The remote Icelandic village called Djúpavík in the north-west of the country began to flourish in 1917. It was that year that Elías Stefánsson founded the first herring processing station in the village. The Djúpavík factory was, at the time it was built, one of the largest concrete buildings in Europe – and it was a questionable venture from the beginning. In 1917, during the height of fish speculation in the North Atlantic, a separate herring packing facility had been set up at the head of the bay. Like many other Icelandic salting enterprises, this original gamble failed in 1919. A global drop in demand for herring wrecked havoc on the industry.
In 1934, Iceland experienced an economic boom. As a result, a second much larger herring processing plant was constructed in Djúpavík. The new factory opened in 1935, fitted with all the latest modern equipment for processing herring. But when the staff of around 300 moved to the sleepy village to work in the impressive factory, they were surprised by the surrounding town’s complete lack of churches, police, or even a mayor. The Herring Plant building in Djupavik was on three levels and measured 90 meters (295 feet) long. It was also equipped with the most modern herring processing equipment that was unlike anything else in the country.
The Herring Plant in Djúpavík processed herring into two separate products. First, and most importantly, they separated oil from the fish and stored it in gigantic, concrete tanks. These tanks were heated, so that the oil could remain liquid, and had a combined capacity of almost six thousand tons. Secondly, the Herring factory produced herring meal – ground and dried fish meat stored in 200 pound sacks, intended for human or animal consumption.
This immense boiler was scrapped from a wrecked ship and floated to the bay. Because there is a large spigot-head at the top, the workmen had a hard time rolling the salvaged piece into place – ultimately, the foreman measured the circumference of the thing, then dug holes every sixty feet so that the huge cylinder could be moved without damaging it.
During WWII, Herring Plant in Djúpavík enjoyed its best years, with high fish-oil prices and plenty of stock. After, the plant began a slow decline.
But by the late 1940s, the herring were all but gone from Húnaflói bay, and the Herring factory folded in 1954. By 1954, it was defunct. It was truly abandoned soon after, and left to fall to pieces. The town of Djúpavík was abandoned by 1968. Then in 1985, Eva Sigurbjörnsdóttir and her husband Ásbjörn Þorgilsson became the village’s only year-round residents. They turned the former women’s quarters into a hotel, and began refurbishing the old factory and other buildings. In 1985, Eva Sigurbjørnsdottir and her husband Asbjörn Chorgilsson chose to settle in the village with the intention of reconstructing the former Herring Factory and other buildings. They became the first and permanent residents of Djúpavík in almost two decades.