Thank you very much to everyone who offered comments and suggestions to help us identify some of the photographs of Iceland taken in 1925 by Isobel Wylie Hutchison, published in our blog post of 19th January.

As a result, we now know with some certainty about the locations of the following images:


  1. This is the Ölfusárbrú, an old suspension bridge over the Ölfusá river at Selfoss, just south-east of Reykjavík. Built in 1891, it was the largest bridge in Iceland at the time.  In September 1944 the weight of two passing trucks caused some cables to break, and a new bridge was constructed the following year. 


  1. A school in Ísafjörður, north-west Iceland. It was founded in 1901, and our research suggests that this building still exists, forming part of the larger complex of an elementary school.  Isobel visited Ísafjörður on a boat trip from Reykjavík, a tour which also included Siglufjörður and the Westman islands.


  1. View across Siglufjörður on the north coast of Iceland. From the early 1900s until the 1970s, Siglufjörður was an important harbour for the herring fishing industry, and it was here that Iceland’s first herring processing plant was built in 1911.


  1. The old church in Ísafjörður. It was constructed in 1863 by Rev. Halfdan Einarsson and his son, Einar.   In 1882, the ceiling of the choir was painted blue, with stars to represent the night sky.  A church interior features in another photograph by Isobel, showing a wood-panelled ceiling with painted stars - this is quite possibly Ísafjörður.   The old church burned down in 1987, and was replaced with a modern structure with a design inspired by ocean waves.



  1. and 6. are still unknown - suggestions welcome!


  1. Akureyri, a city on the Eyjafjörður Fjord in northern Iceland. During her walking-tour in 1925, Akureyri was Isobel’s ultimate destination to catch the ship that would transport her home to Leith via Copenhagen (she lived at Carlowrie, near Edinburgh).  The photograph shows the ‘Innbærinn’ or inner part of the town.  Sharp-eyed readers spotted a turreted building that now houses the Akureyri Theatre Company, and another that is now a café.  Both buildings are on a street called Hafnarstræti. 


  1. Siglufjörður, showing barrels of herring awaiting export from this busy harbour. Another of Isobel’s photos, possibly also taken at Siglufjörður, shows women using long poles to roll barrels along the ground.  Women made up a large proportion of the industry’s workforce, packing three or four barrels per hour during shifts of up to 26 hours.  By the 1920s they had established Iceland’s first women’s union which agitated for higher wages.   There is now a Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður.



  1. This is still in doubt, but it may be a view from Hekla, a volcano in the south of Iceland. Isobel enjoyed unusually clear views on her ascent.  She wrote:   ‘All round us stretched the snowy jokulls of Iceland, and crimson, blue and black slopes splashed with vivid green.  Far away the sea was a pool of fire where the sun still shone, though lowering now - it was six o’clock in the evening - in an opal haze which fingered the fantastic Westmanns [Westman islands] lovingly.  Through the blue plain silver rivers ran like columns of mercury.  This blending of fire and snow was one of the most singular and lovely sights imaginable.’   (RSGS archives)


Isobel hired Icelandic guides and ponies for her ascent of Hekla.  Isobel’s pony was named Loki, after the Norse god who was a shapeshifter and a trickster;  fortunately, he took her safely across difficult terrain and fast-flowing rivers.  The ponies were left in a stone-built enclosure half-way up Hekla, while their riders continued on foot to the summit.  As much as Isobel enjoyed her rides, she longed to make a walking-tour of Iceland, which she eventually accomplished


  1. Öxarárfoss, a waterfall at Thingvellir (Þingvellir). In geological terms, Thingvellir sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the continental plates of North America and Europe are slowly moving apart.  This is visible in the dramatic gorge known as Almannagjá, into which the Öxará River tumbles from a height of about 42 feet.   Historically, from 930 AD, Thingvellir was the meeting-place of the Icelandic Parliamentary assembly called the Althing (Alþingi).  To provide drinking water, the Öxará River was diverted to the plain where the meetings took place, and Öxarárfoss was created in the process - so is, in fact, a man-made waterfall. 

After studying the background landscape along with a keen-eyed reader of our blog post, we have now flipped Isobel’s photograph horizontally.  This is the correct view as Isobel would have seen it, from the north side of the fall, with the lake of Thingvallavatn in the background.  From looking at modern maps, it appears that the white houses have now gone.

Thank you very much again to everyone who has helped us with these photographs.  Your insights have given us a much better appreciation of Isobel’s movements and experiences in Iceland. (If you have any suggestions to make regarding images 5, 6 and 9 from our first blog post, we’d be delighted to hear from you!) Meanwhile we’ll continue to piece together a detailed account of Isobel’s visit, using her own images and transcripts.


All images from RSGS Collections