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Iceland Mag

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  • Travel

    Video: Conditions on Öxi mountain road a reminder spring travel in Iceland is challenging

    By Staff

    Not an F-road Axarvegur road (Öxi) is not designated as an F-road, (F actually stands for Fjallvegur, mountain road), but it's still only suitable to well equipped cars and 4x4s. Photo/Screenshot from video, see below.

    A popular mountain road in East Iceland, Öxi or Axarvegur (Road no. 939) is only suitable for well equipped 4x4s and mountain trucks due to mud and poor conditions caused by melting snow. The road is used by many drivers as a shortcut on the Ring Road. It shortens the distance between Djúpivogur village and the town of Egilsstaðir by 71 km (44 mi).

    Öxi is not serviced year round and it becomes impassable in the spring. Municipalities and residents in East Iceland have been calling on the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority to repair and improve the road for more than 10 years, but the IRCA has lacked funding to improve the road.

    The mayor of Djúpivogur shared the following video of conditions on the road yesterday. Despite the atrocious conditions dozens of cars drive the road each day. Nearly 400 cars drive the road each day in summer. 

    Read more: All roads in Central Highlands are closed or impassable

    The video should serve as a reminder that driving conditions on mountain roads and other less traveled trails in Iceland become extremely difficult in the spring. Remember that if conditions are this bad on roads which are actually open to traffic, they are even worse on roads which have been closed to traffic!

    Read more: Photos: Travellers in a compact car get stuck on mountain route 66 only suitable for trucks

  • Music

    National Broadcasting Service will discuss demands Iceland boycott 2019 Eurovision in Israel

    By Staff

    Eurovision and Politics Israel will host the 2019 Eurovision song contest after winning this year's competition. Now a large number of Icelanders has demanded Iceland boycott the competition to protest Israeli treatment of the Palestinain people. Photo/change.org

    22,000 people have signed a petition demanding Iceland boycott the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in Israel. The petition condemns the human rights violations of Israel against the Palestinian people. The board of the National Broadcasting Service RÚV has now stated it will discuss the demand at its meeting in June. RÚV will also discuss whether to make changes to how Iceland picks its entry into the competition. Iceland landed dead last in this year's competition.

    Read more: Mounting pressure on Iceland to boycott Eurovision 2019 in Israel

    Those members of the board of RÚV who spoke to the local newspaper Fréttablaðið said that the decision to boycott next year's contest in Israel was up to the director of RÚV. Any questions about the programming of the station would have to be taken internally without interference from either the government of Iceland or individual cabinet members. The director of programming for RÚV told Fréttablaðið that a decision would most likely not be made until late summer.

    RÚV is facing growing pressure from the public to withdraw from the competition in protest of Israeli human rights abuses.

  • Travel

    Police stops collection of illegal parking fees at Hraunfossar, again

    By Staff

    Hraunfossar The parking lot overlooking the spectacular site has become the site of one of the strangest legal arguments in Iceland. Photo/Vilhelm

    Police in West Iceland has stopped the collection of illegal parking fees by a couple of local "businessmen" at Hraunfossar waterfalls. The local news site Vísir reports that the Police arrived at the scene yesterday after the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority demanded that the men stop impeding traffic on the road and cease the collection of fees for the use of a public roadway.

    This is the second time police has to intervene at the site to stop the collection of illegal fees. In October 2017 Police stopped the same individuals from collecting illegal parking fees at Hraunfossar waterfalls. All relevant authorities have stated that the men do not have a legal right to collect the fees, and that their activities are in clear violation of the law. The men's lawyer rejected these arguments in an interview with the local newspaper Morgunblaðið, claiming the Police had no legal .

    Read our full coverage of the conflict as it unfolded last year:

    Read more: Police has stopped the collection of illegal parking fees at Hraunfossar waterfalls

    On Tuesday investors who have rented land overlooking Hraunfossar waterfall started stopping cars on the road leading to the parking lot, charging them a 1,000 ISK fee for using the parking lot. The men have rented the land which covers 90% of the parking lot. The other 10% belongs to a restaurant/café. The operators of the restaurant have opposed the parking fee. Moreover, the parking lot and the road leading to it are under the jurisdiction of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority, which is also responsible for the maintenance of the parking lot.

