Stórhöfði, the southernmost part of Heimaey. Courtesy of
The result of a 6,000 year-old volcanic eruption, Stórhöfði is the southernmost part of the island Heimaey, Westman Islands. Besides its beautiful bird life, it is the home to Iceland's second oldest lighthouse.
In the beginning of the 20th century, ships sailed the seas without radar, GPS, bathymetry tools or radio. The captains of the ships did not have these tools available to them and their maps were not exactly high quality, lacking important information, such as hydrographics. Most of the maps were created hundred years prior (1801-1818) by the Danish Secretary of War of the Navy, Poul Vendelbo Løvenørn.
The captains weren't completely on their own, either. They had compass, clocks, logs and sextants. When they were close to land they would throw weights overboard to see if it hit the bottom of the ocean floor or not. If it did hit the bottom, they could measure how deep the ocean was.
An aerial view of Heimaey
(Vestmannaeyjar). Stórhöfði is the
island-looking area south on
Heimaey. Courtesy of Bruce McAdam
During winter, Westman Islands was a very dark place isolated from the rest of the world. The homes at Westman Islands were poorly lit. During winter it would be complete darkness much of the day. The farms were lit up with miser lamps or oil lamps. The homes in town had no lights. This complete darkness in winter affected their trading industry. When it began to be light again in the spring, the international ships would arrive with goods and the last ships were gone by fall.
The request for a lighthouse was first brought up in the Althing in 1874. After much discussion, it was agreed to build one in Reykjanes. It was to become Iceland's first lighthouse. Its light was turned on in 1878. It was later moved to Bæjarhól.
When the seamen realized how incredibly beneficial lighthouses were and how many lives it was saving, they voiced their desire for more lighthouses to be built. Finally, Iceland had the means to light up its waters. It didn't take long until foreign fishing trawlers began frequenting the area, especially French and German.
The lighthouse and home on Stórhöfði.
In 1901, the captains association, Aldan wrote a letter to the Icelandic Governor (Chieftain) requesting a lighthouse in Westman Islands. The Governor approved the request and forwarded it to Denmark. They were not as understanding and rejected the request.
Then in 1905, 475 international fish trawlers frequented the Icelandic waters and a lighthouse on the southern shores was absolutely necessary. These trawlers belonged to Germany, France and Great Britain, so Aldan asked these countries for support and influence to persuade the Danish government to approve a lighthouse on the southern shores.
The first Minister of Iceland, Hannes Hafstein (read about him in my blog here) made sure that 15,000 Icelandic Krónur were set aside for the construction of a lighthouse. At the time, Jón Magnússon represented Westman Islands in the Althing. He was not pleased with the decision and felt there was very little need for a lighthouse. After all, the sea traffic was busiest in the summer when it was light all day and night. In addition, it served the international ships more than it did the people on Westman Islands.
The Icelandic representatives presented the Danish lighthouse committee with numbers to stress the urgency of the situation. In the period between 1880 and 1905 there had been 237 ships stranded on Iceland's southern shores. Out of the 237 ships, only one had been salvaged. Out of their 2110 men on board, 95 of them had perished.
The Danish lighthouse committee agreed that a lighthouse was necessary. After much discussion, they agreed to build it on Stórhöfði. However ideal the location was, it definitely had its challenges. It was high enough up that you couldn't get to it from the shore and it was about 5 kilometers from town with no road or trail leading to it.
Needless to say, all the building materials had to be transported to the dedicated spot. The lighthouse was to be built out of cement, so both sand and water had to be hauled up to Stórhöfði. Horses were used to carry bags of sand. In 1906, the lighthouse shone its light for the first time.
The lighthouse and home on Stórhöfði. |
The mason working on the lighthouse was
Páll Bjarnason one of Baldt's apprentice.
Baldt was the architect of the Althing
House in Reykjavik. Read about him in
my blog here . Source
The terrible weather conditions made the construction very difficult and often entire days would go to waste as it was impossible to build. Not only were the workers often fighting against the weather, but it took them about 2 - 2.5 hours to walk to the construction site from town.
