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Icelandic Facts



Icelandic Name - Ísland

Population - 360,390

Area - 103,000 sq. km. (Most sparsely populated country in Europe)

Capital - Reykjavik

Language - Icelandic (Íslensku)

Religions - Lutheran, Church of Iceland, Roman Catholic

First Settled - 9th Century

Commonwealth formed - 930 A.D.

Icelandic Trivia

1. Euro 16









The part timer minnows shock the world - 300,000 vs 60 million: a victory for the ages
Iceland 2
England 1

The headlines were mouth-watering particularly if you were a descendant of Audr the deep-minded, a proud Icelander when Iceland beat England and 'shocked the world'.


They would play hosts France in the quarter-final having beaten all comers in their first three matches.
Iceland, ranked 34th in the world, no-one expected them to qualifier ahead of teams like Hungary, Austria and England, were surprise qualifiers for what was their first international tournament.

"We all believed. The rest of the world didn't but we did," said Coach Arnason.

The island nation, which has no professional clubs, ranked 131st in the world during the last European Championships four years ago.


2. Hallgrímskirkja

You will notice when reading The Eriksson Bequest that parts of the story revolve around a key landmark, The  Hallgrímskirkja 

This stunning Lutheran church was designed to resemble the Icelandic landscape and remind the viewer of the country's magnificent glaciers and mountains. The columns on the sides of the tower represent volcanic basalt. Samúelsson was strongly influenced by Scandinavian Modernism, but was also inspired by natural forms.

By natural forms I mean, lava cools dramatically over the centuries into hexagonal crystals, the shapes of which are cleverly incorporated into the columns of the church’s exterior. The amazing design, however ensures only four sides of the columns are visible from any angle preserving the mystique of the million year old lava crystal.

Situated in the centre of Reykjavík, it is one of the city's best-known landmarks and is visible throughout the city. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson's design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the trap rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland's landscape. The design is similar in style to the expressionist architecture of Grundtvig's Church of Copenhagen, Denmark, completed in 1940.

It took 41 years to build the church: construction started in 1945 and ended in 1986, but the landmark tower being completed long before the whole church was completed. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings were completed in 1974, and the nave was consecrated in 1986. At the time of construction, the building was criticised as too old-fashioned and as a blend of different architectural styles. The church was originally intended to be less tall, but the leaders of the Church of Iceland wanted a large spire so as to outshine Landakotskirkja (Landakot's Church), which was the cathedral of the Catholic Church in Iceland.

The interior is 1,676 square metres. In 2008, the church underwent a major restoration of the main tower, and was covered in scaffolding. In late 2009, restoration was completed and the scaffolding was removed.

The church houses a large pipe organ by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. It has electronic action; the pipes are remote from the four manuals and pedal console. There are 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes. It is 15 metres tall and weighs 25 tons. Its construction was finished in December 1992.

The church is also used as an observation tower. An observer can take a lift up to the viewing deck and view Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains. The church is still used today for modern services and weddings.

The statue of explorer Leif Eriksson (c.970 – c.1020) by Alexander Stirling Calder in front of the church predates its construction. It was a gift from the United States in honour of the 1930 Althing Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland's parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.

3. Volcanoes in Iceland

Much of Iceland’s stunning landscape both above and below ground can thank the fiery activity from its one hundred and thirty volcanoes for its existence. Thirty of these still lay in wait to spew forth the anger from their bowels. No-one knows which one or when, but to be sure it will happen when we least expect it.

The volcanoes of Iceland include a high concentration of active ones due to Iceland's location on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary, and its location over a hot spot. The island has 30 active volcanic systems, of which 13 have erupted since the settlement of Iceland in AD 874.

Of these 30 active volcanic systems, the most active and volatile of all is Grímsvötn. Over the past 500 years, Iceland's volcanoes have erupted a third of the total global lava output.

The most fatal volcanic eruption of Iceland's history was the so-called Skaftáreldar (fires of Skaftá) in 1783. The eruption was in the crater row Lakagígar southwest of Vatnajökull glacier. The craters are a part of a larger volcanic system with the sub glacial Grímsvötn as a central volcano.

Roughly a quarter of the Icelandic nation died because of the eruption. Most died not because of the lava flow or other direct effects of the eruption, but from indirect effects, including changes in climate and illnesses in livestock in the following years caused by the ash and poisonous gases from the eruption. The 1783 eruption in Lakagígar is thought to have erupted the largest quantity of lava from a single eruption in historic times.

4. Caves and Lava Tubes















Jack and Agnetha’s adventures take place in one of the most beautiful lava caves in not only Iceland but all of the world.
Raufarhólshellir is the fourth-longest lava tube in Iceland. The cave's proximity to Reykjavík made it popular with visitors, who caused damage to the cave. In late 2016 the cave was closed to the public to clear accumulated garbage and install lighting and a walkway to part of the cave. The cave reopened for guided tours the following year.

At 1,360 metres long, with a typical height of at least ten metres and width up to thirty metres (Yes I did take some poetic license with these dimensions to heighten the tension of the chase), the cave has multiple skylights, or holes in the ceiling, under which snow accumulates. Iceland Route 39 crosses over the cave at a point where it is about fifteen meters in diameter.

Based on carbon dating, Raufarhólshellir was formed 5600 years ago. The source of the lava flow that created the tube is ten kilometres  uphill from the cave and was part of the Leitahraun eruption. An expedition in 1971 by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club was one of the first systematic explorations of caves in Iceland.

Given its proximity to Reykjavík, it is popular with visitors. Over 20,000 people visited the cave in 2015.
The cave was also used as a filming location for the 2014 film Noah and the series Sense8.

Prior to 2016, it was freely open to the public, but it closed late that year due to concerns with garbage accumulation, damage to the cave, and the cost of rescuing visitors.

Nearly all of the fragile lava straws had been destroyed by visitors. The cave reopened in mid-2017 after a renovation in which walking decks and lighting was added to the part of the cave nearest the opening, and the removal of several tons of debris. The infrastructure improvements were constructed in a way so as not to damage the cave. After the renovation, the cave can only be visited by guided tour.

In June 2017, two concerts were held in the cave as part of the Secret Solstice music festival, which included a performance by Helgi Björnsson, for which only fifty tickets were available.

Iceland Victory.jpg
Part 4 Symbol.jpeg

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