June 9 – Isafjordur, Iceland
Isafjodur sits in the Westfjord region a long way from Reykjavik. The small fishing town of about 2,400 may usually be rather quiet, but we arrived on Whit Monday (?), a religious holiday in a rather non-religious country. A long weekend, so many shops weren’t open.
We started the cool day at the University Center with Peter Weiss, an energetic and funny director of the facility. He provided a detailed presentation about the region; its challenges and opportunities. President Ransdell presented Peter with is Kentucky Colonel designation, which mightily impressed Peter. Of course, his red towel was a big hit. From here, groups dispersed.
The youth group met their guide for it was in Isafjordur that they were to complete their $100 solution project. They had a few specific tasks such as learning the town, interacting with local folks, and making purchasing in the local currency, and questioning their guide. So off they went.
Several of us continued on with Peter for a view of the town and to continue discussing opportunities. We ended upon a wonderful bakery, surrounded by families (holiday, remember), to discuss things. Since it was one the few places open, everyone else came by at some point.
Oh.. and Wi-Fi was free at the University Centre and several over shops in town, so catch up time for several of us.
This was also out first taste of Icelandic salted fish. The dried cod isn’t really salty to the taste, rather the salt is a preservative. Our new Icelandic friend Monika introduced many of us to it and she had to finish before getting back to the ship.
Isafjordur allowed many of the Toppers to experience a glacier up close. The tremendously steep hillside of the fjord provided a challenge that several of the students had to overcome. The youth team attempted to throw “ice” balls. Don’t’ think it worked too well.
Isafjordur faces many challenges that include its location relative to the majors centers in the country, its heavy reliance on the fishing industry and the potential changes due to climate change. As stated, Iceland is reliant on the Gulf Stream that provided warm currents. In our research we’ve found that the melting Greenland glaciers and Arctic ice cap will increase the freshwater mix in the oceans. This may slow the currents on which Iceland relies that could make the island inhospitable. Global warming could lead to a refreezing of Iceland. This is complicated stuff. Ice core samples that we’ve seen show the tremendous increase in carbon dioxide (let alone methane) are reaching unprecedented levels. We don’t know what the impacts will be, but models and estimates show a major impact on northern European countries such as Iceland. The hydro and geothermal resources are unique and enable Iceland to manage a sustainable lifestyle, but the development of the renewals such as wind and solar are just starting to take root. Iceland remains highly depend on fossil fuels for transportation since bicycles and trains are not an options due to temperatures and terrain. Roads and internal combustion remain the primary mode of ground transportation. And the fishing fleets are primarily diesel.
Captain Rick talked a lot about developing the fishing in industry through two means: hybrid powered fishing boats, and harvesting new species. Iceland has been locked into cod and haddock and the life for many generations. New fishing technique and tools could open up markets in lobster etc. (about which Rick knows a lot). The new technology could reduce the carbon output and modernize the fleet of fishing vessels providing new livelihoods for Icelanders. On just a practical level, new approached need to be considered.
I appears Isafjordur was a wonderful respite from the hubbub on board. The quiet town allowed everyone to unwind without the need to hurry about taking in all they could.
Tomorrow – Akureyri and the big presentations!