The Sinking of Iceland´s Góðafoss, 1944

godafoss

On November 23, the Icelanders of Victoria club showed the Icelandic film, Árásin á Góðafoss. The Góðafoss was an Eimskip ship that was torpedoed and sunk during 1944 by a German Uboat.

If Western Icelanders want to understand their Icelandic cousins, they need to know historical events like these. Although, only twenty-four people were killed in the attack, it is important to remember that Iceland’s population at the time was around 120,000. Because of the small population, nearly everyone in Iceland was related . The loss was a shock to the entire nation.

german sub
The Góðafoss was a cargo and passenger ship. Iceland, in spite its occupation by Allied forces–British, Canadian and American–was neutral. It had no army, navy or air force. It had declared war on no one. Once the occupation took place, in spite of assurances from the military, control of Icelandic affairs was largely by the occupiers.

There was no need for them to point a gun, or drop a bomb. Along with having no way of defending its territorial integrity, Iceland was dependent on imports of oil and coal. Without oil the fishing fleet could not have operated. Without coal, the Icelanders would have suffered from the cold. They were no longer living in huts made of turf and lava. Geothermal energy was not yet fully developed. They were also heavily dependent on imports for other necessities. Their only market for their fish was England.

The Góðafoss was described as a steam merchant of one thousand, five hundred and forty-two tons. It was build in nineteen twenty one. The owner was Eimskipafélag Islands. Western Icelanders had a particular interest in the Eimskip ships, not just because family and friends owned them and worked on them but because money had been raised in Canada and the USA to help establish the company.

The ship was carrying forty-four people plus survivors from an oil tanker that had been torpedoed. It was also carrying twelve hundred and forty tons of cargo. It had traveled with a convoy from New York to Loch Ewe, Scotland. From there, it led a convoy toward Iceland.

Bad weather caused the convoy to break up and, after holding its place during the night, the Góðafoss and the oil tanker Shirvan continued toward Reykjavik. First, the Shirvan was torpedoed. It exploded and its cargo caught on fire. The captain of Góðafoss, Sigurður Gíslason, ignored standard military orders to ignore survivors.  He stopped to pick up the sailors from the tanker. This gave the German submarine captain, Fritz Hein, of U-300 an opportunity to attack the Góðafoss.After the torpedo struck, it only took seven minutes for the Góðafoss to sink.

During those seven minutes, there were attempts to get lifeboats and rafts into the water. However, because of the explosion, it was only with great difficulty that two lifeboats and one raft were released. One lifeboat that fell into the water was upside down.
Although there were many people in the sea, the navy made no attempt to rescue them. They even set off depth charges close to them that may have killed some of those who had survived the sinking.

An interesting note in the film was that the twenty-three year old submarine captain was ordered back to his base where he faced a court martial for sinking a ship from a neutral country. He was absolved of the charge because the Góðafoss was traveling in a military convoy and so was partially responsible for its fate.

The movie is in two parts, the first ending with the sinking of the Góðafoss. The second part is mostly interviews with survivors, including two German sailors who talked about their role in the sinking. One said that he was only seventeen when he joined the German submarine corp.

The first part of the movie is put together with Icelandic, Allied and German historical clips, with sections on the search for the wreck of the Góðafoss linking them . The film does an excellent job of showing something of what life was like in Reykjavik during the war. There is also a good depiction of what life was like for German submariners.

The second half of the film grips the heartstrings for it shows the outcomes for various people aboard the Góðafoss. There is the terrible fate of the  people who survived the explosion and clung to the overturned lifeboat until they lost consciousness and slipped into the ocean. The two women who were still on the hull when it was bumped during the rescue effort and one of them was knocked into the water and disappeared.

