In former times the cliffs along the coastline where important to the inhabitants as they were a major source of food supply. Each farm owned their part of the cliffs and could collect eggs and catch birds from that area. Some of the cliffs have been marked with their old names – on pillars close to them. The names are often related to the farm that owned them.
The cliffs on the east side of the island are highest ranging from 60 to 100 meters. Collecting eggs from the cliffs was a very dangerous task in those days, but an important source of food. When collecting eggs, the collector that hang in a strong rope, would be lowered, maybe 60 to 70 m down from the edge of the cliff. The rope was guarded by six or seven strong men on the top. The danger was mainly that a piece of rock could break off the cliff and fall on the collector or that the rope would brake.
To day collecting of eggs is done by means of old methods but with assistance of e.g. a tractor. This is both an attraction on special occasions as well as means of food supply for the locals – though not in the same dimension as it used to be.
The Church of Grímsey
One of the early Catholic bishops of Iceland, Jón Ögmundsson consecrated a church on Grímsey in the 11th century. It was dedicated to St. Olaf, the patron saint of Norway. It was stated that there should always be two priests at the church who should lead mass daily, but twice a day on special occasions. The practice of Christianity is less ardent today but there are records of roughly 50 priests who have served there. Now days a vicar from the mainland (the village Dalvík) visits Grímsey to serve in the church aprox 4 times a year.
The present church was built in 1867. Mainly from driftwood that washed ashore at the island. The church was extended and renovated in 1932. The altar painting is by a local artist painted in 1878 and is a copy of a work by Leonardo da Vinci. Pledges and donations made to the church are said to bring good luck.
A symbol, a kind of a bridge to cross the Arctic Circle can be found at 66°33’N, north of the airport terminal, beside the north end of the Guesthouse Básar. Beside the symbol is a pole showing the distance to many well known cities in the world.
The Burial Site of the First Settlers
Between the village and the airport, shortly after the pond on the way to the airport one can see two caps on the left hand side, which the story tells is the burial site of the first settlers of Grímsey. A man named “Grimur” who sailed from the “Sogn” district in Norway with his family. He and his wife are said to have been buried on each of these two capes.
*The Fiske Monument
Above the harbour close to the store and the restaurant facing the ocean one can find a artwork honouring Mr. Daniel Willard Fiske who was a Patron of the island. Mr.Fiske, who was a wealthy American scholar and chess enthusiast, sailed pass the island and was intrigued by the lifestyle of the inhabitants and their love of chess. It prompted him to donate a chess set to every home and he also donated a considerable amount of money to the community to support their future endeavours.
The monument displays a similar ship as Mr. Fiske (1831-1904) sailed with as he learned about Grímsey and its inhabitants.
During the summer of 2010 the artist Georg Hollander came to Grímsey and worked with the youth in the island to create different artwork from materials found at the shore. Most of the artwork is made from driftwood and other elements the sea has brought to the coast. About 6 artworks were created, some lasting longer than others.
Basalt Column formations
Grímsey has many beautiful basalt columns formations especially at the south west corner of the island. Basalt is a volcanic material that can crystallise into special formation if thick lava flow is cooled relatively rapidly from a horizontal angel – then the lava cracks and creates these special hexagonal formations. This has happened in Grímsey as the lave flow has been encountered by the cooling from the ocean.
The size of the columns depends on the rate of cooling; very rapid cooling may result in very small columns, while some what slower cooling is more likely to produce large columns.
The Lighthouse in Grímsey – Vitinn
This is one of the notable buildings in Grímsey, built in year 1937. It is located on the south-east corner of the island. In the beginning it was run manually with a gas lamp which had to be turned on and off manually. Now days the lighthouse is automatic and plays an important role to the boat traffic in the surrounding waters. The lighthouse is closed to the public but offers a good viewing point to the cliffs at the east cost of the island as well as being a popular photo object.
As no natural resources of hot water or other means of producing electricity in an environmental way is possible in Grímsey. All electricity and warming of water is produced by means of a diesel aggregator. In year 1973 an experiment was made in building a windmill to produce electricity. The experiment failed as the mill broke down shortly after it had been build.
On the southwest part of the island on can see remains of the windmill standing on the hill.