Reyðarfjörður. My amma, or grandmother, spent her early years here in this tiny cottage her father erected for his family. I thought that I had already written about Hans Beck, my great grandfather, but I can't seem to find my post on him and the story of his 23 children to link. Needless to say, they didn't all live in house at the same time, but I understand that it was always pretty crowded nevertheless.
My grandmother Ásta Beck is the last surviving child of Hans and now, in her 94th year, her little family home is being overwhelmed by a massive aluminum smelter just across the road. Only meters behind where I stood to take this photo is a massive continuously buzzing electrical power generator site and a small shack that houses the Alcoa Project Office.
Not being a resident of the Eastern fjords, I had until now reserved judgement on whether or not the smelter was a practical improvement for the region. After all, it is creating many many jobs for the locals. Even the smelter itself across the road from this family heirloom wasn't as obnoxious a site as I thought it would be, buil into the slope of the hill as it is. But the generator site, twice at least the size of this simple cottage is an absolute abomination. It's a noisy and ugly peice of infrastructure that Alcoa unfortunately had the temerity to plonk down side by side with a house protected by the National Museum of Iceland. Which begs the question why no one tried any harder to stop this from happening. A relative of mine, one Guðmundur Beck at least tried. Maybe the mystic who once lived there and who protects the fjord will give him an otherworldly helping hand...
Update, June 2012: My grandmother Ásta Beck passed away last year in her 98th year, seven years after her last surviving brother, Unnsteinn Beck. She was the absolute matriarch of our extended family and is very much missed. She lived to see the complete and careful renovation of her childhood home, though, sponsored in main by Alcoa.
Regarding the benefit to the local Reyðafjörður community, I've had the chance in the past six years to chat with various people from or living in Fjarðabyggð. Almost all of them agree that the aluminum smelter has done nothing but add to the life and livelihood of the region.