In 1910, a house out of wood and corrugated iron was built next to the lighthouse. It was to serve as the home for the lighthouse keeper and his family. The house had no electricity and it wasn't until the fall of 1942 a windmill was built on Stórhöfði to provide the home with electricity.
Only a few months after the windmill was built, in March 1943, the windmill was destroyed in a storm. A light (electricity) generator that ran on gasoline was built instead. It turned out to be a pain to take care of. Later that year in December, the lighthouse received electricity for the first time with a 60 W bulb. It wasn't until March 1957 that the bulb was replaced. By then the generator ran on diesel and the replacement was a 1000 W bulb.
|Guðfinna Þórðardóttir and her husband Jónathan Jónsson. Their children from left: Guðfinna, Gunnar, Hjalti, Sigurður. Right before Jónathan's death, his son Sigurður took over as the lighthouse keeper. Today, the fourth generation is taking care of the activities on Stórhöfði. Photo taken in 1922. Source|
In March 1921, the lighthouse was struck by lightning. It was so intense that it knocked out the keeper and his family. When they came to, the lighthouse was in flames. Although badly damaged, the fire stopped before reaching the oil tank. Later that year they started logging the weather conditions and ever since, Stórhöfði has been the most known weather observatory in the North Atlantic. On February 3rd, 1991 a wind-speed of 110 knots/hr (57m/s) was measured at Stórhöfði.
During the time of the lightning storm, the keeper was Jónathan Jónsson. He was its keeper from 1910 until right before his death in 1935. His son, Sigurður took over as the lighthouse keeper until he died in 1966. After that, his son, Óskar Jakob, took over the job until 2007.
In 1998, Óskar made it into Guinness Book of World Records for having ringed over 65,000 birds. After Óskar quit, his son, Pálmi Freyr took over the job, being the fourth generation of lighthouse keepers and making them the only family to live on Stórhöfði since 1910.
Stórhöfði is the southernmost tip of the island.
Today, all types of environmental experiments and observations take place at Stórhöfði and much of the information is sent to Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (EMEP).
Before Jónathan moved to Stórhöfði, he lived on the main island (Iceland) and was working as an assistant to the homeopath Lárus Pálsson (1842-1919). This is most likely the same Lárus as mentioned in my previous blog as the otherworldly being who connected with Guðrún through her glass. Lárus lived at Spítalastígur 3 in Reykjavik when he passed away.
On August 9th, 1870, Lárus was living with his uncle, Rev. Þorsteinn Einarsson in Kálfafellsstað. That day he was feeling useless and bored. This was out of the ordinary for him as he enjoyed staying with his uncle. Whatever it was looming over him, seemed to put him to sleep as if he was enchanted. Lárus lied down and quickly fell asleep. He wasn't quite certain what was happening. He felt he was in his medicine box preparing medications, but he also thought he was asleep.
Óskar Sigurðsson. Source
The rest of the household was outside working at haymaking. When Lárus woke up, he didn't waste any time and got ready to cut the grass. A little while later he went back inside and was going to do some work in his medicine box. The box was on the table and Lárus had the key to it around his neck. Inside the box were 65 different types of medications. When he opened it, he noticed that there were 7 folded papers prepared with medications.
All seven papers were labeled with the name Katrín and the letters a, b, c, d, e, f and g. Lárus was very confused. He had a strange memory that he had gotten the medicine ready while in this strange enchanted state and written Katrín´s name on the dosages. After all, it was obviously his handwriting. Still not sure what had happened, Lárus showed his uncle the folded papers with the prepared medicines. The Reverend only knew of one Katrín and she was in great health.
Lárus shook it off and went back out to gut the grass. Then around 3:00 p.m. a priest came to see him and said a man had come a long way to see him. He had brought with him a sick girl who needed his help. Lárus grabbed his medicine box and went home with the priest. When he got there, he asked the man what the name of the girl was. Katrín, he said.
Lárus Pálsson was most likely |
the same person who after his
death, communicated with
Guðrún through her glass.
The coincidence was not lost on Lárus who proceeded to examine the girl. He diagnosed her with dropsy (edema). The cavity right below the diaphragm was full of liquid. He couldn't stop thinking that something otherworldly had occurred and that he was supposed to give the girl the medicine he prepared while in an altered state. This was something he suspected had happened to him on other occasions as well.
