The First Openly Gay Head of Government

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttirborn 4 October 1942) is a former Prime Minister of Iceland. An MP since 1978, she was Iceland´s Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security from 1987–1994 and 2007–2009. She has been a member of the Althing (Iceland´s parliament) for Reykjavík constituencies since 1978, winning re-election on eight successive occasions. She became Iceland´s first female Prime Minister and the world´s first openly lesbian head of government on 1 February 2009. Read more here

Where have all the Puffins gone

Iceland is home to the world´s largest colonies of puffins. Over half of the world population of the Atlantic Puffin breeds in Iceland. It is estimated that around 3 million pairs breed in Iceland each year – that´s 6 million puffins but only 70% of the total are breeding birds. So the total population of puffins in Iceland is between 8 and 10 million birds.

In the Westmann Islands, which holds about half of all Icelandic puffins, the puffins are both harvested and saved. Puffins have been a vital source of food through the centuries for Icelanders in the islands. Read more here

The Warm Beach of Reykjavik

The Nauthólsvík Beach is located where people used to take sea baths. Geothermical water from Reykjavík Energy is provided into two hot tubs as into the sea in the bay wich has been separated with a wall to the east to minimize the water change. A part of the bay is still open and allowes the sea to mix with the geothermical water. Read more here

They Used to be Strong

The World's Strongest Man is an event in strength athletics which has been described by a number of highly respected authorities in the sport as the premier event in strongman. The championship has been won eight times by Icelandic men. Only the USA has won as many. Read more here

 

The hidden Voters of Iceland

A July 1998 survey by Dagblaðið Vísir found that 54.4% of Icelanders surveyed claimed to believe in elves, while 45.6% did not.This survey has been criticized for only allowing yes or no responses rather than more nuanced answers. Notably, it also showed that supporters of Framsóknarflokkur (the Progressive Party currently in power) believed in elves more than other political parties. Read more here

How to Fight a Volcano

Around 01:00 on 23 January, 1973, a volcanic eruption of the mountain Eldfell began on Heimaey. The ground on Heimaey started to quake and fissures began to form. The fissures grew to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) in length, and soon lava began to erupt. Lava sprayed into the air from the fissures in the ground. Volcanic ash was blown out to sea. Later, the situation deteriorated. When the fissures closed, the eruption converted to a concentrated lava flow that headed toward the harbour.

The encroaching lava flow threatened to destroy the harbour, the main source of livelihood for most of the town. The eruption lasted until 3 July the same year. Townspeople constantly sprayed the lava with cold seawater, causing some of it to solidify and much to be diverted, thus saving the harbour from destruction. Read more here

The First Lady of Iceland

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir,  (born April 15, 1930, Reykjavík, Iceland), teacher, cultural figure, and politician who served as president of Iceland from 1980 to 1996. She was the first woman in the world to be elected head of state in a national election. Read more here and here

The Bold, Cold and The Beutiful

Iceland is one of the most successful countries at the Miss World pageant with three victories, a record for a nation with a population of less than half million people.

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Old, but Still Around

The Althingi is the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world.Its establishment, as an outdoor assembly held on the plains of Þingvellir from about the year 930 AD,laid the foundation for an independent national existence in Iceland. To begin with, the Althing was a general assembly of the Icelandic Commonwealth, where the country’s most powerful Leaders (goðar) met to decide on legislation and dispense justice.

Then, all free men could attend the assemblies, which were usually the main social event of the year and drew large crowds of farmers and their families, parties involved in legal disputes, traders, craftsmen, storytellers and travellers. Those attending the assembly dwelt in temporary camps (búðir) during the session. The centre of the gathering was the Lögberg, or Law Rock, a rocky outcrop on which the Lawspeaker (lögsögumaður) took his seat as the presiding official of the assembly. His responsibilities included reciting aloud the laws in effect at the time. It was his duty to proclaim the procedural law of Althing to those attending the assembly each year.  Read more here

 

Rats... It Weren´t The Rats After All

In 2000 Gunnar Karlsson pointed out that the Black Death killed between half and two-thirds of the population of Iceland, although there were no rats in Iceland at this time. Rats were accidentally introduced in the nineteenth century, and have never spread beyond a small number of urban areas attached to seaports. In the fourteenth century there were no urban settlements in Iceland. Iceland was unaffected by the later plagues which are known to have been spread by rats. Read more here