It’s basically a national sport in Iceland to complain about the weather. It makes perfect sense when I think about it. The torrents of rain we routinely face, accompanied by shrieking wind and icy temperatures, really cements our awareness of the weather conditions.
I remember as a child battling my way to school through snowstorms that would inspire most infants straight under their bedsheets. This is part of our way of life in Iceland. As I’ve often said, our weather is distinctly reflected in the people of Iceland, that is to say, our weather is quite mad. It’s ever-changing and you never know what to expect. Rain and wind one moment, then a spell of sunshine followed by hail and a snowstorm. These rapid changes teach you to enjoy the moment and then lean into the wind and forge ahead when needed.
My name is Sigurður Ólafur Sigurðsson and I am a photographer and search and rescue specialist working with ICE-SAR.
I’ve been working for ICE-SAR since I was a teenager, starting with the HSSK team in Kópavogur, following in the footsteps of my older sister. Although I currently work as a photographer, I began as a search and rescue volunteer.
There’s a distinct excitement I’ve always felt about getting called out into the field, the work is rewarding, but the thrill of the action is all-encompassing. I worked enduring the same Icelandic weather I had as a schoolchild, doing search and rescue in the harsh weather and rugged landscapes of Iceland.
The tasks would vary- risky, exhausting, or straightforward, but we all knew that every call might contain the harsh conditions in which we needed to operate.
After years of searching and rescuing as a volunteer, I worked various other positions with ICE-SAR, from training new volunteers to giving presentations around the globe before I moved on to pursue photography.
In my years I’ve met countless volunteers most of whom joined ICE-SAR for the glamour but stayed because it became part of who they are. Some of those are my best friends today and I, like so many others, consider those friends like a family.
When discussing ICE-SAR it’s easy to portray us with dramatic tones, but when you boil it down to the core, we are a community doing our best to do some good.
ICE-SAR has a joint mission to prevent accidents and save lives, no matter the conditions.
I’ve been very fortunate to merge my knowledge of search and rescue with my passion for photography into what I like to call emergency photography. I get to capture the incredible work done by the volunteers of ICE-SAR as well as other emergency workers in Iceland and even beyond.
ICE-SAR has a rich history I wish to contribute to, capturing and documenting the fantastic feats accomplished by our volunteers.
The community working for one another in the Icelandic wilderness inspires me to capture these moments.
OLD PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
Having worked with ICE-SAR since I was 16, I must have worn every outer shell ICE-SAR has had since we aligned a uniform.
Originally, when I first joined a rescue team in 1990, we all wore our own regular outdoor clothes as protective clothing, it was almost comical, everyone just wearing what they owned.
Even when we did align a uniform, the protective clothing was far less protective than my personal clothing, so I would simply wear my gear when the weather was at its worst.
We always had an optional compromise, we could either wear our waterproof rubber suits with absolutely zero breathability and limited freedom of movement. Or we could wear the sub-standard protective clothing which allowed us breathability and freedom of movement but did little to stand in the way of the elements. On wetter days the rubber suit was preferred, in others, we would make do with the official “protective clothing”.
It wasn’t until we adopted a GORE-TEX Pro outer shell that I noticed a significant change in the comfort of my safety gear.
UNCOMPROMISING, CONSISTENT COMFORT
Cold is cold. Wet is wet. And if your outer shell allows water to soak through when working in search and rescue, your callouts to the wilderness will be colder and harsher.
The ability of our current GORE-TEX Pro ICE-SAR outer shells to combine the best of both comfort and protection without the need for compromise of any of the necessary functions is extraordinary.
These days when I go out on a call to capture photos, I go out knowing no matter the weather, my outer shell is the best choice to grab whilst hurrying to chuck my stuff into the jeep.
Getting to places in the rain, I stay as dry as I ever have. In the cold, I keep as warm as I ever have (due to the windproofness of the gear). In challenging terrain, I have the freedom of movement to reach the perfect spot for capturing the moment, with the ability to maneuver to the best position.
Windproofness & waterproofness combined with complete breathability & freedom of movement makes the wilderness’ conditions far more bearable. Especially during the harshest days of Icelandic weather.
ICE-SAR IS A CROSS-SECTIONAL ORGANIZATION OF DEDICATED PEOPLE, 5,000 STRONG.