We arrived in Siglufjörður just before breakfast, under cloudy skies that occasionally wept rain. But no matter…we were in a very historic town of Iceland; the center of an enormous, but short-lived herring fishery, it’s now home of the renowned and highly acclaimed Herring Era Museum (Icelandic Museum of the Year, 2000; European Museum of the Year, 2004). Before entering the museum, we witnessed a recreation of the famous Herring Girls at work.Now, England may have the Spice Girls, but they only sing and dance; the Herring Girls match that and add heading-and-gutting herring, an act I suspect the Spice Girls would reject. The current Herring Girls recreated how the original Girls processed the incoming herring, and layered the fish with salt and brine into barrels. They worked hard for little pay and under rustic living conditions. Yet, as time passed they emerged as a powerful voice in getting better pay and living conditions for themselves, an accomplishment that slowly trickled into the national scene, resulting in better pay for all, as well as empowering Icelanders to move away from Danish rule.
Once the demonstration ended (with a rousing rendition of traditional Herring Girl songs and dances, emblematic of how the girls and fishermen interacted during ‘down’ time), we entered the spectacular museum. Original machinery used in the herring fishery was collected from all over Iceland and assembled in the museum, providing an impressive visualization of how herring moved from intact fish to the final product of oil and fish meal. Dangerous, dirty, and noisy work…one could easily imagine the conditions while walking through the museum and viewing machinery, herring boats, and old photos. The museum truly deserves its international honors, and expansion plans are in place in order to accommodate some 20,000 artifacts now in storage.
We then sailed to Akureyri, leaving the ship shortly after docking for a special performance by the noted and beloved Icelandic singer-song writer, Svavar Knútur. His songs vividly portray intense emotions, interspersed by a delightful and light-hearted monologue. The hour-long performance in a small setting earned a standing ovation, encore, and a final standing ovation. All emerged post-performance with satisfied smiles and agreed it was a unique and impressive performance. Some guests then embarked on a short tour of the local church and botanical garden.
National Geographic Resolution remained overnight at the dock in Akureyri, allowing some guests to wander about the town after dinner before retiring for the evening. Tomorrow brings another adventure-packed day.