Flatey Island and Birds

PARADISE OF SKJÁLFANDI BAY

Flatey Island

Flatey is an island which is located on the north-western part of Skjálfandi Bay, 14,7 nautical miles from Húsavík. The name means "flat island" and the highest peak rises only about 22 m above sea level. With the length of 2,5 km and 1,7 km wide, Flatey is the fifth largest island around Icelandic waters. The island is a paradise for bird watching with over 30 different species during the breeding season.

Puffins in Flatey Island

History

Flatey was settled early in historic times and the population increased during the first decades of the 20th century. In 1942, the population was at its highest with 120 people.

The islanders earned their living from fishing and agriculture. The fishermen went out on rowing boats around the island, where there are highly productive fishing grounds, especially for cod and lumpfish. Since the soil on Flatey is very fertile, the inhabitants were also able to practise agriculture and most families had some farm animals such as cows, sheep or hens.

Family history in Skjálfandi Bay

The living conditions were hard at that time as there was no electricity or fresh water supplies. The winter storms could be harsh and the distance to the mainland (Húsavík) was far at that time. Twice a month a boat went from Flatey to Húsavík, stopping at Nausteyrarfjara in Flateyjardalur (Flatey Island Valley), transporting passengers, groceries and other stocks.

The local community was very active when the population was at its peak. However, it became difficult for Flatey to compete with other communities that grew faster with increasing access to electricity and hot water in homes. People started leaving the island and moving to places such as Húsavík. In 1967, the last inhabitants left Flatey and it has not been permanently inhabited since.

Nowadays Flatey is mainly inhabited in the summertime by families returning to their roots as well as tourists visiting the local treasure.

Buildings and Structures

Several structures were built on Flatey when the island was permanently inhabited:

  • A church was built in the early years but was shut down in 1884. In 1960, a new church was consecrated. This new church came from the meanwhile uninhabited Flatey Island Valley. The church is kept up well and today there are still events taking place there such as weddings and concerts.

Flatey Island church

  • A schoolhouse was built in 1929. There was only one teacher in the school and two classes, class 1-5 and 6-10. There was also a library and a sport hall in the same building. School activities were traditionally from October throughout April, as children were helping at home with fishing and farming during the other months of the year.

  • The first lighthouse was built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1963. It stands on the highest point of the island, 22 m above sea level. The lighthouse is still functioning and in use, runs by gas and has backup batteries.

  • An icehouse was built in 1937 near the harbour. It was used by the islanders as a refrigerator for their food supplies.

  • A radio telegraph was put up in 1931.

  • An airport was made on the western part of the island from north to south. It was 900 m long and the first aeroplane landed there in 1955. It has not been used very often but sometimes private aircrafts have landed there.

Today, many buildings have been renovated and are used as summerhouses. Some houses are in very frequent use, but no one lives there all year round. Most of them are owned by relatives or descendants of the former inhabitants. Some are used as guesthouses. In most of the houses generators are used as electricity supplies, some use gas, which is also used for heating up.

Flatey Island houses

Flatey Island guiding

Getting to Flatey

Stefán Guðmundsson, the owner of Gentle Giants, is proud of his strong family connections to Flatey. His grandparents, who had lived their whole life by Skjálfandi Bay, moved to the island and his father was born and brought up there. The family house has been nicely renovated and is today well used as a second home.

Gentle Giants offers various tours to Flatey, both scheduled departures and special tours: barbecue trips, cruise ship shore excursions, family gatherings, local heritage tours, professional bird watching, school groups, staff trips, and weddings are just some examples of adventures that the company has organised to the island.

Inspired to visit Flatey? Contact us for more information on info@gentlegiants.is.

Flatey Island cruise ship

Flatey Island party

Flatey Island events

Flatey Island wedding

Birdlife

Flatey has a rich fauna, especially during the summer when breeding takes place. Over 30 species of birds can be seen on Flatey:

 Photos© Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson Icelandic – Latin – English – German
Lundi 2 Lundi Fratercula arctica – Atlantic Puffin – Papageitaucher
Æður Æðarfugl Somateria mollissima – Common Eider – Eiderente
Kría Kría – Sterna paradisaea – Arctic Tern – Küstenseeschwalbe
Teista Teista – Cepphus grylle – Black Guillemot – Gryllteiste
Dílaskarfur Dílaskarfur – Phalacrocorax carbo Cormorant Kormoran
Fýll Fýll – Fulmarus glacialis – Fulmar Eissturmvogel
Rita Rita Rissa tridactyla – Kittiwake – Dreizehenmöwe
Sendlingur Sendlingur – Calidris maritima – Purple Sandpiper – Meerstrandläufer
Hrossi Hrossagaukur – Gallinago gallinago – Common Snipe – Bekassine
Óðinshani Óðinshani Phalaropus lobatus – Red-necked Phalarope – Odinshühnchen
Jaðrakan Jaðrakan – Limosa limosa – Black-tailed Godwit – Uferschnepfe
Spói Spói – Numenius phaeopus – Whimbrel – Regenbrachvogel
Stelkur Stelkur – Tringa totanus – Redshank – Rotschenkel
Sandlóa Sandlóa – Charadrius hiaticula – Ringed Plover – Sandregenpfeifer
Tjaldur Tjaldur – Haematopus ostralegus – Oystercatcher – Austernfischer
Heiðlóa Heiðlóa – Pluvialis apricaria – Golden Plover – Goldregenpfeifer
Lóuþræll Lóuþræll – Calidris alpina – Dunlin – Alpenstrandläufer
Tildra Tildra – Arenaria interpres – Turnstone – Steinwälzer
Stokkönd Stokkönd – Anas platyrhynchos – Mallard – Stockente
Toppönd Toppönd – Mergus serrator – Red-breasted Merganser Mittelsäger
Urtönd Urtönd – Anas crecca Teal – Krickente
Duggönd Duggönd – Aythya marila – Scaup – Bergente
Grágæs Grágæs Anser anser – Greylag Goose – Graugans
Rjúpa Rjúpa – Lagopus mutus – Ptarmigan – Alpenschneehuhn
Skógaþröstur Skógarþröstur – Turdus iliacus – Redwing – Rotdrossel
Þúfutittlingur Þúfutittlingur – Anthus pratensis – Meadow Pipit – Wiesenpieper
Maríuerla Maríuerla – Motacilla alba – White Wagtail – Bachstelze
Steindepill Steindepill Oenanthe oenanthe – Northern Wheatear – Steinschmätzer
Hettumáfur Hettumáfur – Larus ridibundus Black-headed Gull – Lachmöwe
Svartbakur Svartbakur – Larus marinus – Great Black-backed Gull – Mantelmöwe
Sílamáfur Sílamáfur – Larus fuscus – Lesser Black-backed Gull – Heringsmöwe
Hávella Hávella – Clangula hyemalis – Long-tailed Duck – Eisente
Álft Álft – Cygnus cygnus – Whooper Swan – Singschwan
Hrafn Hrafn – Corcus corax – Common Raven – Kolkrabe
Fálki Fálki – Falco rusticolus – Gyrfalcon – Gerfalke
Hunang Hunang logo