Such deaths are always tragic but the most tragic story of all has to be that of Dr. Sigrún Briem and her husband Dr. Friðgeir Ólason. They were returning to Iceland with their three childrenÆ Óli, 7, Sverrir, 2, and a baby, Sigrún. Sigrún and Friðgeir were returning to Iceland after completing their medical studies at Harvard. All were lost.
Ellen Ingibjörg Wagle Downey had married an American serviceman and was returning to Iceland with her three year old son, William. They both died. Ellen´s husband was fighting at the Battle of the Bulge but received permission to go to Iceland to be with Ellen´s family for a short time.

There were survivors. Somehow, miraculously, among the wreckage, some lived. One was Áslaug Sigurðardóttir. She is among those interviewed.

The story of the master of the ship, Sigurður Gislason, he who stood on the deck as the ship sank but was cast up by the rushing water instead of being drawn down, is, in itself, fascinating. He is interviewed.

And, finally, as it should, the film tells us the fate of the U-300 and its crew.

No one wins in war. The armies destroy each other but what they destroy more is the civilian population. In working on a different article about Iceland in 1944, I came across a quote from an American senior officer who said to an Icelander something like, “You are very fortunate that we got here first because if the Germans had got here first, we’d have rooted them out without worrying about the people of Iceland.” It is a brutal but straightforward statement. Today, we see it in many parts of the world. The combatants war against each other but the greatest casualties are the innocent civilians.

If your club hasn’t shown this film, ask for it to be shown. It’s nice to go around grunting like a Viking and all that with all the horror and tragedy washed away by time but if you really want to know about Iceland and Icelanders, it is more recent history that needs to be observed.

The film has an English voice over when Icelanders and Germans are being interviewed.

Rituals

When I was growing up, we had outdoor toilets. Ours was about fifteen feet from the back steps. That may seem close for a one-holer but when it is twenty below and a wind is blowing, you want the trip to be a short as possible.

I will always remember trying not to go until I couldn’t hold it anymore, then racing outside, trying to pull the door shut just in case someone came to visit my folks or a stray husky came by and got curious. There was always a little snow drift that had to be kicked out of the way before the door would close. How fast can you get your pants down and the trap door on your long underwear open and out of the way? No matter how fast you were, you ended up freezing.

Sometimes there was toilet paper but often there was an Eaton’s catalogue. In the summer, one might linger while looking at all the things one’s heart might desire but which one could not afford. In winter, when a freezing wind is blowing through the cracks in the door, snow is settling on your lap, there is no lingering over pictures of a red tricycle.

It would have been easier to have taken off the long underwear inside before making a dash for the outhouse. Except that the town followed an old ritual. Every fall, the people gathered on a set date on the beach. It was just before the first ice formed on the water. Large bonfires were started from driftwood. People brought their male children under twelve and helped them undress. When we were naked, we were then driven or carried kicking and screaming to the lake and thrown in. Our parents, in rubber boots, waded in and scrubbed us top to bottom with Lifebuoy soap. Then they lifted us out of the water, dried us off with a large towel, wrapped us in a wool blanket and set us at the edge of one of the fires. There, they gave our hair another drying with a towel.

Every family brought a package with them. For those with a lot of kids under twelve, it was a big package. For our family it was small since there was just my brother and me. Our mothers pulled out long underwear, helped us put it on, then proceeded to sew us into it. This fall ritual was called the Into. Once in, that was it until the ice came off the lake in spring. At that time, the process was reversed. That was called the Out Of. The underwear was cut off and burned in a bonfire, we were scrubbed in a lake just recently free of ice. This time though we were decked out in an undershirt and undershorts. With no trap door and buttoned fly, life became less of a challenge.

Except for the washing in the cold lake water, it was fun. A family get together, a fire, roasting hot dogs, drinking hot cocoa, singing songs. Only when we were all dressed were our sisters allowed to join us. The weekend before our Into, our mothers and fathers took their daughters, if they had any, down to the lake for their fall washing but no boys were allowed so I never did find out what it was that the girls were dressed in under their long skirts and dresses. The mystery of the sexes remained. It wasn’t that we wanted to know what the girls bodies looked like under their clothes but, rather, what their bodies were clothed with. When we were older, we’d start to wonder about the bodies under the mysterious clothes.

