Q: I came across this little island, Elliðaey near Vestmannaeyjar, recently and how it was almost given to singer Björk in 2000 by the prime minster of Iceland back then.
I searched online and on Iceland Review's site, but could not find too much information about the island and the ownership of the house.
Apparently a lot of people who have re-posted the photos of this lovely island and the little house on it still believe it's been given to Björk. For example this one.
Others, like this one, finds it hard to learn much about this place.
I was wondering whether you could help me learn more about this island, the house and its use.
Thanks so much, as always.
Jacey, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China
A: There are two islands by that name in Iceland and people tend to get them mixed up.
One is the third largest island of the Westman Islands archipelago off south Iceland and is depicted on the photo you linked to, the other is located on Breiðafjörður in west Iceland and is the one Björk was interested in. Both islands are uninhabited.
Elliðaey in the Westman Islands, which is 0.45 square kilometers in size, is grassy and was used for haymaking and as pasture for sheep and cattle. It is rich in birdlife, facilitating large colonies of puffins and other seabirds, as stated on heimaslod.is.
Elliðaey is the main nesting area for storm petrels and leach’s petrels in Iceland, which breed there in the tens of thousands. Because of these bird colonies, Elliðaey is registered as a nature reserve.
The house on Elliðaey does not belong to Björk but is a hut owned by the Elliðaey Association which practices puffin hunting on the island in the summer and egg collecting in the spring. The association also has a steam bath on the island.
Elliðaey in Breiðafjörður is a rather large, horseshoe-shaped island northwest of Stykkishólmur, which is also rich in birdlife, including puffins. There is a lighthouse on the island which was built in 1951, as stated on nat.is.
Elliðaey used to be inhabited and was a location for verbúð, fishermen’s huts. In 1702, 17 people lived on the island on three farms. In 1845, the island had 15 inhabitants but in 1920 their number had dropped to five. As of 1960, none were left.
Björk’s interest in building a house on Elliðaey in Breiðafjörður one decade ago raised considerable controversy in Iceland.
In an article on mbl.is from February 7, 2000, the then Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson is reported to have said in parliament that he would like to grant Björk permission to do so and live on the island for free in gratitude for her contribution to the Icelandic nation.
The comment came in response to questions from the then opposition MP Steingrímur J. Sigfússon (now minister of finance) as to what the government’s policy on the sale of the state’s property was, whether the state’s assets that are for sale shouldn’t be advertised and how the PM felt about selling natural treasures.
Davíð responded that the general rule is that the assets of the state that are for sale should be advertised and that he was of the view that one should be careful about selling natural treasures.
The PM confirmed that it had been up for discussion that Björk might use Elliðaey on Breiðafjörður as a retreat.
However, it had been made clear to her that if the island would be sold, it would be advertised for sale so that others could also have the opportunity to acquire it, Davíð added.
In light of the controversy that arose surrounding her interest in the island, Björk dropped her plans in making Elliðaey on Breiðafjörður her island retreat.