is the northernmost inhabited island of Iceland.
It has an area of 5,3 km² and is located 41 km north of the
mainland. The Arctic Circle
crosses it and the sun does not set there at summer solstice.
The island is framed with precipices except the southern part and
its highest point is 105 m. 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. 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.
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