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						Lögberg-Heimskringla • Föstudagur 26, juli 1996 • 3

Watching whales

in Arctic seas

off lceland

Concert offers first-class acts


'hale-watching expeditions

could become a more lu-

crative business in Iceland

than whale hunting" according to Ralf

Kiefher, a German journalist and pho-

tographer who visited Iceland recently

to take a look at the conditions for

whale-watching there.

Kiefner has specialized in animal

photography and travelled widely to

photograph and write about whales in

particular. He said that 4.6 million

tourists had bought whale-watching

tours world-wide in 1994 and that he

himself had visited many places where

whale-watching tours are offered.

He was satisfied with the condi-

tions for whale-watching in Iceland,

that they were similar to other places

where such tours have become popu-

lar. In Buenos Aires in Argentina,

34,000 people went on such trips in

1993. Travelling with Kiefner was a

German Tourist Bureau owner, Frank

Wirth, who has sold whale-watching

tours throughout the world and also

came to look at the conditions in Ice-

land. He agreed with Kiefner that Ice-

land had excellent opportunities in this


Páll Þór Jónsson, hotel manager at

Húsavík, has assisted the two Ger-

mans and he said that whale-watching

offered new opportunity in tourism.

He was for example expecting two

groups from England w'hose main in-

terest for coming was whale-watching.

Páll Jónsson began offering whale-

watching tours from Húsavík last year

when 1,500 people bought such trips

and this year the figure will be much




Deborah Patterson, Erika MacPherson andArne MacPherson

will entertain at the festival.

On Saturday, August 3, 19% at 8

p.m. at the Gimli High School,

the Celebrity Concert will fea-

ture Sylvia Richardson who may be

known to some for her lead role this

spring as Rose Maybud in the Gilbert

and Sullivan production of Ruddigore.

Sylvia has been studying with Carolyn

Mitchell for years. She has been very

busy also as an actress, taking parts in

many productions with the Black Hole

Theatre and also the Fringe Festival.

Sylvia was also a finalist in the Rose

Bowl Competition (The Winnipeg

Music Festival). She is currently em-

ployed as a drama teacher at Fort

Richmond Collegiate. Ross Houston

will be her accompanist. Sylvia's afi

and amma were Sigros and Hjortur

'Hjartarson oí Lundar. Her parents are

Christine and Allan Richardson of


Deborah Patterson's quick wit and

satire is sure to humour you! Deborah

has been called Canada's foremost

topless accordion player. This very

talented lady will be very familiar to

many Winnipeg theatre goers as she

has just recently been in Shakespeare

in the Ruins. Her musical talents will

be shared with you. She enjoys com-

posing her own music. She plays the

accordion, keyboards, bass guitar and

flute. Deb is Ame MacPherson's part-

ner and they have a charming, nearly

three year old daughter, Gislina.

Arne MacPherson is a profes-

sional actor. He will deviate

slightly by reading and inter-

preting. Ame will also be singing with

his sister, Erika. Arne, too has just

completed Shakespeare in the Ruins,

and this winter he was in Inquest,

Transit of Venus, Mr. A's Amazing

Maze Plays plus several others! He is

a busy actor! Ame numbers among his

skills a wide range of dialects, stilt-

walking, juggling, clowning, stage

combat, singing, piano, keyboards,

guitar, sound composition and danee

(tap, ballet, jazz and modern). Arne

took his basic education in Alberta

where he and Erika were raised.

Erika MacPherson works in video,

film, and installations. Just like her

brother Ame, she is very versatile and

creative. She will sing and play the

banjo. Erika is presently part of a

quartet called "Nipples to the Wind."

They do spoofs on traditional barber-

shop quartet tunes. Erika's influence

on the arts community can be wit-

nessed in the many facets of where

she worked for many years, the St.

Norbert Arts & Cultural Centre. She

organized many events and physically

worked on the restoration. Recently,

she has a video entitled "This is a

Photograph of Me" purchased by the

BRAVO network.

Erika and Ame are the children of

Lillian and Lome MacPherson of Ed-

monton. Their grandparents are Haf-

steinn and Lillian Bjamason formerly

of Winnipeg, and Regina and now of

British Colombia.