    The IRCA asked the Police in West Iceland to stop the collection of the parking fees, pointing out that it is illegal for private individuals to impede traffic on a public roadway or to charge for their use. The Icelandic Environment Agency, which is responsible for Hraunfossar waterfalls, has also rejected the fee. No fees can be imposed by landowners at protected natural sites without the permission of the Environment Agency.

    Read more: Illegal entry fees again imposed at Hraunfossar: Visitors "robbed in broad daylight"

    Last year the investors charged visitors 1,500 ISK for using the parking lot. The fee has now been dropped to 1,000 ISK. The parking voucher now also doubles as a coupon for a "free cup of coffee" at a road stop operated. One of the the "businessmen" operates the rest stop Baulan on the Ring Road in West Iceland.

    What should you do?
    We at Iceland Magazine would like to stress that the parking fees at Hraunfossar are the ONLY entrance or parking fees at tourist sites in Iceland which are open to legal challenge. All other fees are levied legally by landowners or the relevant public authorities. However, the illegality and shamelessness of the Hraunfossar fees is a stain on the Icelandic tourism industry.

    In case the "businessmen" start collecting the fees again visitors should of course feel free to pay the illegal fees, but remember that their collection does not have the power of law. It is illegal to impede travel on a public roadway, and the parking lot at Hraunfossar is maintained not by the landowners but by taxpayers through the national road authority.

    We would therefore like to echo the instructions of Hraunfossar restaurant which has advised its customers to ignore the fees. If you are looking for a cup of coffee in West Iceland you should stop at the Hraunfossar café, and decline the coffee coupon for Baulan. 

  • Accidents, Search and Rescue

    Local woman died in collision on Ring Road yesterday in S. Iceland. Three foreign travelers injured

    By Staff

    At the scene The accident took place near Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which can be seen in the background. Photo/Magnús Hlynur

    The Ring Road in South Iceland, west of Seljalandsfoss waterfall, was closed yesterday afternoon following a serious car crash. Two cars were involved in the accident which took place at the intersection of the Ring Road and the road to Landeyjarhöfn harbour. According to an announcement from the Police in South Iceland a middle aged local woman died in the crash. Three foreign travelers, all middle aged men, who were in the other vehicle were all injured. Two of the men suffered serious injuries. Their injuries are not considered critical.

    The accident took place shortly after two in the afternoon. Two vehicles, one carrying the a local woman who was alone in the vehicle, and the second carrying three foreign travelers, crashed into one another. All the people were wearing seatbelts. Police has not published any further information about the cause of the accident.

    The Ring Road was closed following the accident and was not re-opened until 20:00 in the evening. Traffic was re-routed around the accident scene, causing only minor delays to traffic. A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard airlifted the three foreign travelers to the National University Hospital in Reykjavík where they are being treated. The nationality of the three men has not been released.

    This is the eight fatal road accident in South Iceland this year.

  • Geology

    A primer on Öræfajökull, Iceland's tallest peak and second deadliest volcano

    By Staff

    Öræfajökull Seen from Skeiðarársandur glacial outwash plain. Photo/Gunnþóra

    It seems fitting that Iceland's tallest peak also one of the deadliest volcanoes of Iceland. Öræfajökull is one of two major volcanoes hidden beneath Vatnajökull glacier which have shown growing activity in recent months. The other, Bárðarbunga, located beneath the NW part of the glacier, has also been showing growing signs of activity since it erupted in the 2014-15 Holuhraun eruption. 

    Read more: Quick primer on Bárðarbunga, Iceland's most powerful volcano

    Both are among the most powerful and dangerous volcanoes in Iceland. Unlike Bárðarbunga, which has historically shown relatively high levels of activity Öræfajökull has been completely dormant for 250 years. In 2017 the volcano began stirring again. 

