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Grímsey

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Coordinates: ISN93 543936.19 E, 671870.17 N
Lat: 0°, Lon: 0°
Grímsey, (pop. 76) a green island off Iceland’s north coast, is the country’s northernmost point. Grímsey, with its rich fishing grounds and rich bird life, is probably best known for its geographic position, right on the Arctic Circle. People travel from far and wide simply to step across that line. The island is 5.3 km in area, and its highest point is 105 m above sea level. It lies 41km off the Icelandic mainland. The islanders are cheerful and energetic. The local eco­nomy centres on the fisheries. Grímsey produces especially­ fine saltfish (salted cod), a delicacy in southern Europe and South America. Múli, the community centre, houses a primary school, community hall, library, and health–care centre. Health–care services are provided by doctors from Akureyri on the mainland. Miðgarðar Church was built in 1867, using driftwood (timber­ was always in short supply in Iceland). Recently renovated and painted in its original colours, the church is a fine building. The pastor of Dalvík now serves the parish. An excellent swimming pool opened in 1989. Búðin general store serves the islanders’ needs, with a wide range of goods. The island has two guesthouses, they are open all year round. In 1998 the crafts gallery Sól was opened by women on the island; it is open in summer on the days when the ferry calls at the island. The Krían restaurant, is open in summer. The Sæfari ferry sails from Dalvík to Grímsey three days a week all year round. Regular flights are also operated three days a week in winter, and seven days a week in summer. The islanders have their own “national” festival on November 11th each year, to mark the birthday of Dr. Daníel Willard Fiske, the island’s American benefactor. Having seen Grímsey from the sea, Dr. Fiske was impressed that people lived on this remote island, and also by the fact that they were keen chess players! Around 1900, Dr. Fiske gave the Grímsey islanders the largest gift of money that Icelanders have ever received. It is said that Grímsey (= Grímur’s Island) got its name from a certain Grímur, the first settler on the island. Grímur’s brother Kolbeinn is also commemorated by an island named after him, Kolbeinsey. Grímur is believed to have built a heathen temple at Kirkjuhóll, and according to folklore he wanted to be buried there, with a view of the sea and land. He is said to be buried with his wife on a cliff top at Sandvíkurgjögur. Grímsey is said to be the home of many elves or “hidden people,” whose church is supposed to be at Nónbrík. At Prestaskvompa (Priest’s Hollow) is a cave that passes under the whole island. Its name comes from the legend that a pastor rowed into the cave with four companions to explore: none of them was ever seen again.
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