Lárus made the decision to give her the already prepared medications, thinking they wouldn't harm her in any way. She was to take 7 grains of sugar (sykurkorn) seven times per day from from each envelope labeled a-g until the medication was gone. When Katrín had finished all the medications, she had recovered fully and would continue to enjoy full health afterwards.
Lárus never was able to figure out what medication he had given her. The grains of sugar all looked the same. It was obvious to Lárus that he had been the one to prepare them. The handwriting was clearly his.
Nobody knew about this, except his uncle, Rev. Þorsteinn Einarsson, and Lárus asked him to keep it a secret, which he did. Then 35 years later, Lárus was invited to three séances with the Icelandic Society for Psychical Research. Present at the séances were several men of high standing. This was to prove the authenticity for them and for Lárus of what was about to happen. During one of the meetings, an otherworldly voice was heard saying, We are here, the three of us looking for the doctor.
Björn Jónsson, owner of Ísafold and one of the founding spiritists, replied, Which doctor? There was another doctor present. Þorsteinn Jónsson from Westman Islands. The voice answered, Lárus. Hearing that Lárus responded, yes, I am here. The voice then said, There is three of us here and we are with you often. Usually it's just me and I was with you when you brought the medicine to Katrín.
There was no doubt in Lárus' mind that this was a true otherworldly communication. There was no possible way the medium could have known this. I am assuming the medium was Indriði Indriðason. If we are to add 35 years to 1870, it would mean that Lárus attended the séances in 1905. This is when séances were barely starting out in Iceland and Indriði was the society's only medium.
, lighthouse |
keeper and homeopath. Source
Jónathan hadn't been working for Lárus very long when he became somewhat of a healer himself. He learned quite a bit about medications and healing techniques and for the rest of his days, he performed healing practices for those who sought his help. His success rate was impressive, in fact, he received a medal from the Order of the Dannebrog for his services. Many people sought his help as an alternative to what the doctor wasn't able to do.
Before moving to Westman Islands, Jónathan and his wife, Guðfinna, moved with their children to Reykjavík into a house on Skólavörðurstígur 27. Then in 1910, while in Reykjavik, Jónathan heard the news about an available position as the lighthouse keeper on Stórhöfði. He applied for the job and before long he was hired and the family moved to Westman Islands.
Once on the island, there were no roads to Stórhöfði, so the family had to carry all their belongings on their backs the 5 kilometer track up to the lighthouse.
People in Westman Islands knew about his reputation as a homeopathic healer and quickly began seeking his help. His success on this front continued for the people on the small island. Among those he healed was a boy by the name of Aðalsteinn Jóhannsson who had typhoid fever. Jónathan turned out to be so good at healing young children that the district medical officer often referred sick children to him.
Jónathan was in love with the beauty on Stórhöfði. From there he could see four glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Tindafjallajökull and Langjökull. The only major concern was the terrible weather conditions with such strong winds that it could be a danger for small children.
Jónathan was a man of many trades. He was an impressive hunter, weatherman, healer, builder and when the islanders found out he was good at fixing clocks, they were frequently bringing their broken watches to him. If that wasn't enough, he was also a teacher. From the years 1890-1893 he worked as an elementary school teacher on the main island (Iceland).
April 4th, 1925, started out like any other day. Gunnar Þórarinn Jónathansson (1899-1999), the son of the lighthouse keeper on Stórhöfði, was working at the lighthouse, helping with such things as recording the weather conditions. Gunnar grabbed the pencil and as he was about to record the weather, he began writing something completely different. It was as if he had no control over his hand and what he wrote.
After a short time, the writing stopped. Gunnar dropped the pencil and gazed down on the log book to see what he had written. Surprised and confused he had written a message to himself that he should go downtown with his family and visit Guðrún in Berjanes to receive help for their ailments. The message ended with a signature which wasn't his own, Friðrik hulduman, doctor.
Gunnar´s elementary school picture at Barnaskóla Vestmannaeyja, winter 1912-1913. Gunnar is in the top row, the fourth kid from the left. Courtesy of
Gunnar had never seen Guðrún, nor did he know her, but he went home that day and told his parents about the incident. The family had been struggling with some health issues and they were at a point where any help was greatly appreciated. For instance, Gunnar's mom (Guðfinna) had been suffering from sleep deprivation for seven years or ever since the Spanish flu. She had been to 12 different doctors, but none of them had been able to help her.
