The town of Hafnarfjörður
Hafnarfjörður is one of the oldest communities in Iceland. merchandts have been peddling their wares and fishermen landing their catches here continuously since the 14th century.
It is the natural harbour after hcih the town is named (Hafnarfjörður means Harbour Fjord) that is the main reason for the community's prosperity. Iceland's history is closely tied to the sea, and so is that of Hafnarfjörður. The sea provides with its commerical and cultural lifeline.
The town was established by foreign merchants who found the secluded harbour convenietly located near the royal estate at Bessastaðir (now the residence of the president of Iceland).
Englishmen began trading in Hafnarfjörður in the 15th century, although Dutch and German merchants also traded with Icelanders. Over the centuries, various European nations competed for trade supremacy in the community, and by the 18th century, Hafnarfjörður had become Iceland's major trading centre. In the late 19th century, when decked boats rather than rowing boats were used for fishing, the population surged again, and Hafnarfjörður was incorperated as a town in 1908.
Fishing, commerce and services have long been the prominent business sectors in Hafnarfjörður.
Traditionally, several fishing vessels of all sizes have been based in the town and life more less revolved around fishing. This meant that fathers were often months at sea and it was not unusual for children in town to carry their mother's name as a surname. Nowadays, tourism and aluminium production are equally importatn to the local economy.
Hafnarfjörður´s growth and prosperity has been closely linked to fishing over the years. Fisk stocks migrated along the Faxaflóa Bay for centuries. Sometimes going far into the fjord, near the Fiskiklettur are, where they could even be caught from dry land. In those days the place was really booming, with people in every shack and shanty. When deck vessels began fishing, results were more impressive and around 1870 the importance of Hafnarfjörður´s harbour became even more obvious. Greater numbers of foreign fishing vessels sought safe harbour here. At the start of the 20th century, line fishing, motorised vessels and trawlers became prominent in Iceland, with many Icelandic and foreign vessels being based in Hafnarfjörður. Among the foreign vessels, most were British or Norwegian, but these phased out by 1929. Icelandic trawler fishing began in 1905 with the purchase of the Coot from abroad, and its base was here in town. Within a few years, more trawlers were based in town, with fish processing companies being established as well. After World War II more trawlers and several large motor boats joined the town fleet, with the first stern trawler arriving in 1973.
In earlier days it was usual for ships to anchor offshore and have their cargo shuttled to shore in smaller boats. Merchants and fishermen each had their own piers in front of their warehouses, though ships could not dock at shore. More mechanization called for improved facilities to serve the rapidly growing fleet and the nation´s first deep-water pier was completed in Hafnarfjörður on 1913. Since then, the harbour has constantly evolved with newer facilities replacing the old. So much has the harbour changed that Bjarni Sívertsen, the Knight, might have hard time recognizing his home port now. Landfill has been added to extend the shore outward and give more docking space and expansion along these lines continues to this day.