Looking for the hidden folk

By Gillian Johnson

At Vegmúli, east of the sports

hall in Laugardalur park, Reyk-

javík, where Bobby Fischer

beat Boris Spassky in the world chess

championship in 1972, is advertised a

"respectable school... that teaches you

everything about mysterious beings

like elves, fairies, trolls..."

A woman wearing a half-zipped,

quilted coat offers greetings from her

seat in the front of the Elf Schcol lec-

ture hall. "I'm Linda," she says.

"Magnús, the teacher, will be right


Though we are the only students we

are not alone in the room. At the front

are a half dozen plaster-of-Paris stat-

ues that show the wear and tear of

winters spent in rock gardens. They

look a little like the statues you see on

the front lawns of cottages across

North America— brightly painted

replicas of Snow White's gang of


Incidentally, Snow White' is said to

have been inspired by an Icelandic

waitress who served coffee to a West-

em Icelandic cartoonist at the Weevil

Café in Winnipeg in the 1920's. When

the dark-haired beauty rejected his ad-

vances, the cartoonist went to Holly-

wood to work for Disney. There her

image  was  immortalized  as  Snow


The guidebook tells us that the ma-

jority of Icelanders believe in the exis-

tence of elves. Folklore historian Arni

Bjömsson writes that one in every 500

inhabitants of Iceland is a ghost which

means that there are over 500 non-cor-

poreal beings living on the island.

Magnús H. Skarphédinsson, histori-

an, whale activist, vegetarian, brother

of the former prime minister of the en-

vironment and Elf School headmaster,

offers a crushing welcoming hand-

shake and provides more hard data.

"Only twenty-six per cent of Ice-

landers believe in the existence of

elves," he says. "But eighty per cent

do take notice."

He writes the statistics on the

blackboard and tuming to Linda laces

his fingers together. "Linda do you

have psychic ability?"

"No," she answers thoughtfully,

"but my son does. When he was small

he used to say he had another life."

"Yes, children," Skarphédinsson

sighs. "More than half of the stories

we hear are from children. Children

up to seven years old are psychic. By

fourteen they have lost it."

"Have you seen an elf?"

A smile hovers. "Once about five

years ago I saw an elf. He was about

this high."

On the Hidden Worlds Map that's

included on the EKR2350 (about USD

$36) Elf School registration fee the

Huldufólk are depicted by psychic

artist Erla Stefánsdóttir as ectomorphs

in human clothes. "Often colorfully

dressed...[they] are social creatures

who generally live very close together

and are often seen in large groups."

The least likable of the elfin beings,

according to Skarphédinsson, are not

the twelve-foot trolls, nor the dwarfs,

light fairies, mountain spirits, or lovel-

ings, but the gnomes, who are about

10 cm. tall. Though tiny, gnomes have

a fierce temper and can be somewhat


Translators of folklorist Jón Ara-

son, May and Hallberg Hall-

mundsson, locate the Icelanders'

beUef in other beings in the long sub-

Arctic nights, the spooky landscape

and the saga literature. Edison, they

suggest, was probably the biggest

"ghost buster" in Iceland.

But if Skarphédinsson's statistics

are correct, neither education nor elec-

trification has wiped out the Ice-

landers' belief in the hidden people.

Some people treat them as respected

neighbors and friends. Family even.

When an elf or huldufólk family want

to move in, you can make room.

Skarphédinsson drives us to his

friend's garden in Hafnarfjördur, the

"town of lava," near Reykjavík. Dark

volcanic rocks line the edge of the

yard, rubble from the 7,000-year-old

lava field on which this town was


"This garden," says Skarphédins-

son, "is home to several elf families."

He points to a black basalt rock. "One

of the older man elves approached my

friend with a dilemma. His daughter

was pregnant and soon their home

would be too crowded to hold them

all. So my friend imported another

rock. Now the elf family is happy

again. " We all smile at the household


There are few trees in Iceland but a

thick velvety green moss seems to

grow everywhere, including the black

rock faces of Hellisgerdi park, our

final destination. "A Swiss woman

was at the Elf School last week," says

Skarphédinsson." She had psychic

abilities. We were in this park for a

very long time talking to the elves."

Maybe if we look hard enough...

We squint at the rocks. There's a

slight movement — the rustle of

grass?" The wind picking up?

Skarphédinsson looks over at us as

we leave the park. "Yes, the Swiss

woman introduced us to many new elf


Gillian Johnson lives in Winnipeg.

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