In this blog note in group etc I try to capture some thoughts triggered by a visit to the remains of a long ago closed down whale station in Iceland. (In the menu above I have called it “Ancestors wanted?” to make it shorter.)
on the 17th of August 2015 my father would have become a hundred. I liked him, and have missed him since he died eleven years ago. I remember my grandfather, but my father’s mother passed away before I was born. I have a small, carved horse that my aunt told me had been cut when my grandfather was a small boy, while he was sitting on somebody’s lap. I don’t remember on who’s. On the other side I met both of my mother’s parents; but in the sixties diabetes was something people died from, so her father went before I got aware of life that way. My mother’s mother told me what her mother’s name was, but that was about all.
What I am trying to tell is that I know little about my grandparents. And zero about my great grandparents. Nothing; it’s strange to think about. These days I probably could find out a lot by just sitting here hitting this keyboard. But I am less curious than I’d like to admit.
Still, I could perhaps extrapolate from myself. They might have been like me. Or I might be like them, I should say. Personally I would not have discovered America; not set my feet in a boat that might lead to nowhere. Not even on the slightest piece of olive leaf delivered by a dove. But as of great grandparents I know that eight of them were mine. And some of these might be yours.
Like one of my wife’s great grandfathers? Probably not; wouldn’t I have known by now? Like her family does. He went to Iceland to build, first one whale station, then move it to the eastern part and assemble it again. We just came home from a visit there. A local historian took us out in a boat and gave us a guided tour at the location. It had been up and running for some years, then disassembled again and moved to yet other fields. This was about the time when my father was born and my grandparents were active and my great grandfathers might have had their best years. I say fathers now, because that’s how too much of history is told, isn’t it?
Like, again, one of my wife’s great grandfathers. He was more than fifty and had about a hundred people working for him in this whale station. Where they pulled these great creations by the flukes, up to be flenced. What then happened I don’t know, but I do remember the taste and smell of the whale meat that my mother some times served. Carried back from the sea, probably rather impossible from Iceland to Norway from the station we visited, at that time.
Personally I like to solve problems here and now. That’s why I am en engineer. And this has brought me from hardware to software. Some of that software has solved problems for cruise ships, helping them to be able to keep the passengers on board and then return the ship safely to port. International rules have established that this is better than ordering life boats, full of people, into the dark and cold sea.
Of all the machinery that was, after all, after all these years, left in the grass on the green turf, that they didn’t move away – of all that machinery – somebody must have contributed to having it designed or built. Somebody who went to work at a machine company, or thought out a great idea in some office.
It just struck me while we were out there in Iceland. Perhaps I too, could be proud. Maybe one of them just could have been mine?
- Published 17Aug2015, updated 20Feb2016
- Press on picture to see higher resolution
- The picture shows (top left) Sveinsstaðaeyri in Hellisfirði is a 1905(?) model made by Geir Hólm at Sjóminjasafn Austurlands in Eskifjörður – East Iceland Maritime Museum . The others pictures show some 2015 remains of the modelled Brödrene Bull’s whale station – and myself. Photos: Mari Bull Jynge Teig and Øyvind Teig. Thanks to Smári Geirsson () who took us on the guided tour to Sveinsstaðaeyri!
- By the way, here’s my father, Hans-Jacob Teig, born 17Aug1915
- Disclaimer: Personally I think that all hunting should be sustainable, and some hunting might even be totally stopped, for the ethics of it. But this note is meant to be a literary text, not about whale hunting
- Norwegian: norsk hvalstasjon på Island satt opp av Brødrene Bull på Sveinsstadaeyri i Hellisfirdi (Marcus Christian Bull (1848-1922) og Jacob Bull (1853-1912). Marcus var Maris oldefar.)
Wiki-ref: Whaling in Iceland
- Sjóminjasafn Austurlands in Eskifjörður – East Iceland Maritime Museum, see http://www.sjominjar.is/sjominjasofn/eskifjordur—sjominjasafn
- Norðfjarðarsaga by Smári Geirsson, on Hólar (2009). See book II: Fyrri hluti. Frá 1895 til 1929, chapter Hvalstöðin í Hellisfirði, s. 304-327. In Icelandic, for those who read it. See http://landogsaga.is
- Stórhvalaveiðar við Ísland til 1915 by Smári Geirsson, on Sögufélag (2015). See http://www.sogufelag.is. I think that this story is covered in more detail in this book
- Hvalfangstmuseet (The Whaling Museum), see http://www.hvalfangstmuseet.no