Of course, once waterworks were forced on the town, the old rituals died out. Everything changed. No more were people found frozen to death in an outhouse. No more was it necessary to develop a strategy to get to the outhouse and back into the house before you turned blue. No more lying behind the wood stove hoping that thawing out wouldn’t be too painful. No more, if you lingered too long, would your mother come to the back door and yell, “If you don’t hurry up, it’s going to freeze and fall off.”
No more bonfires on the beach, no more shock of water ready to turn to ice, no more chipping your front teeth on a cup holding hot cocoa as you vibrated with cold until the fire warmed you up. No more the wonderful feeling of your mother using her scissors to cut you free in the spring. No more getting to fling your long underwear into the fire. No burning away your winter’s sins and beginning fresh again. No more steaming bowls of fishhead soup. No more vinarterta, kliener, asta bolur, or ponnokokkur to get our blood sugar and temperature up. No watching the sky for the Wild Hunt. No rimur recited. No sagas told.
Instead, there was white porcelain in an indoor bathroom. Totally characterless. No ritual. No challenge. No gathering to share an invigorating experience on the beach. No more bellowing songs to Father Winter around the fire. Just the sound of a toilet flushing away tradition.

The traditionalists held onto their outdoor biffys for a year or two. These were the people who clung to the past. They didn’t trust change. They were the types who never threw anything away, just in case. They weren’t sure that plumbing would actually work. But hot and cold water flowed out of the taps. Some grumbled it was the devil’s invention but the day came when the biffy was hauled away. The hole was filled with sand and topped with soil. When ours was taken away my father said, somewhat sadly I thought, “This will be a good spot for a garden in a few years.”

Remembrance

fighter plane

The Cost of War In the time leading up to Remembrance Day, I think often of my grandfather, William John Smith.

He left Ireland for Canada. He went to Winnipeg because he had three sisters there. He joined the militia. After WWI began, he joined the regular army and went to France to fight for Britain.

He was a crack shot. The army made him a sniper and a machine gunner. He was so accurate that on a number of occasions, he was asked if he’d like to volunteer to be a tail gunner on an aircraft. The lifespan of tail gunners could be measured in minutes. He declined.

He was gassed. The mustard gas damaged his lungs so that in cold weather when he was back in Winnipeg after the war, he found it difficult to breathe. Sometimes, when he was coming home from his work in the railway roundhouse, he would collapse and have to crawl through the snow. This was a man who had been a champion boxer in his military unit.

He was wounded by shrapnel in his right hand. It wasn’t a major wound and normally would have healed but it infected and, in those days, there were no antibiotics. He spent the rest of the war in hospital in England, then in Montreal, before returning to Manitoba.

When I was a young boy, I asked him if he’d ever killed anyone. “Thousands,” he said but he would say no more about it. He’d only talk about trying to kill the rats in the trenches with his bayonet.

My father never went to war. He had a wife and two children and a bleeding ulcer that nothing would heal. We never had to fear getting a letter saying that he was missing in action or dead. When we listened to the news, we didn’t have to wonder if he’d been killed in the latest battle. Our fear was for our friends who were overseas.

I remember that although I was only six crying when we listened to the list of names of Prisoners of War being read on the radio and discovered that a close friend who was missing in action was still alive.

Many years ago, I married Mary-Anne Tooth. We were both very young and eventually got divorced. During the twenty years that we were together, I got to know her father or, perhaps, I should say, I got to know who he had been.

Three days past his 28th birthday, his squadron, the 407 of the R.C.A.F., known as the Demon Squadron, attacked a German convoy. It was May 15, 1942.

Mary-Anne had been born three days before. He never returned from that mission. No one saw his plane go down. Hitler and his ambitions didn’t just kill Arthur Tooth. He also wounded Arthur’s wife and his daughter. Helen lost a husband. Mary-Anne, a father.

It is these casualties that go unspoken when we see books about people in the armed forces who were killed in the Great Wars, who have been killed recently in the Middle East. It is these people who have to live with memories, with empty spaces, with what might have been.

