Life at the edge of the ice

FilmBenjamin Hardman and Þorsteinn Roy
PoetrySteinunn Sigurðardóttir
PhotographyBenjamin Hardman

The siblings Þorsteinn Roy and Svanhvít Helga Jóhannsdóttir grew up with a unique backyard. The glacier, Svínafellsjökull. They have been able to watch the glacier recede and thinned through the years due to global warming..

The effect that it has on Svínafellsjökull is especially harmful since it has made a crack in Svínafell mountain that can couse mud, ice and flash flood down to the lowlands. 66°North got to hear what the family at Svínafell has expirienced wich showes the importance of our glaciers. 

You don't necessarily realise it until much later in life that this is not mundane. You just see it as home, only later realising how surreal it may seem to others who live under completely different circumstances. 

People that one meets later in life only experience glaciers in a much different manner and much later in life under totally different circumstances. 

All glaciers in Iceland are receding due to global warming and Svínafellsjökull is no exception. It has thinned considerably in recent years and decades. The difference in our area is, perhaps, that a crack has formed in the Svínafell mountain, which was only noticed a few years ago. This could cause material from the mountain to crash down onto the glacier, the volume of which could amount to millions of cubic metres and could cause mud, ice and flash floods to cascade down to the lowlands around us. As a result, one thinks hard before embarking on travel far onto the glacier. 

The reasons for which people travel across glaciers have changed considerably in a relatively short time. You don't need to look back further than one generation. My father traversed glaciers in search of sheep while herding. The glacial run-off rivers were not always crossable, so even though it was never easy, often it was better to herd them across the glacier.

Today we travel on the glaciers to enjoy their beauty and to show this beauty to others. I am a glacier guide for travellers, whom traverse the ice for entirely different reasons than preceding generations. 

I hope that the next generations will be able to experience the glacier as I have done. I hope that the ice will still be there for them.

The Shadow of a Light Mountain.

By Steinunn Sigurðardóttir

“He was in view from the farm for the longest time, this unmissable local being. 

Now he can't be seen from Svínafell. 

The one whose view will completely disappear.

The one who flows to the sea just as he lays himself, horizontally vertical.

This could be reality in the days of our children.

Then there will be a headless army of mountains and peaks on Non-Iceland. 

Then there will be children and grandchildren in a land without the light mountain.

There the Shadow will reign.”

Glacier Friday 2020

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