Chinese aurora observatory: the PRIC comes to Iceland

The PRIC, China’s Polar Research Institute, hails a meeting held earlier this month in Akureyri, northern Iceland, about a Chinese-Icelandic northern lights observatory, as a “substantial development” and the “official start” of the project, following a cooperation agreement between research institutions of the two countries. The meeting was chaired by Yang Huigen 杨惠根, director of the PRIC. The project is to take up some 150 hectares of a farm called Kárhóll, in Reykjadalur, near Akureyri.

The very day the PRIC announced this, Icelandic primetime news show Kastljós opened with a story on the Kárhóll project. The land for the observatory had just been purchased, and Dr Yang was on it, busy with what looked like the first stages of the construction. The plot was bought by a foundation named Aurora Observatory, established by a local government, a local bank and the firm Arctic Portal, and the price was somewhere below $700k. The deal generally confirms rumours published in May by the Akureyri Vikublað, but it has now emerged that the plot had already been sold last year, to Arctic Portal alone, and only a fraction of the price had been paid.

Arctic Portal belongs to Halldór Jóhannsson, known as Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo’s spokesman in Iceland. Back in March I wrote about Mr Huang’s failed attempts to buy a tract of land in Iceland; he hasn’t given up, but his plans have advanced little if at all since then. In the meantime he has embarked on a ten-year long ‘world-travel project’ which began in Germany.

Other than in the Icelandic sources quoted above, the Kárhóll deal is reported in detail on Islandsbloggen (in Swedish).

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