Information about Seydisfjordur

Seyðisfjörður is a town and municipality in the eastern region of Iceland, tucked into the most inner corner of the fjord that shares its name. Surrounded by snowcapped mountains and waterfalls, the most prominent natural landmarks are Mt. Bjólfur (1085m) to the west and Strandartindur (1010m) to the east, both of which are a part of Iceland’s seven peak hike. 

History

The settlement of Seyðisfjörður began to develop into a trading centre in 1848 when townspeople found their wealth in “the silver of the sea” - herring. The long protective fjord gave the fisherman in Seyðisfjörður an advantage over their neighbours, leading it to grow into one of the most prosperous towns in East Iceland. The unique, multi-coloured wooden buildings that make Seyðisfjörður so recognisable were built in this period by Norwegian merchants and whalers. The ruins of their whaling operation at Vestdalseyri can still be visited along the Seyðisfjörður coast.

In more recent times, Seyðisfjörður was a base for Allied forces during the Second World War. The one attack recorded off Iceland occurred on the British oil tanker, the El Grillo (“The Cricket”), which was at anchor in the fjord. After being heavily bombarded by German fighters stationed in Norway, the El Grillo’s captain made the decision to scuttle the ship. The El Grillo was sunk without loss of life and now rests at the bottom of the fjord. The wreck is now a popular sight amongst scuba divers.

Geography

Seyðisfjörður’s steep-sided valleys make the town prone to avalanches. An avalanche in 1885 killed 24 people, making it the worst avalanche tragedy in the young country’s history. A memorial for the dead now stands in the town, constructed from the beams of a destroyed factory. More recently, in 1996, an avalanche crushed another local factory. Thankfully, no one was injured. Avalanche dams, some as high as 20m, have since been constructed around the town.

17km east of Seyðisfjörður is the Skálanes Nature and Heritage Centre, a hub for scientific and conservationist exploration. The reserve, covering over 1200 hectares, is known for its diverse wildlife, boasting 47 species of birds, 4 species of Icelandic mammal and over 150 species of plant life. The diverse range of habitats covered by the reserve—freshwater wetlands, intertidal, cliffs, meadows—have attracted researchers from overseas, making Skálanes the perfect example of international and academic cooperation. Developments from Skálanes have been made in such far-reaching disciplines as archaeology, anthropology, linguistics and environmental conservation, to name only a handful.

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