The northeast’s score of little black-sand and shingle beaches are strewn with two valuable commodities: huge quantities of driftwood, mostly pine trunks floated over from Siberia on the currents; and a disproportionate number of stranded whales. The latter were once something of a windfall for local landowners (the term hvalreki, literally “whale wreck”, is used nowadays for “jackpot”), providing meat, oil, bone and various tradeable bits, such as sperm-whale teeth. In saga times, people would actually fight for possession of these riches, but today a whale stranding is a bit of a burden, as the law demands that the landowner is responsible for disposing of the carcass – not an easy matter in the case of a thirty-tonne sperm whale.

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