Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Responses to Icelandic Delicacies

I was asked in response to my post on Icelandic Delicacies how they tasted and which of them I tried. I unfortunately did not get the chance to try to Puffin or the fermented shark meat. I believe the Puffin may have been "out of season" because there were almost no restaurants offering it in Reykjavik. I did, however, try Minke whale and monkfish. Both of which were extremely delicious! The whale had the texture of a very tender piece of meat and a consistency and taste similar to tender beef. I also was able to try the Icelandic hotdog topped with three sauces and crispy onions. These hot-dogs would not have been the same had they not been fully dressed. I decided while in Iceland, obviously, to not stick with being a vegetarian because of the traditional meat dishes that are served there. I went vegetarian for dietary reasons, not ethical reasons so this was not an issue for me. One comment made on my original post was a mention of being surprised that Iceland does not protect their sea life as they are so protective of the environment. Because of Iceland's location, their main source of food and income could only be fishing. Most other products, mostly produce, is imported into Iceland. While they do eat animals and sea life, Iceland treats all of these creatures very ethically and is extremely grateful for the sacrifices the animals are making in order for the local people to survive.

The Cod Wars

The Cod Wars occurred in the 1950s and the 1970s when Iceland and Great Britain began fighting over rights to fishing in the North Atlantic waters that surrounded Iceland. Iceland relies on the fishing industry as a main source of income and as food. When the government of Iceland restricted Britain to a 50 nautical mile area in 1893 and Britain ignored it, continuing to fish in these areas anyway, gunboats were sent out to fine them and confiscate their catch. After quite a few "wars" after that due to Iceland creating more restrictions, the UK and Iceland finally came to an agreement. Any disputes between the two regarding fishing zones would be settled by the International Court of Justice.
In 1972, Iceland increased it's fishery limits to fifty nautical miles. This started the Second Cod War in which the British trawlers brought in the defense of Royal Navy ships. After several months of fighting and one accidental fatality, NATO stepped in and resolved the issue. Britain signed and agreement to stay out of the fifty nautical mile limit. A Third Cod War ensued when Iceland again increased it's fishery limits to two-hundred nautical miles in 1975. After another several months of fighting and ramming ships and a threat from Iceland to close the NATO base located in Iceland, the British government agreed to stay outside of the limit without special agreement. The British government ultimately settled with a multimillion-pound compensation to the many Icelandic fishermen who lost their livelihood due to the wars. The settlement did not take place until 2012, over 35 years after the Cod Wars had started.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Healthy Skin at the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a natural geothermal spa that was created by pooling waste waters from a geothermal power plant that was built in 1976. People did not start bathing in the waters until five years later, and when the water was discovered to help treat psoriasis, the Blue Lagoon company was formed in 1992. The Lagoon is a huge tourist destination. The milky, blue waters contain minerals such as silica, sulphur, and algae all of which exfoliate and smooth the skin. There are "pots" of the mud located in various parts of the spa in which visitors can smear the mud on their skin. What many people do not know is that the Blue Lagoon is an actual spa that helps to treat skin conditions. In order to get a spot at the clinic, whose dermatologists and nurses treated over 6000 patients in 2005, one must first get a referral from a dermatologist, at which point then, a single room costs upward of one-hundred dollars per night. The clinic also promotes healthy eating and exercise as well as offering UVB light therapy, a practice used very commonly for skin issues, chiefly psoriasis. Below are photos I personally took at the beautiful Blue Lagoon.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Iceland's Energy Resources

One of my favorite things about Iceland is the fact that it is such a green country. Iceland is making a huge conscious effort to become as eco-friendly as possible with plans to become a one-hundred percent fossil-free nation in the near future. With Iceland being situated on top of a volcano, much of the country's energy comes from geothermal resources; however, the most energy is supplied through hydro power. As of 2010, 26.2% of Iceland's energy was produced by the five major geothermal power plants located in the country. There are at least twenty-five active volcanoes in Iceland as well as numerous geysers and hot springs. Because of this, many buildings, swimming pools, and even sidewalks are heated in Iceland by harnessing this energy. The sidewalks are heated through geothermal energy in order to melt the snow. 73.8% of Iceland's energy was hydro power with only .1% coming from fossil fuels! Hydro power is the process of harnessing energy from the gravitational force of flowing or falling water. This method is the most widely used process for creating renewable energy across the world, renewable meaning the source is not one which will be depleted in a time span. The source is one of which is naturally replenished. In 2010, hydroelectricity was responsible for sixteen percent of the world's electricity. This number was projected to increase by 3.1% every year for the next twenty-five years. Of course every source of gathering energy comes at a price. By building plants to harness hydro energy, we cause a displacement of eco systems by temporarily disturbing the flow of natural waters. Geothermal energy is found to pose a risk through the release of hydrogen sulfide as well as the disposal of some geothermal liquids which may contain toxic materials.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Icelandic Politics

