of the Latra Lands. Its islands and islets, The Home Lands, continue to the southwest in the direction of Channel Flateyjarsund.

The shortest way from Islands Skaleyjar to Island Flatey and Islands Svefneyjar lies through the channel, which only dries up during spring and autumn tides. Its narrowest and shallowest passages were cleared already in the early past and then later as well. Farmers from the mainland also used this route to shorten the way to Island Flatey. The home island is rather small, but the total hay fields of Islands Hvallatur is the largest on the so-called Western Islands, which count about 240 altogether. The main islands of the Home Lands are: Nautey, Djupey, Treseyjar, Rotareyjar, Yztaey and a myriad of islets. Two so-called Islands Akureyjar are attached to the home island.

In the early 20th century a young horse was bought from farm Muli on the Skalmarnes Peninsula on the mainland. It got homesick and swam, with pauses on the islets enroute, some 7-8 km to reach its goal. It must have had to fight the strong tidal currents in the channels, but the weather must have been rather good on the way, otherwise it would hardly have made it. This deed was rewarded by letting the horse stay at farm Muli. Later, when the horse was old, its owner moved south to the Snaefell Peninsula on the other side of the bay. In spite of a distance of more than 50 km across the bay, the horse attempted to swim back home, but always had to give up and only got to some of the islands close to its new home.

No indisputable, documented sources are available on the settlement of the Islands Hvallatur and they are not mentioned in the Book of Settlements. They are mentioned as Islands Kjalareyjar in the Laxdaela Saga, Sturlunga Saga and the Bishops’ Sagas. A few legends from the islands are recited in the Legends of Jon Arnason.

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