Women remarry, men remarry, children get stepfathers or stepmothers, but there’s always what might have been. Always.

Arthur Tooth was just one of 45,400 service people, most of them men, who died in WWII. There apparently is no record of the number of widows or widowers, the number of children left without a father or mother. There is no record of how many mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts who were left bereft, their lives shattered. Yet, they are the casualties of war.

Arthur Tooth. I wish I had known him. He was both a football player and a poet. Quite the combination. He wanted to be a writer. He went to University in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He volunteered to fight for Britain. Just as my grandfather had done in 1915.

Just before he was lost in action, Arthur wrote a poem called, “Requiescat in Pace”. It is the first poem in the collection of his poems that his wife gathered together and published in his memory. It’s a fine poem and a good memorial not just for Arthur Tooth but for all those who went missing in action and were never found. Here are the first few lines.

“Not I nor mine shall ever lie

Thus ordered in the church,

Gravestones of white and red

And black shall never mark

Our resting place—nor cheerless

Words shall ever lie like boulders

On our name—nor flowers dead-within a pot

Uptilted on our head. “

“This prophetic poem was received in a letter three weeks after Flt Sgt. Tooth was reported “missing” in action. It was written in the graveyard by the Chapel, Fenny Strafford, where many of his ancestors are buried. “—Helen Tooth

Those who romanticize war, who romanticize the dead, do a terrible disservice to those who have fought, those who have died. There is nothing romantic about war except in the mind of the gullible and the immature. War creates terrible pain. Women without husbands, mothers without sons. Children without fathers. Families without nephews and nieces–yes, now that women take on combat roles, both mothers and fathers can be sacrificed to some war mongers fantasy and ambition.

Holding ceremonies, building statues may make some people feel important but they do not bring back the dead,nor do they heal the living. Remembering is important, if for no other reason than respect and gratefulness, but it is not the same as romantically glorifying the tragic, terrifying deaths of those whose reward for their bravery and loyalty is the grave.

The New Iceland Diaspora

michal-mountains
When I first moved to Victoria many years ago, one of my colleagues said, “On the prairies, people live to work. On the West Coast people work to pay for skiing, scuba diving, drinking wine, smoking weed, sailing, surfing and, as soon as they have enough money to live on, they quit their job and buy a few acres so they can raise prize animals, fruit or vegetables and pour their passion into producing the best wines or peacocks. Or plums. Or peaches. Or kiwi fruit. Or sheep. Or llamas. Or they buy a boat and sail.”

People who move west and then further west and then even further west until they can’t go any further west end up on the shores of mainland BC or on the many islands that dot the coast.

In Vesturfarar, Heather Ireland, (from Winnipeg but moved to Vancouver long ago with her husband Bill Ireland) the grand daughter of Guttormur Guttormson, tells us that she said to her uncle that she wished her amma and afi Guttormson had moved to the Coast. Her uncle said, they’d been to the coast a number of times but wouldn’t have moved there because life was just too easy. It was also a world beyond imagining. Think what those early arrivals must have thought of the world represented by this masks like this one by Bill Henderson of the Kwakwaka’wakw?

Bill Henderson,Kwakwaka'wakw

Joan Thorsteinson Linde says that when her parents were on the train to Winnipeg and they arrived, her mother took a look at the city and said, “Let’s keep going.” She said Point Roberts was a wonderful place to grow up and she was grateful her parents stayed on the train.
Jerry McDonald says she is grateful that her grandparents moved to the Coast in 1943. Her grandmother read a poem about the West Coast and insisted on moving there.

Years ago, Bob Asgeirson, told me that he had been working for a radio station in Winnipeg. He had holidays at Christmas. He got on a train during a blizzard and arrived to a light rain and everything green in Vancouver. He immediately bought a ticket back to Winnipeg, quit his job and moved permanently to Vancouver.

