I first saw this eye-blistering ad in an Iceland Express in-flight magazine last year. I clipped it out and have been meaning to post about it ever since. (Fortunately someone else
saved me the bother of uploading.) Originally I was fascinated by being presented with standards different to my own, and reluctantly admiring the direct tone of the headline copy and the lack of 'airbrushing' (or productions values - you pick). I was also a little bit shocked by it.
I've stood on the spot where those fin whales in the news
would have been processed. When on honeymoon, Siôn and I got to listen at length at someone evangelising
for the right to hunt whales and saw for ourselves Iceland's last remaining whaling station in Hvalfjörður
, a spooky near-derelict heap of sheds and rusty ironmongery. It reminded me of an abandoned dock yard or mining works.
At the time even our pro-whaling guide didn't believe that whaling was ever going to make a huge comeback and that what we were seeing with Kristjan Loftsson's persistence was a last gasp of ancient culture, held in the psyche as 'the right to hunt'. At that time Loftsson was having trouble finding buyers for just the 9 fin whales he had in his freezers. I'm not sure how this is going to improve with another 125. And as was explained at the time, Icelanders are actually now making more money running boats for tourists so that you can go and watch the whales in their natural habitat.
I think what we miss at this distance from an isolated society is how whaling is part of a heritage based on survival using limited resources at its heart. Less than a hundred years ago, communities would have faced off winter starvation with a whale. To let go of that right when your elder generation can still remember harsh times is going to be a bit tricky. It's forcibly severing yourself from a past way of life. As the voice of the elder generation inevitably becomes quieter, that whaling station will no doubt be left to rot, and the younger Icelanders will be yet one more step removed from their past.
I find it sad even though it has to happen.