This week’s stop is in Iceland, where I made an all too short, 4-day stop last year on the way back from Europe. This country is full of photogenic spots, all deserving time to be explored and presented.
These images are from the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður, a small town on one of the numerous fjords on the Northern coast of Iceland. It is one of the many towns, villages and areas along the north and east coast of Iceland that were deeply affected by the arrival of the herring adventure around the beginning of the 20th century.
Nowhere did the herring adventure have such an impact as in Siglufjörður. Norwegian fishermen came sailing on their herring vessels during the summer of 1903, and thereby the Herring Adventure had started. Within forty years this once tiny little village had transformed into a thriving town of more than three thousand inhabitants.
For years the entire life of Siglufjörður centred on the herring catch and its processing – the town’s twenty-three salting stations and five reducing factories were a living reminder of that. Siglufjörður was also one of the most important ports in Iceland and on more than one occasion the herring exported from the town accounted for over 20% of the nation’s total exports.
As the herring adventure progressed, a goldrush-like atmosphere settled over the town, leading to Siglufjörður been dubbed the “Atlantic Klondike”. The town also became a magnet for herring speculators who came and went, some making a lot of money during the stay, and others not. With its booming industry, Siglufjörður also became a mecca for tens of thousands of workers and labourers seeking employment.
When bad weather and storms broke, the sheltered waters of the fjord became home to a massed fleet of hundreds of herring ships. Life on land was just as colourful, the streets of Siglufjörður so jammed with crowds and activities that they resembled the teeming avenues of major cities.
Marine resources are notoriously unstable, and herring is no exception. Following depressed catch figures in the years around 1950, herring stocks began to be fished as never before. This was due to a new and more efficient fishing technology developed by Icelandic pioneers. Other countries were quick in claiming these advances for themselves.
The years that followed continued to underscore the decline of catches and fortunes in Siglufjörður and its surrounding area, eventually turning it into the sleepy, beautiful town that it is today.
[Source of background information: Wikipedia: The Herring Era Museum.]