I haven’t received or sent very many postcards so far in 2018 and I have been negligent in updating this blog with some of my backlog of unblogged cards. As sometimes happens, an arrival in last night’s mail has inspired me to make a new attempt at catching up. I’ve been writing a lot for my other blogs over the past few days and the time is right to add to this one as well…
In the packet of 14 postcards from Strasbourg, France, received a month ago, there were also two unused cards advertising Icelandic seafood by Iceland Responsible Fisheries. According to their website,
“Iceland has created one of the most modern and competitive seafood industries in the world, based on sustainable harvest and protection of the marine ecosystem. Marine products have historically been the country’s leading export items and the seafood industry remains the backbone of the economy. Responsible fisheries at the Icelandic fishing grounds are the prerequisite for the Icelandic fishing industry continuing being a solid part of the Icelandic economy and a principal pillar in Iceland’s exports.“
The Statement on Responsible Fisheries in Iceland was released in 2007 in response to market demands for sustainable utilization of marine resources and was designed to inform buyers on how fisheries management is conducted in Iceland. It also stated that the Government undertakes to obey international law and agreements on access to marine resources, which they have signed. A logo indicating Icelandic origin of fish catches was introduced in 2009, as seen on the postcards.
Iceland maintains a 200 nautical miles exclusive fishing zone (758,000 km²) that includes some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The fisheries management in Iceland is primarily based on extensive research on the fish stocks and the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, and decisions on allowable catches are made on the basis of scientific advice from the Icelandic Marine Research Institute. Catches are effectively monitored and enforced by the Directorate of Fisheries. These are the main pillars of the Icelandic fisheries management intended to ensure responsible fisheries and the sustainability of the ocean’s natural resources.
Iceland (Ísland) is a Nordic island country of Europe located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 332,529 and an area of 40,000 square miles (103,000 km²), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population.
Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterized by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.
According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e. slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin. The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world’s oldest functioning legislative assemblies.
Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Iceland thus followed Norway’s integration to that Union, and came under Danish rule after Sweden’s secession from that union in 1523. Although the Danish kingdom introduced Lutheranism forcefully in 1550, Iceland remained a distant semi-colonial territory in which Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuous by their absence.
In the wake of the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars, Iceland’s struggle for independence took form and culminated in independence in 1918 and the founding of a republic in 1944. Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture, and was among the poorest in Europe. Industrialization of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity, and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, it became a part of the European Economic Area, which further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.
Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes, compared to other OECD countries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks high in economic, political, and social stability and equality. In 2016, it was ranked as the 9th most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and ranks first on the Global Peace Index. Iceland runs almost completely on renewable energy. Affected by the ongoing worldwide financial crisis, the nation’s entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. Some bankers were jailed. Since then, the economy has made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism.
Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, with the lightly armed coast guard in charge of defense.
Iceland is at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island’s northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63 and 68°N, and longitudes 25 and 13°W.
Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, geographical, and practical reasons. Geologically, the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (180 miles or 290 km). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (260 miles or 420 km); Jan Mayen Island (350 miles, 570 km); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 460 miles (740 km); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 470 miles (750 km). The mainland of Norway is about 600 miles (970 km) away.
Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island, and Europe’s second-largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 39,315 square miles (101,826 km²), but the entire country is 39,768.5 square miles (103,000 km²) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. About 30 minor islands are in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated. The largest lakes are Þórisvatn reservoir: 32-34 square miles (83–88 km²) and Þingvallavatn: 32 square miles (82 km²); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 814 feet (248 meters).
Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.
Many fjords punctuate Iceland’s 3,088-mile-long (4,970-km) coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island’s interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains, and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland, whereas Kolbeinsey contains the northernmost point of Iceland. Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park. The country is considered a “strong performer” in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index of 2012.
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið, and Eldfell. The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island’s population. In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.
Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 8–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.
With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating, and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with about 30 active volcanic systems.
Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between November 8, 1963, and June 5, 1968. Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.
On March 21, 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes. Additional eruptions on April 14 forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes. The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.
Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava hurled 12 miles (20 km) into the atmosphere, creating a large cloud.
These are my first two postcards “from” Iceland. It’s a bit of a pity that they are unused; I hope that someday soon I can find somebody in Iceland who can mail me a card from there (Iceland’s stamps are almost as beautiful as the country).