    Iceland's tallest peak  

    öræfajökull location
    Öræfajökull Located in SE Iceland. Photo/loftmyndir.is

    The tallest peak in Öræfajökull is Hvannadalshnjúkur peak, standing at 2,110 m (6,921 ft) above sea-level, Hvannadalshnjúkur is a peak in the NW part of the ridge surrounding the volcano's crater. Note that the volcano and glacier share the same name, Öræfajökull.

    The volcano is covered with an ice cap which forms the southernmost part of Vatnajökull glacier. Öræfajökull glacier has several outlet glaciers, including Svínafellsjökull and Fjallsjökull who empty into two of the most popular glacial lagoons in Iceland. 

    Dormant for more than 250 years
    Öræfajökull is believed to erupt once every few hundred years. It has erupted twice since Iceland was settled in the 9th century. A massive eruption in 1362 and a second smaller eruption in 1727. The 1362 eruption is the second deadliest eruption in Icelandic history, following the 1783-1784 Lakagígar eruption.  

    Öræfajökull glacier
    Öræfajökull The glacier seen from the air. Photo/IMO, Oddur Sigurðsson

    Öræfajökull erupts in giant steam-blast eruptions, also known as phreatic or ultravolcanian eruption, similar to the 1883 Krakatoa eruption. Steam-blast eruptions occur when magma heats ground water, creating a near-instantaneous evaporation and explosion which can eject enormous quantities of ash, rock and volcanic material which is then deposited over surrounding areas.

    "The Glacier of the Wasteland" 
    The exact death toll in the 1362 Öræfajökull eruption is not known. It destroyed one of the most prosperous farmland regions in South Iceland, killing all inhabitants and livestock at 20-40 farms in the volcano's foothills. Following the eruption, which deposited 10 cubic kilometers of volcanic material over fields and farms in the region, the region's name was changed to Öræfi, which translates as "Wasteland" in modern Icelandic.

    The 1362 eruption is considered to be the largest tepthra eruption in the world in the last 1000 years.

    It is clear, however, that it is dwarfed by Lakagígar when ca. 10,000 people (20% of the Icelandic population at the time) and 60-80% of all livestock died. The Lakagígar eruption was also responsible for a cooling of the temperature in the northern hemisphere and harvest failures in Europe which are believed to have killed millions more.

    Waking up from a slumber

    Öræfajökull quakes, 9.feb18
    Öræfajökull The crater and epicenters of quakes on February 9 2018. Photo/IMO

    The volcano is believed to have been completely dormant between the 1727 eruption and the current wave of activity when began last year. Since then the volcano has been showing signs of growing activity which is caused by magma thrusting its way to the surface. Geothermal activity in the caldera has also been growing, creating a deep cauldron in the ice cap.

    Read more: Magma movements in Öræfajökull volcano a clear sign of growing activity

    Scientists have been unable to locate exactly where the magma movements are located, but the movement is somewhere in the top six kilometers (3.1 mi) of the crust. The magma movements are still relatively small, significantly smaller than what was seen in the lead up to the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. However, it is large enough to cause the creation of a new powerful geothermal area in the volcano's caldera, capable of melting deep cauldrons in the ice cap.

    Páll Einarsson, a geophysicist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office  told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið in April that the tremors have been relatively minor, but they point to significant activity in the volcano, and are most likely caused by magma movements. The relatively small tremors are also notable because the volcano has historically been very quiet. They are a clear sign something unusual is going on.

    "The tremors in Öræfajökull and the caldera of the volcano have always been relatively small, so there is very good reason to keep a close eye on the development."

    A replay of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption?

