Viking explorers who settled Iceland arrived from Sunnmöre in Norway, an area known for eider nesting and the use of eiderdown. Miðhús farm was likely established in the 9th century by a crew member of a Viking ship under the command of Úlfur Högnason, a descendant of Norse kings, who took over the whole of Reykjanes peninsula on the north side of Breiðafjörður bay (“wide fjord”). From the sea the sailors – future settlers – saw ashore what they thought was smoke but it turned out to be stream from hot springs, thus the name “Reykjanes”, meaning “smoky peninsula”.
For over 1100 years eiderdown has been gathered every spring on the Miðhús (“middlehouse”) farm. Iceland settlers soon became isolated because the ships rotted away and there was no forest where the material to build new ones could be obtained. The the settlers, having lost their ships, had to remain in Iceland. As a result of their isolation they kept the Viking language to this day while on the mainland it developed into modern-day Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.
The Miðhús Farm. Seventy isles and islets with eider nesting colonies
Miðhús of the past century was run by capable women managers
Inga’s daughter, Ólína Kristín Jónsdóttir, born 1931, owned and ran the farm from 1955 and was active in all aspects of the eiderdown business, from harvesting, processing, washing the raw material to goods manufacturing and sales. For the last time she took part in harvesting raw material in the Miðhús isles in 2019 and also visited Midhus in the 2020 season, a few weeks before her death. Currently, Midhus is owned by Ólína´s four children, and the eiderdown business is run by her oldest son, Jón Sveinsson. Knowledge and professionalism have been passed on through generations of Miðhús owners.
Miðhús is where knowledge and professionalism have been passing from one generation to the other.
Ólina Kristín, despite being over 85 years, is still active in the eiderdown harvesting and processing, taking an active part in work every summer season.
Miðhús is high-tech processing of eiderdown
The raw material of the eiderdown harvest is dried by unique highly effective computer-controlled equipment developed by Jón Sveinsson, the son of Ólína and the author of this web site. Then the processed eiderdown is washed with special chemicals, applying methods developed by Jón, to preserve the natural properties of the down. Mountain spring water from a Miðhús well is used for the washing. The eiderdown is then dried by geo thermal energy.
Miðhús directly has been exporting eiderdown worldwide since 1989
Miðhús washes all eiderdown it handles since 2008. Miðhús has also been exporting eiderdown goods for decades. In addition to being active domestically, it is also represented in Latvia and Russia (see the Russian version of this site).
Miðhús is an idyllic place just under the Arctic Circle
Harvesting eiderdown may be either pleasant or outright dangerous when winds sweep the eider nesting isles as it often does during the harvesting season.
In Miðhús the eiderdown has to be harvested come rain or shine
Dedication and perseverance are required for harvesting the eiderdown under varied weather conditions.
Miðhús eiderdown in mass media
In The Financial Times there appeared an article on eiderdown in 2014 where Jón Sveinsson, who manages Miðhús eiderdown harvesting, processing and export, is cited as an expert in the trade.
Penguin Random House , the world’s largest publishing house, released a book by the same author as the award winnig Financial Times article, Edward Posnett, in 2019. The first chapter deals with the subject of eiderdown and again Jón Sveinsson is cited as an eiderdown trade expert.