14 October 2008

Chapter 20: Visiting the old Whaling Station

Continued from Chapter 19

Click on images to enlarge

A short distance away from Hesteyri, towards the end of the fjörd, lies Stekkeyri which is the abandoned whaling/herring station in Hesteyrarfjörður.

Map_showing_StekkeyriStekkeyri is located closer to the end of the Hesteyrarfjörður

We took the easy walk to the station on a couple of occasions - once in the late afternoon under a warming sun and blue skies, and again on our last day in Hesteyri when the weather finally packed in and it started to lightly rain.

StekkeyriThe station from the track between Hesteyri and Stekkeyri

A Norwegian company, Brødrene Bull, built the station in 1894 to process whales caught in the environs. The Norwegians pulled out in 1915 when the Icelandic Government introduced a 10 year ban on whaling in an effort to recover the dwindling whale population.

The_old_Stekkeyri_boilersWhat's left of the old boilers

The station sat empty and unworked until 1927 when a company from Reykjavík, called Kveldúlfur, bought it and converted it into a herring fishmeal factory.

Old_wharf_areaThe wooden ribs were once part of the wharf area which extended into the fjörd

In the beginning, the fishing was performed by small boats man-powered by six oars, and it wasn't until later that motorized vessels took over.
There are some interesting photos of the old station in operation hanging on the dining room walls in the Doctor's House Lodge.

Looking_towards_the_mouth_of_the_fjordLooking towards the fjörd's entrance

Hesteyri settlement serviced the station and provided manpower as well as services such as a school, post office, doctor's services, telephone communications, a church and a store. In its heyday, up to 80 people lived in Hesteyri.

Stekkeyri_from_the_Hesteyri_trackRain hangs over the fjörd on our second visit

In the late 1930s, the herring supplies began to dwindle and the station was closed in 1940. People began to leave Hesteyri to look for other work, until the settlement was totally abandoned in 1952.

Silhouette_of_the_whaling_stationSilhouetted against a threatening sky

Today, all that remains is some crumbling brickwork and rusting iron. There is little sign of the long wharves that used to protrude a long way into the fjörd, and which used to bustle with activity as the boats came in to unload their catches.

The_hole_in_the_chimneyWhat caused the hole in the chimney?

Upon seeing the hole at the top of the chimney, J remarked that it looked as if a cannonball had gone through it.

One night at the lodge, an Icelandic friend of Birna's family told us a story about his father who was with the Icelandic Navy and stationed on a coastal vessel. They had been given some old, non-incendiary shells by the British Navy to be used in practice firings.

Their boat entered Hesteyrarfjörður and, for a laugh, they aimed their gun at the chimney of the whaling station, never expecting that they would hit it. Hit it, they did and the hole is a constant reminder of the prowess of the Icelandic Navy!

Next Chapter: Leaving Hesteyri and another night in Bolungarvik