Akureyri

The town of Akureyri is situated in northeast Iceland, on the longest fjord in the country, Eyjafjor5ur. It is surrounded by mountains reaching a height of 1000-1500 m. The mountain closest to the town is called Hli9arfjall, where there is a ski resort. The river Glera runs through the town, and by its mouth there is a sandbank, Oddeyri.

The northerly position of Akureyri has had considerable influence on the community that has sprung up there. Akureyri is about 40 km south of the Arctic Circle, but on summer days the temperature can reach 25°C. Winters, however, bring heavy snowfall and cold weather, with calm and still weather also common. Despite the geographical isolation, there has always been contact with the outside world, initially through trade and then through export, chiefly of seafood products. The natural harbor at Akureyri is one of the best in Iceland.

The first permanent inhabitants of Eyjafjor5ur were Helgi magri (Helgi the Lean) and his wife Mrunn, who settled there around 900. A polytheist, Helgi lived at the farm of Kristnes (Christ's peninsula) but also worshipped pagan deities.

The history of the town is very closely linked to trade and services. Trade began in Akureyri in the 16th century, but it was not until 1777 that merchants began living there all year round. At the end of the 18th century, the town had ten inhabitants, all Danish traders.

In 1862, Akureyri was granted municipal rights. By then, the population had risen to around 300. Granufelagi5, an Icelandic trading company, was established at the Oddeyri harbor. A more durable trading company was the KEA (Kaupfelag Eyfir5inga Akureyri) cooperative society, which is still a stronghold of trade there.

Presently, Akureyri is the largest community outside the capital area of Reykjavik, with around 15,000 inhabitants. Akureyri is the center of trade and services in northern Iceland and its economic life is varied. Two of the most powerful fishing companies in Iceland, Utger5arfelag Akureyringa and Samherji, have their headquarters in Akureyri. Herring salting used to be the town's main industry, but now the emphasis has shifted to trawling, canning, and freezing larger fish.

Akureyri received its own printing press in 1852, and since then many newspapers and journals have been published there. In the 1990s, attempts were made to run a national daily, Dagur, from Akureyri, but failed. A college was founded in the town in 1928, and in 1987 Akureyri acquired its own university, which has steadily expanded since then. Also located in Akureyri is the Stefansson Arctic Institute (SAI), which was established in 1998 and operates under the auspices of the Icelandic Ministry for the Environment. It bears the name of explorer and anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who studied Inuit culture in Canada and Alaska. Some of the roles of the SAI are to promote sustainable development in northern areas, strengthen Icelandic participation in international endeavors in this field, and facilitate and coordinate Arctic research in Iceland. Two of the Arctic Council's secretariats are located in Akureyri— CAFF (Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna) and PAME (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment)—and the town has a growing reputation for hosting workshops, conferences, and lectures on Arctic issues. There are museums devoted to the well-known author of children's books, Nonni (Jon Sveinsson, 1857-1944), and the poets Matthias Jochumsson (1835-1920) and Davi5 Stefansson (1895-1964). Akureyri is also known for its beautiful botanical garden.

The most northerly golf course in the world is located in Akureyri. Every June there is an international competition—the Arctic Open—which attracts overseas players. The competition has gained attention overseas because competitors play through the night in the midnight sun.

Sverrir Jakobsson

See also Arctic Council

Further Reading

Einarsson, Hallgrimur, Akureyri 1895-1930. Ljosmyndir,

Reykjavik, 1982 Guömundsson, Palmi & Rafn Kjartansson, Akureyri. The Town by the Fjord, Reykjavik, 1992 Hjaltason, Jon, Saga Akureyrar, 3 volumes, Akureyri, 1990-2000

Jonsson, Klemens, Saga Akureyrar, Akureyri, 1948 Schmid, Max & Tomas Ingi Olrich, Akureyri. A Northern

Haven, Reykjavik: Iceland Review, 1984 Steindorsson, Steindor, Akureyri. Höfu>borg hins bjarta nor>urs, Reykjavik, 1993

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