Fort Victoria had been first settled in 1843. By the time the first Icelanders started arriving with the railway reaching Vancouver, there were scenes like this.

Tea Party at Point Ellice House

Although my wife and I visited my wife’s grandmother in Victoria during the summer of 1967, I’d never thought of moving here. In 1974, I had a job in Missouri, was heading for a better job in Texas, when I was asked if I’d like a job at the University in Victoria. I said I’d come for a year. That was forty years ago. I did try to move back to Winnipeg. However, try as I might, no job was forthcoming. I was following an old pattern created by the Icelandic immigrants. Go where there is work.

Most Icelanders left Iceland because of poverty, hunger, lack of opportunity, bad weather, political oppression. Although the fares were small and, in some cases, subsidized, many could not afford to pay for the trip from Iceland to Scotland, from Scotland to Quebec, from Quebec to their final destination in the United States or Canada. If they could, they sold their land and animals to pay for their trip. It was the bad luck of some that stormy weather delayed the sailing ships and the would-be travelers’ funds were used up paying for room and board at the harbours. Not only did these people not get to go to Ameríka but they now were landless and were going to be poverty stricken farm workers.

However, times were so desperate that it was worth taking risks. Living conditions were poor. Sod and lava huts nowadays are made for museums and tourists so they are constructed to look romantic. Sod and turf huts were not romantic. IN 1845 Madame Pfeiffer says ‘Small and low, built of lava, with the interstices filled with earth…A dark narrow passage about four feet high, leads on one side into the common room, and on the other to a few compartments, some of which are used as storehouses for provisions and the rest as winter stables for the cows and sheep…The rooms of the poorer class have neither wooden walls nor floors, and are just large enough to admit of the inhabitants sleeping, and perhaps turning round in them. …Above the beds are fixed rods, from with depend clothes, shoes, stockings, &c….Stoves are considered unnecessary, for as the space is very confined, and the house densely populated.

Rods are also placed round the fire place, and on these the wet clothes and fishes are hung up in company to dry. The smoke completely fills the room.”

Houses were cold. They was no stove. They were crowded. There was little light because glass was scarce. Laws were passed by the landowners to control all the workers who, by law, were forced to work on a farm. They could only change jobs on one day a year. Marriage was not allowed unless a man had the equivalent of four hundreds. This meant that many men and women had no hope of marriage. With wages appalling low, in some cases a few dollars a year, there was little opportunity for a man to save enough money to put down on a piece of land and some animals. It might take a careful, tight fisted man twenty years working as a farm hand to save enough for a down payment on a farm. When he did he also had to rent the sheep or cows from a wealthy landowner at exorbitant rates. What land was available for men who wanted to become independent farmers in the years of good weather was marginal land.

Good land had long ago been taken. The land that became available was usually on the edge of lava deserts. With a cold summer that same land quickly became uninhabitable. A cold summer meant the grass didn’t grow. No grass, the sheep and cows didn’t survive. Without them, there was starvation. People farming marginal land could with one or two cold summers lose everything and become paupers with family members sold off to whoever would keep them for the smallest amount of money. A volcanic eruption that destroyed hay land was a disaster.

Even when the weather was decent, farming alone was not enough to sustain most people so the men walked to the coastal fishing areas. Fishing conditions on the North Sea were dangerous. Boats frequently sank, taking ten or fifteen men with them.

Richard Burton, 1875, says that “The storekeeper must advance goods to the farmer, and the latter refunds him when he can, especially in June and July, September and October, when wool is pulled (Icelanders did not shear sheep. The wool was pulled as it became loose.)and wethers (castrated male sheep)killed. A few of the farmers have money at the merchants, who do not, however, pay interest; many are in debt, and the two classes hardly balance each other. Prices are generally high.” That is the prices of goods available at the store are high.

Those people who chose to make two dangerous sea voyages, first to Scotland or England, then to the North America, were people prepared to take risks and endure hardship. Sailing ships were at the mercy of the weather. Conditions on board the ships for steerage passengers were appalling. Narratives of those voyages often record burials at sea.