    Skeiðarárbrú, Öræfajökull
    Öræfajökull Seen from Skeiðarárbrú bridge on the Ring Road Öræfajökull. It is easy to see why the region is called "The Wastes". Photo/Arnar Halldórsson

    Páll stressed that this did not mean an eruption was imminent. Volcanoes move very slowly, he pointed out, and it can take years, even decades, for a volcano to work itself up into an eruption. He pointed out that the behavior of Öræfajökull now is similar to activity in Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 1998. Twelve years later (in 2010) Eyjafjallajökull finally erupted. This means we might have to wait for a decade for an eruption in Öræfajökull.

    Two popular tourist destinations could be affected

    Two of Iceland's most popular tourist destinations are located in the foothills of Öræfajökull: Skaftafell visitor center in Vatnajökull National Park and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency estimates that it will have a 20 minute warning before any eruption in the glacier.

    If the threat of an eruption in Öræfajökull wasn't enough a second major natural disaster is looming at one of its outlet glaciers: Receding glaciers threaten a catastrophic mountain collapse at Svínafellsjökull glacier.

    Read more: Popular SE Iceland glacial lagoon a ticking time bomb: Catastrophic mountain collapse looms

    In the meantime people traveling in the foothills of Öræfajökull (the region between Skaftafell visitor center in Vatnajökull National Park and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon) are asked to familiarize themselves with the evacuation plan for the region.

    Read more: Emergency evacuation plan in case of eruption in Öræfajökull glacier

  • Crime

    Reminder: Collection of parking fees at Hraunfossar is NOT legal

    By Staff

    Hraunfossar waterfalls One of the most picturesque waterfalls in Iceland. Photo/Pjetur

    Yesterday investors who have rented land overlooking Hraunfossar waterfall started charging visitors a "Parking Fee". The parking voucher doubles as a coupon for a free cup of coffee at a rest stop operated by the same investors. This is the second time the investors attempt to impose the fee. Last year Police stopped their activity after all relevant authorities had clarified that the fees were illegal. 

    Read more: Illegal entry fees again imposed at Hraunfossar: Visitors "robbed in broad daylight"

    Last year the investors charged visitors 1,500 ISK for using the parking lot. The fee has now been dropped to 1,000 ISK. 

    It is unclear whether anything else has changed since Octobe when Police in West Iceland stopped the collection of parking fees at Hraunfossar. A local restaurateur who operates a small restaurant/café next to the parking lot where the parking fees are being collected told the newspaper Fréttablaðið that the men were at the parking lot all day charging visitors for using the parking lot.

    Read our full coverage of the conflict as it unfolded last year:

    Read more: Police has stopped the collection of illegal parking fees at Hraunfossar waterfalls

    A spokesman for the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority told Fréttablaðið that the investors were collecting the fees in violation of law: The parking lot was constructed by the IRCA, which is also responsible for its maintenance. It is also illegal to impede traffic on a public roadway in the way the men are doing.

    To make the parking fees even more problematic the investors only control a part of the land where the parking lot is situated. 10% of the parking lot sits on land controlled by the restaurant. The restaurateur has protested the parking fees, arguing they are driving business away from his establishment.

    Neither the Police in West Iceland nor the Icelandic Environment Agency, which is responsible for Hraunfossar, have commented on the fees this year. The Environment Agency has previously said that it has not permitted the collection of fees at Hraunfossar.

    What should you do?
    We at Iceland Magazine would like to stress that the parking fees at Hraunfossar are the ONLY entrance or parking fees at tourist sites in Iceland which are open to legal challenge. All other fees are levied legally by landowners or the relevant public authorities. However, the illegality and shamelessness of the Hraunfossar fees is a stain on the Icelandic tourism industry.

    Visitors should of course feel free to pay the illegal fees, but remember that their collection does not have the power of law. It is illegal to impede travel on a public roadway, and the parking lot at Hraunfossar is maintained not by the landowners but by taxpayers through the national road authority.

    We would therefore like to echo the instructions of Hraunfossar restaurant which has adviced its customers to ignore the fees. The restaurant owns 10% of the parking lot by the waterfall.

    The investors who are collecting the fees also operate the rest stop Baulan on the Ring Road in West Iceland.

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