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Tourists Ignore Warning Signs at Deadly Beach

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Tourists Ignore Warning Signs at Deadly Beach

Photo: Finnbogi Sigurður Marinosson

Tourists appear to be paying new warning signs on Reynisfjara beach little heed, and continue to put themselves at risk from deadly waves.

A graphic designer told mbl.is that he believes the signs are not vivid enough and that a much better job could have been done.

A woman was recently lucky to escape being swept out to sea by a sneaker wave, and two deaths have occurred in the area in recent years. The waves took an American woman in her 70s during 2007, and a 40-year-old Chinese man was washed away to his death this February.

Local landowners and tourism service providers put up two new danger signs following the most recent tragedy, and a fence was erected to force all visitors to approach the beach on the same footpath, and therefore walk right by the signs. The actions seem to have had little impact upon tourists’ behavior on the beach, however. There are regular stories of people getting in trouble in the waves but escaping. It is also common to see parents allowing small children to play on the shore and get their feet wet.

Atli Hilmarsson, graphic designer, believes that better use of color on the signs could help—advising against the current use of red lettering on an orange background. He would recommend much larger red letters, on a white background.

He also says that the English phrasing most often used could cause confusion—especially among those for whom English is not a native language. “Dangerous sneaker waves” is the current wording, whereas in Icelandic it talks of “Lethally dangerous waves”. It is by no means clear whether people are generally familiar with the term “sneaker wave”.

There will be a feature about travel safety, including at Reynisfjara beach, in the next edition of Iceland Review magazine, due out next week. Click here to subscribe.

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