Icelandic emigrants tried Nova Scotia.The good land was taken. They tried Kinmount, Ontario. The Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) already had taken up the good farmland in Ontario. The land in Kinmount was not suitable for farming. The immigrants then made a long and hard journey that ended on the beach at Willow Point with winter closing in and no milk cows because hay had not been put up to feed them. The land was mostly swamp and higher ground was heavily forested. Icelanders were not farmers. When an Icelander answered bondur to the question about his employment on his immigration paper, he was not describing himself as a farmer but as a herder of sheep and milk cows.

Having endured living in ratty tents, then packed into roughly made log cabins because there could only be as many cabins as there were stoves, they endured more hardship. The settlers must have wondered when their suffering would be over. If ever.

Gimli may mean the home of the gods but these people were not gods. They were farm folk who had made a heroic journey from Iceland to Canada only to suffer from lack of food, from poor shelter, from diseases such as smallpox and scurvy. It is no wonder that nearly all of them abandoned New Iceland. They’d already made the decision to leave Iceland to search for a better life. For many, New Iceland was not providing a better life. It was cut off from trade. Except for some work provided by the government, jobs were non-existent. In breakup and freezeup, it was impossible to travel over the lake. There was work in Winnipeg. There was work, at least at harvest time, further west where farms were already established. Many walked west.

Will Kristjanson, in The Icelandic People in Manitoba, says, because of the exodus from 1878 to 1881, the colony was reduced to 250 people. It would be replenished as more Icelandic immigrants arrived. However, a pattern of arrival and departure was established that continues to this day.

They went to Brandon. They went to Argyle. Always looking for good land. They went to North Dakota. The good land in North Dakota filled up quickly so those who didn’t get some of it, went back to Manitoba and settled in the Arborg area. The immigrants traveled for years, making a living where they could. Magnús Jónsson with his wife, Margét, and two daughters, settled in New Iceland in 1887. In 1891, they homesteaded in the Argyle district. In 1902 they moved to Blaine, WA.

Metúsalem Vigfússon moved to New Iceland in 1876. He moved to Winnipeg and worked around Manitoba wherever he could find work. He and his wife, Borghildur bought 80 acres southeast of Mountain, North Dakota. After seven years they moved to Roseau, Minn. They lived there eleven years. In 1917, they moved to Yakima, WA.

Many settlers went to Swift Current when the railway line ended there. From there they went by horse and wagon north. They went to Alberta and settled in places like Markerville.

Good land. A place where they might prosper, where they might have a Canadian farm, grow grain, raise animals and, when they got over the mountains into the Okanagan, as unlikely as it seems for Icelanders, create orchards.

The railways opened up land, made it possible to ship produce and to receive necessities. In New Iceland the railway, first stopping at Winnipeg Beach and then Gimli and, finally, Riverton, created the cordwood economy. While those people in New Iceland were struggling in the second poorest part of Canada, only ahead of Newfoundland economically, their brethren, the original settlers and their children, were moving west. Some of those found jobs, land, possibilities. Many stayed in Winnipeg, the new Chicago, a dynamic city, for a time, but then the Panama Canal was built and the boom began to fade. Others gathered in places like Wynyard and Foam Lake, Regina, Moosejaw, Calgary, Edmonton, eddied around the base of the mountains, but with Olafur Norman arriving in Victoria in 1883, the path to the coast was established.

Gerri McDonald says that a survey in the 1930s showed that only 5% of people of Icelandic descent lived in BC. In 2011 25% of people of Icelandic descent lived in BC.

That is not surprising. Although there was no organized group movement to the West Coast, many people during the Depression moved from the Gimli-Riverton area to Steveston to fish, work in the canneries and build boats. A group did settle Osland on Hunter Island in the mouth of the Skeena.

