The Weather Report
is a project about observing the weather, the darkness of icelandic winters and a woman who lives at one of the most remote and isolated places in Iceland. A Weather Station in the East Fjords of Iceland.
MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT
On Iceland, weather is so much more than a subject for small talk. Volcanoes simmer, ready to send a cloud of ash into the air, while ice storms can sweep across the island at any moment. This near the Arctic Circle, the weather can be apocalyptic. You want to know what’s coming so you can sleep soundly. And to make sure all the islanders get a good night’s rest, Marsibil Erlendsdóttir has to sacrifice some sleep. She’s the local weather lady. Erlendsdóttir lives in Dalatangi, an off-the-beaten-track fjord in east Iceland. Every three hours she will check the instrument shelter and send a report to the national weather board. Day and night, come rain or shine. Alongside her duties at the weather station, the 58-year-old also runs a farm.
Her reports, along with those from the rest of the island, are published on the internet and read out over the radio. For farmers or fishermen out on the high seas, the information Erlendsdóttir provides can be the difference between life and death. The Icelander grew up in Dalatangi with her brother and six sisters. She married one of the local fishermen and had a family of her own, raising two kids. Three years ago her husband died, leaving Erlendsdóttir to run the farm on their own. She says she has everything she needs and has never felt lonely – quite the opposite in fact.
“It never gets boring here,” she says.
There has been a weather station on this spot since 1938 and it has always been operated by a real person. A computer would never be up to the job as any kind of technical fault, especially in winter, would be unfixable. In the coldest months of the year, the farm is only reachable by boat and can be cut off from the outside world for days on end when storms hit. And if the information from the little station doesn’t get through, lives could be endangered. In addition to the temperature readings, she also sends data on air pressure and wind. To do so, she has to study the clouds and the seas.“An automated weather station couldn’t do that,” she says.
Billa has a dozen Border Collies who she trains to round up sheep. Training the dogs is her favourite pastime. Every season brings its own tasks. She has to maintain the local lighthouse too. Her store cupboard must always be well stocked, given the nearest supermarket is 50km away.
In winter it takes an hour by boat to get to the shops in the next Fjord. A post boat only comes once every two weeks but she does have round-the-clock internet access.
The circumstances are very demanding here, but living in harmony with nature gives Billa her inner peace.
One year ago, Billas daughter Heiða finished her studies in Reykjavik and went back to the farm afterwards, to accompany her mother. She says “If I ever moved away, my mother would definitely stay here on her own. Here she feels free.”
„The Weather Report“ is a "Work in Progress". It will be told in three chapters and released in two books.
TEXT by LYDIA POLZER