Pack ice in Iceland’s Westfjords

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Pack ice in Iceland’s Westfjords

“Iceland’s ancient enemy” (Landsins forni fjandi), or pack ice, has returned. The fjord of Dýrafjördur is almost blocked by ice, and inhabitants say they have never seen anything like it.

“This is a very impressive sight,” Helgi Árnason, farmer at Alvidra in Dýrafjördur, told Fréttabladid. “I have lived here my whole life, but I have never seen so much pack ice before. Forty years ago large ice bergs drifted onto beaches [in Dýrafjördur], but it was nothing compared to this.”

A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard flew over the Westfjords yesterday to investigate the situation. The crew concluded that it is not safe to sail in Dýrafjördur, except for very experienced sailors, but said the ice is melting quickly due to high ocean temperatures and warm air temperatures.

Árnason said the pack ice has not affected the lives of the people who live in the area. “Smaller wooden boats will have to stay ashore,” he said, “but bigger boats can make it out to sea. Only during the day, though. It is dangerous in the dark,” Árnason added.

Árnason is not worried by the situation. “This [pack ice] used to be Iceland’s ancient enemy, but we stay calm while the situation doesn’t worsen. This is just to remind us where we live,” he said.

The winter of 1967-68 was known as the “Great Winter of Pack Ice” when ice blocked sailing routes, damaged ships and fishing gear and caused profit loss in the fishing industry and a shortage of supplies.

When pack ice was more common, polar bears were known to migrate to Iceland from Greenland on drifting ice floes. The last time a polar bear was spotted and shot in Iceland was in Haganesvík, north Iceland, in February 1988.