The political system of Iceland, being a democracy, has one head of state, similar to the United States, called the president, which is voted for by the people. The current president is Olafur Grimmson. Below the president is the prime minister who is currently Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. Included in the government is a legislative branch of parliament and standing committee, an executive branch including a cabinet, ministry, and agency, and a judicial branch with both district and supreme courts. This government works in almost the same way as that of the US government. Iceland was under many different rulers over time, resulting in changes of religion as well as political systems. Under Norse settlement in 930, the Althing, a general assembly, was created. When Iceland fell under the Danish crown, from 1400-1550, Lutheranism was brought by force under Bishop Jon Aresson. After economic turmoil and pandemic swept the country in the 17th and 18th centuries, a lift on the exclusion of foreign traders in 1854 had Iceland looking up for the 19th century. Led by Jon Sigurosson, a constitution was formed in 1874, and Iceland became part of union with Denmark in 1918. This was later voted to be terminated in 1944, claiming Iceland an independent republic. With Sveinn Bjornsson as the first president, Iceland joined many plans and treaties including a defense pact with the US military in 1951. The Althing officially dissolved in 1974, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir was elected third president in 1980, the world’s first popularity elected female head of state. She was followed by popular Olafur Grimmson in 1996 who has been re-elected every for years including 2012 and who is still the current president.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Strange Icelandic Eco-fashion

As a fashion design major and someone who is very interested in eco-fashion, I decided to do some research on Icelandic eco-fashion. What I stumbled across was probably one of the strangest things I possible could have found. This photo is a pair of necropants... yes, necro, as in dead guy. These pants were made from the skin of a deceased man. The article goes into detail of how and why these pants were created. Now stored at the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft, these pants were thought to bring good luck and wealth to the sorcerer who wore them. They were created in the 17th century and are now the oldest pair of necropants that are still intact, and by intact, we're talking feet and scrotum still attached. That last statement also implies that there were more than one pair of necropants made which is ultimately disturbing. The museum website describes in detail the process the sorcerer must go through to receive this good luck and wealth:

“After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed.”

In order for the next wearer to continue this good luck, the new wearer must step into the right leg before the previous wearer has stepped out of the left leg. While this gives us a very interesting look at the pre-industrial past of Iceland, we still finish with an image of two living men wearing the same pair of pants made of one dead guy's skin...

Here is a link to the museum website that has several articles on the history of Icelandic Sorcery:

Icelandic Delicacies

Iceland is well-known for it's outlandish food culture and odd delicacies. Being an island, the country relies much on fishing, and a good amount of the food in Iceland includes seafoods. One of the top delicacies in Iceland is fermented shark. The head of a Greenland shark is buried in sand and cured through a fermentation process. The head is then hung out to dry for five months! The fermented meat has a very strong scent of ammonia and is extremely pungent and fishy tasting. Icelanders also often delve in Atlantic Puffin meat, a small bird that has legal protection in most other countries. Restaurants feature this meat a lot and typically smoke and cure it. The birds are caught using a technique called sky-fishing which involves a large net that catches low flying birds such as the Puffin. Another common food in Iceland is the meat of a minke whale. This meat is similar to beef but is supposed to be extremely tender and delicious! It is often served with a Brennivin sauce. Brennivin is the traditional alcohol of Iceland and is known for a horrid taste. Made from potato pulp and flavored with caraway seeds, this liquor is known as Black Death. It is often detested even by Icelandic natives whom will drink it usually when eating fermented shark or when making a show of Icelandic culture. This photo is a sealed jar of fermented shark meat.