Gunnar's younger brother, Hjalti was 15 and had been so sick that he'd lost the control of his bladder rendering him incontinent. Their parents had to watch him as they would a small child, which was exhausting and difficult. They had sought the help of multiple doctors, but every one of them said the same thing: There was nothing they could do. This would probably get better with time.
Neither the doctors nor Jónathan had been able to help them get better, so the family decide to head down to town and visit Guðrún. When they got to Berjanes, the house on Faxastígur 20, they were invited inside. They told Guðrún their story and she agreed to see what she could do. Whatever happened on Guðrún's side after that, we do not know.
What we do know is that after seven years and 12 doctors, Guðfinna received help from Friðrik through Guðrún. Since then she slept through the night without the assistance of any type of medication. As for Hjalti and his problem with incontinence, the very night after they had been to see Guðrún, he stayed dry all night for the first time. Never again would he have this problem again. From then on he was able to go to the bathroom on his own and didn't have to be watched like a young child anymore.
Gunnar Jónatansson. |
After this, automatic writing became a common occurrence for Gunnar. The messages he received in his automatic writings would sometimes tell him to go visit Guðrún, so she could use his energy. For quite some time, Gunnar visited her 2-3 times a week to be with her while she was under Friðrik's influence. Gunnar would fall into a trance and lose consciousness. It felt like all his strength was being pulled out of him, but then when he woke up, he'd have cold shivers all over his body.
Hallgrímur, a teacher I will introduce in my next blog post, was a little bit of a skeptic and didn't quite buy into these healings. He wanted to know if this was real and asked Guðrún if she could fall into a very light trance where Friðrik could answer questions. Guðrún was willing to do as Hallgrímur requested and a séance was setup.
When the time came, Guðrún did as they had agreed and entered into a trance. Once in this altered state, Friðrik appeared and spoke through her. He introduced himself as Friðrik the huldu doctor. He continued by explaining that due to challenging conditions, it was difficult to successfully heal.
Friðrik must have known he needed to do better than give vague explanation, because he proceeded to give Hallgrímur and the others who were present, a very detailed instructions on how the conditions/care would be in the future. This would make his work and that of others who worked with him, much easier. Before Friðrik disappeared, he added that the healings were secondary, or less important issue.
It was more like medicine to wake up humans so they would reflect more on the after-life and build a stronger foundation to a moral life. The things Hallgrímur and the others heard spoken through Guðrún convinced them that it was all real, Guðrún truly was a medium and these things weren't coming from her own consciousness. When Guðrún woke up, she swore she had never been as tired during trance as she was then and it felt a lot different than any of the other times she had been in a trance.
During the trance healing, there were usually 6-8 people present. Some of them had other experiences with mediums and in order to test that she was truly in a trance, they would poke her without any kind of reaction from her. A few minutes after she'd wake up, with red marks and pain in the areas she had been poked.
Hallgrímur in 1962. |
Gunnar visited Hallgrímur a couple of times. Both times he fell into a trance. The first time he visited Hallgrímur, he grabbed a pencil out of his pocket and started writing. Gunnar's eyes were closed while writing, but suddenly before he was finished, all strength left his body and he buckled out of his seat and onto the floor.
Hallgrímur carried him over to the chaise where he woke up for only a moment before falling back into a trance to finish writing. Hallgrímur picked up the paper to see what he had written. On the paper, Gunnar had written Hallgrímur is not sure that you are good at writing, so now I am going to show him that I can let you write. Hulduman doctor.
The next time Hallgrímur invited him over Gunnar again fell into a trance. He began breathing very deep and started shivering. His eyes folded and he leaned on to the edge of the table and fumbled to take a pencil out of Hallgrímur's hand.
In poor handwriting he wrote quickly the words Hallgrímur may show this where he wants. Hulduman. Whatever else occurred, it convinced Hallgrímur that Gunnar was under otherworldly influence during his automatic writing.
Hallgrímur's story will be covered in the next blog post.