But most were like me or Robert Asgeirson, moving west to take or find a job. My contact with the West Coast wasn’t Icelandic. My wife’s grandmother and grandfather were English. The Oak Bay neighbourhood was still referred to as behind the Tweed Curtain. I knew of no one in Victoria of Icelandic background before I arrived. I’d come to take a good job. There were tea houses, not coffee houses. Doormen in historic English outfits stood outside tourist establishments. The accents on the streets and in the stores were not Icelandic or Ukrainian. They were English, Irish and Scots.

It took a while to discover other people of Icelandic background. Halli Johnson, Mattie Gislason, then a meeting organized by Alphonse Hansen at a restaurant in the country to discuss forming an Icelandic club, the Icelanders of Victoria. Fred Bjarnason was there. We did form a club. We went on to have Thorrablots. We do celebrate June 17.

Richard Beck, that great champion of all things Icelandic, retired to Victoria. He died, then his wife, Margaret, died and their joint will left the University of Victoria their house to sell and create a foundation for the dissemination of Icelandic literature, language and culture. The Beck lectures began in 1988. Since then the Richard and Margret Beck Trust, under the direction of Dr. John Tucker, has funded around two hundred lectures by Icelandic experts.

This is how a diaspora is created. Travelers settling somewhere, meeting each other, forming a cultural club, or a church group, or an educational group. Point Roberts, Bellingham, Blaine, outposts held together by memories, evidence found in photo albums, club records, graveyards. Outposts like Osland on Smith Island, now nearly abandoned, its existence attested to by the book, Memories of Osland. The Jonassons, Haldorsons, Johnsons, Philippsons, Freemans, Oddsons, Grimsons, Kristmanssons, Longs, Snidals, Bjornsons, Einarssons, Laurassons, Erlendsons, Emmersons.

Think on it. The people who have gone west. My uncle Earl (Gimli) went to Edmonton. My uncle Alan (Gimli) ended up in Calgary. My sister in law (Riverton) moved to Victoria. My nephew and niece (Gimli) are here. My cousin, Rudy (Gimli), is on the mainland. His wife, Sig (Riverton) just died. His daughter (Winnipeg) is with him.  Keith Sigmundson (Gimli) has a place here. Dennis Oleson (Riverton) is in Victoria. Glenn Sigurdsson (Riverton) in Vancouver. His mother. (Riverton) His father died here not too long ago. Ruth and Randi Jonasson (Riverton). Christine Anderson (Riverton).

The list seems endless. Linda Bjarnason (Gimli) in Naniamo. Carol Bjarnason (Gimli) Whiterock. Margaret Bjarnason (Gimli) Vancouver. If I tried to list all the people of Icelandic descent in Vancouver, it would fill pages. It far outnumbers the people of Icelandic descent now living within the boundaries of New Iceland. If all these people had stayed in New Iceland, what would they do? They are teachers, architects, lawyers, stock brokers, art gallery owners, veterinarians, chefs, secretaries, professors, city planners. They are myriad.

The Icelanders were not alone in their experience. The Finns came to the coast of BC. They created a village called Sointula on Malcolm Island in 1901. It was to be the new Finland, led by a charismatic leader Matti Kurikka. They came as a group, rowing their way north from Naniamo.

In 1908, led by Verigin, 6,000 members of the Doukhobor sect migrated to BC. Neither of these communities survived in their ideal form. This was the fate of most immigrant groups. They left the mother country, Finland and Russia, in these cases, formed communities in Canada bound by ethnicity, religion and isolation, and these communities could not remain cohesive. Even isolation is not enough to keep the community together. So, there was the original diaspora and then the diaspora from the original settlements. All such cases can be looked at as failed dreams, failed ideal images. On the other hand, they can be looked at as successes because the original communities provided a place for its members to prepare to enter Canadian society.

New Iceland lost many of its original settlers. However, others came, settled in an area where they knew some of the earlier settlers, where people spoke Icelandic, where the harshness of immigration could be softened a bit as people adjusted to a new life. They moved to take up greater opportunities, that often meant leaving the mother colony. That is they stayed true to their original purpose in emigrating, to create a better life for themselves, their children, and future generations.