We at the Arctic Fox Centre are privileged to work every day in the beautiful Eyrardalsbæ house, the oldest building in the village with a place in the heart of Súðavík and Súðavíkingar (the people of Súðavík) alike, and it is with great pride that we welcome our visitors across its threshold. The building and the area it presides in have a long and rich history, although two stories stand tallest in the annals of time, one of the area and the other of the building of the house as it stands today.
In the 17th one man came to rest in the valley of Eyrardalur after a life which led to him being one of the most renowned names of his time.
Jón Ólafsson was born in 1593, the ordinary son of a Westfjords farmer, but by the end of an epic 11 year journey he would be known as Jón Indíafari (Jón the India Traveller). Setting sail from our fjord of Álfafjörður in 1615 Jón would travel to England and then on to Norway. On his way to Copenhagen Jón came into the service of the Kristján IV, king of Denmark as one of his marksmen. Under the kings service Jón travelled far and wide across the known world, most notably to Svalbarð, Siberia and a pilgrimage to India from where his name derives.
After his travels Jón was given the land of Eyrardalur to live tax-free in recompense for his service under the king, and from where he wrote his autobiography „Jón Indíafari“ for which he has become famous.
Another famous name to live in the area is that of þorlák Hinrik Guðmundsson who is known as Hrefnu-Láki (whale Láki), Iceland’s first professional whale hunter in Iceland. Jón was born in 1877 but lived only a short time in Eyrardalur before moving to Saura in Súðavík. Eyrardalur valley was then bought by Jón Guðmundsson and it was he who built the Eyrardalsbæ house that we are now based in in 1896.
The house is 193m2 and built in the Norwegian fashion using timber brought by the Norwegians who were running Iceland’s first whaling station here in Áltafjörður and where Jón was manager. The Eyrardalsbæ house was soon after ran by Jón as a shop until 1914 when another building was raised in Eyrardalur to be used for the store.
Jón was married to Karitas Benidiktsdóttir and they had a daughter Sigríður Jónsdóttir who took over the house on their death. Sigríður ran the house and land as a farm until 1947 when she rented and later sold to Kjartan Jónsson and Ingibjörg Guðmundsdóttir who took up residence until 1968 when they moved out to a modern home in the village leaving the house abandoned.
The house remained abandoned and ran into disrepair in the following decades, ending as being used as nothing more than a shelter for sheep and the setting for ghost stories for the village children. That was until the Arctic Fox Centre was granted the house and land by the village of Súðavík in 2007, and together we had the building restored and repaired, a 3 year process until the doors were opened for the public on June 12th 2010.