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Oxney Island

Region: West Iceland
Coordinates: 65.1° N 22.5167° W

About Oxney

Island Oxney is the second largest island off the Skogarstrond coast and its property covers almost 100 other islands and islets. The distance between Islands Oxney and Brokey is so short, that the Shepherds of both islands could easily communicate from the nearest points. They usually argued bitterly and when they finally met, they killed each other. The rowing distance between the home island and the outmost islands called for two hours’ boat trips and care had to be taken because of the great currents during the tide changes. The Oxney Island is rather barren and landscaped with high, rocky mounds. Its landings are relatively good and probably lead to its early settlement.

Sagas of IcelandEric the Red was driven there from his domicile in Haukadalur after a winter’s stay on Island Sudurey, until he was exiled from the country at the chieftaincy’s parliament on the Thorsnes Peninsula. After that he started preparing his ship in the Eirics Cove for his departure and search for Greenland. It was rather easy to hide his vessel in the cove from the passers by. His farm was situated exactly above the cove on a high rising mound from where he could watch anyone approaching and still there are clear signs of human habitation on the spot.

The Laxdaela Saga tells us about the divorce of Geirmundur gnýr, the Easternman, and Thuridur, the daughter of Olafur Pa at Hjardarholt. It tells us about his departure on his ship through the Hvammsfiord Bay to the Oxney Island, where he had to spend a fortnight because of the failure of winds. It tells us about his ex-wife’s, Thuridur’s, journey to his booths on the island with her very young daughter to leave her there in her father’s arms while he was sleeping and his reaction when he woke up with her in his arms. His words, shouted over the sea after his departing ex-wife, predicted the death of her brother, Kjartan, as can be read in the Laxdaela Saga (Chapter 30).

The farm on the Oxney Island was on its southernmost part on the cove Vesturvogur or Stofuvogur. The present house, still standing there, was built in 1883. Southeast of the cove is the spit of land called Akranes or Grain Field Spit, which points to grain crops cultivation in the past as other topographical names elsewhere in the country do for that time. The channel between Akranes and Seljaland to the west of Island Brokey is called the Baejarsund Channel. There the currents are strong and dangerous during the in and out-flowing tides. The property deeds on the responsibility of the preasts of the parish of Oxney tell us about their attendance responsibilities at the island. The Sturlunga Saga tells us about the son of Sturla Thordarson the historian’s son, Snorri, who barely escaped into the chapel on Island Oxney, when the people of the Westfiords wanted to apprehend him, missed the chance. The registry of the church of Narfeyri from the year 1397 tells us about the obligatory services to the population of the island and the neighbourhood. This chapel most probably was abolished before the year 1600.

A man named Gudmundur Thorleifsson from farm Narfeyri owned the island in the year 1702. At that time the people there, 8 of them, kept seven heads of cattle and 37 sheep. The farmer had two boats for transportation and exploited the bird colonies by picking eggs and hunting. He also collected the eider down from the nests of the eiders, and his endeavours flourished, if there were not too many foxes on the island. Peat for fuel was sufficient on the island and seal hunting was in abundance. The farmer paid his landlords with down and kept the eggs for himself. In 1762, fourteen people supported themselves on the island. The last family to populate the island left in 1970, but the home island and its out-islands have been exploited during summer since then.

According to the myths and the legends many of the topographical names of the islands are linked with all kinds of events on the islands. The number of islands belonging to this group of islands is about 120, which tells us that there must be many of those connected to the area. Those legends tell us about sea cows, shell-monsters, mermaids and mermen.

Oxney in Icelandic

Nearby Oxney Island

Links in Oxney Island