Innovators and entrepreneurs

The Katla Geopark area used to be isolated from neighbouring communities because of unbridged glacial rivers that were difficult to cross to say the least. Towards the south was the coastline with no natural harbours and the inland where mountains and icecaps are prominent. This environment fostered on the one hand innovation and entrepreneurship, whereas on the other an understanding of and respect for the natural forces at work.

Sveinn Pálsson (1762-1840) studied medicine and natural science in Copenhagen and lived all his professional life in the Katla Geopark area. He carried out systematic observations of Icelandic glaciers in the 1790s where he observed that glaciers move by creeping in a way analogous to the flow of tar. This accomplishment was not recognized at the time as his research papers were not published until a part of it in Danish in the 1880s. It has been argued that if they had been published earlier he would have been recognized as the father of glaciology. Sveinn lived in Vík for most of his professional life and is buried in the old churchyard at Reynir.

Bjarni Runólfsson (1891-1938) was a self-educated farmer at Hólmur near Kirkjubæjarklaustur in Skaftárhreppur municipality. In 1927- 1937 he built over a hundred micro hydroelectric power installations throughout the country that harnessed the water power of small brooks on individual farms. Often he built the water turbines of iron from ships that stranded on the coast. In 1926 he bought a new Ford- T car, the first car in the area. He built a trout hatchery, a freezing facility on his farm, and a slaughterhouse. A true innovator and entrepreneur. After his untimely death his co-workers continued to build micro hydro power stations.

The spirit of innovation is still flourishing in the Katla Geopark area.

Þorvaldseyri is a pioneering farm in growing cereals in the municipality of East Rangárþing and had an exhibition from 2011 until 2018 on the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. Since September 2018, the info center was taken over by Katla Geopark to serve as our center of activities and information. The farm has its own small-scale hydro powerplant, a hot water borehole, and is now experimenting with using rape seed oil both as cooking oil as well as fuel for the tractors on the farm. Þakgil is another example. There a new camp site has been developed from scratch very close to the Katla volcano. A micro hydro power station has been built providing electricity for the camping huts, and an open air dining facility has been carved out in a cave in the soft palagonite formation