The loneliest house in Iceland and all the wild stories attached to it

A man surfing the Internet sees a peculiar picture of a tiny house stationed alone on an equally tiny island. With nothing but the house amid a broad green field encircled by the steep shoreline of the island, the picture is captioned “Isolation.”

After a bit of research, he finds out that the island’s name is Elliðaey and is actually the third largest island of Vestmannaeyjar, an amazing volcanic archipelago scattered off the southern coast of Iceland. Along with this info, he happens to find one not so credible story attached to this island, claiming that the house, tucked away from the rest of the world, is actually a secret hideaway for a mysterious billionaire.

Intrigued, the man delves deeper in order to find out more about this Ian Fleming-type character who might be living here… alone, gazing into the vast endless ocean. And it turns out, the story is about the iconic singer Björk, and not the Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga.

Elliðaey

The story tells that at the very beginning of the new millennium, Davíð Oddsson, the Prime Minister of Iceland, announced that he was willing to grant Björk permission to build a house on Elliðaey after she declared an interest in living on the island in complete isolation and absolute harmony. Not only that, but according to an article from February 7 the same year, as a recognition for her tremendous contribution to Iceland and its culture, she could do it for free.

Bjork. Author: deep_schismic CC BY-SA 2.0

A few blog posts and a short while after, and a whole lot of pictures depicting a small island with a petite house at its heart flooded the Internet, claiming the house is Björk’s residence, while the whole island supposedly was presented to her as a gift by the Icelandic government. No matter how charming this story might sound, it is simply untrue.

Elliðaey seen from Heimaey . CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s all primarily due to a forgivable misconception, for there are two islands in Iceland that go by the same name. The second, a rather larger one shaped like a horse shoe and located in the Breiðafjörður low bay area near the western town of Stykkishólmur, is where the singer aspired to build herself a home.

Elliðaey   Author: Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0

But this didn’t happen, for she was never actually given the island. Björk was, however, allowed to enter a public auction, after which she changed her mind due to a lot of controversy and political dispute, and abandoned the idea of making Elliðaey her retreat.

Various photos of the secluded house situated on an island with nothing but 110 acres of vivid green field around have been circulating on the Internet for years now, generating a cobweb of wildly imaginative but untrue stories, ranging from mysterious and romantic to some silly conspiracy theories and even post-apocalyptic scenarios.

For instance, it was suggested that the picture itself is a hoax and the house is actually photoshopped. An obscure cabin isolated from the rest of the world on an island with no trees or visible safe passageway to it fits this trend almost perfectly. But, no, that’s not true either.

Elliðaey (left) and Bjarnarey islands from the top of Eldfell . In the background is Eyjafjallajökull

It’s also not the silly assumption that the house is built by a secret someone as a shelter for an upcoming zombie apocalypse, which sadly also goes in the “untrue stories” bucket. And the list of various imaginative scenarios about who just might be living here and why all alone, goes on forever, while the truth is much simpler, yet no less unusual.

Elliðaey is part of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off of Iceland’s southern coast. It is the island located furthest to the north-east among the group.  Author: Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0

Three centuries ago, the island was a home to five families who decided to raise huts and live here as a community in relative peace, surviving by fishing, raising cattle, and hunting puffins. Over the next two centuries all was well, but eventually the place became increasingly impractical to maintain a sustainable community. By the 1930s, the last residents left the island. It was due to the simple fact that there were more opportunities for fishing and raising cattle on the mainland. But there was not a single place as good as Elliðaey for hunting puffins, so in the early 1950s the Elliðaey Hunting Association built a cabin called Ból (“Lair”) on the island for its members to use during the puffin hunting season in the summer, and gathering eggs in spring.

Elliðaey (left) and Bjarnarey (right) Author: Diego Delso CC BY-SA 4.0

The island itself is easily reachable by a boat from the mainland, but it’s not so simple to get up, for the cabin is only accessible from the island’s lower east side by a zip line and strictly for members of the Ellidaey hunting group.

Elliðaeys location. Author: P. S. Burton after Pinpin CC BY-SA 3.0

Today the place is still a preferable hunting location during the summer. The house, accompanied by few lonesome cattle that just can’t get enough of the rich green field, is utilized as a shelter and a resting lodge for the hunters. There is no running water or electricity, but at least they’re are able to enjoy the splendid sauna within the cabin.

So, the secluded “photoshopped” house that the government gave to Bjork and she sold to a mysterious billionaire who used it as a shelter for a zombie apocalypse? It’s not even a house but a lodge with a rainwater-fed sauna and an outside fence raised for some reason. Maybe to keep the cows from escaping–because who knows, they might swim away.

 Martin Chalakoski

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