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Oddbjarnarsker Island

Region: West Iceland
Coordinates: 65.346969° N 23.1546197° W

About Island Oddbjarnarsker

This westernmost islet of the Breidafiord Bay is really not much more than a 100 m long and 80 m wide, low lying heap of shell sand 16 km south of Bardastrond and 40 km north of the Snaefell Peninsula. The islet is densely burrowed by the puffins and many other bird species breed there or rest on the surrounding skerries at low tide. It is unlikely, that anyone has considered taking up a permanent residence there, but for centuries on end no spot in the country was more densely populated during the spring and autumn fishing seasons. According to the County Registry by Mr. Olafur Sivertsen, the fisheries started from there in the 14th century or even earlier. The people of East Bardastrond, Strandir and Dalir Districts mainly had their fishing outfits there.

When the island property of Island Flatey was divided, Islet Oddbjarnarsker became the property of Island Hergilsey, but the people of Flatey continued exploiting some of its advantages for a while. In 1703 27 fishing outfits were in operation and 167 fishermen were divided between 4, 5 and 6 crew boats. Sometimes as many as 40 boats were located on the islet in spring and the number of fishermen reached 200. Their primitive accommodations were not the only houses on the islet. Fish sheds were built there as well and the main processing area was the depression in the middle of the Islet. The fisheries from Island Oddbjarnarsker started dwindling during the latter part of the 19th century. At the turn of the century only about 9 outfits were still operational.

During the period 1783-84, the so-called Mist Hardships, many poor people gathered on the islet in attempt to feed themselves. The remarkable farmer of Island Hergilsey, Eggert Olafsson, transported dozens of them (70) to the islet, where he accommodated them in the fishermen’s huts and even under overturned boats, cared for those who were to weak, and then sent them out to sea to fish. When the fishing season was over, he returned them to the mainland with their part of the catch.

Nowadays little remains to remind us of the industrious forefathers, who spent their time making a living there. All the primitive houses have disappeared. The islet is more densely populated now with birds and seals than during the centuries of fishing. Among the species we see there are eiders, fulmars, shags, cormorants and kittiwakes. The harbour seals bask on the skerries and the horse head seals swim about in great numbers further out. Further west are the best watching grounds for people, who are looking for the largest mammal of the world, the blue whale.

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