Icelandic towns complain to Google over maps that depict an eternal winter

The mayors of two Icelandic towns have complained to Google that the tech giant’s satellite mapping images cast their homes in an eternal winter.

Jon Pall Hreinsson, mayor of Bolungarvik, said that seeing his fishing village in the far reaches of Iceland’s Westfjords permanently covered in snow on Google Maps was “getting on his nerves”.

He said in a Facebook post that although snow was “often the reality” on the peninsula, it was not the case all year round, and that such an image could put off potential visitors.

“I’m thinking of the millions who might be considering visiting the Western Fjords and then look at the map and see, well, nothing but snow,” he wrote.

He vowed to continue his fight on a daily basis, telling news site Visir: “I’ll post a comment a day, until I get through to them.”

But Hreinsson is not alone.

Guðmundur Gunnarsson, mayor of Ísafjörður, just around the coast, is fighting the same fight.

“Imagine someone wondering whether to head west or north and this is what they see, while it’s all green and beautiful in the other direction – I think they’d take that into consideration when deciding which way to go,” he told Visir.

“We have nothing against the snow… but this is not exactly the realistic picture that is from day to day.”

Gunnarsson said that should anyone zoom in on the town on Google Street View they would find Ísafjörður bathing in sunlight, while it remains covered in snow on the satellite image.

This is not the mayor’s first experience of taking on internet companies. He recently had Wikipedia change an entry that incorrectly identified him as father of Icelandic singer, Bjork, also called Guðmundur Gunnarsson.

Jon Pall Hreinsson called for assistance from Icelandic members of staff at the tech giant. “If there are any Icelanders working with Google then they can find my number on já.is,” said.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The fastest growing travel destinations (2017 v 2011)

The growth of the number of visitors to the Westfjords, increasingly popular for their beauty, isolation and birdwatching, is key to an Icelandic tourism strategy attempting to spread its tourism industry around the island. Currently, tourists arrive into Reykjavik, the capital, and go little further than the south coast and the Golden Circle.

The tourist board is keen to encourage visitors to explore the east, north and west of Iceland, too.