Building on Utah's pioneer-era ties with Iceland


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REYKJAVIK, Iceland — A Utah delegation visited Iceland to explore the possibilities of using the state's geothermal energy. And during the trip, the delegation found a pioneer-era tie with the Land of Fire and Ice.

In searching for lessons for a Utah clean energy future, many introductions were made, and symbolic exchanges were given. But a deep tie between Iceland and Utah's pioneer history came out several times, including during a visit with the nation's president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

Iceland President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson,  left, speaks to the Utah delegates who are visiting the country. While the Utah delegation explored the state's potential of using geothermal energy in Iceland, a pioneer-era connection grew the bond between the two.
Iceland President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, left, speaks to the Utah delegates who are visiting the country. While the Utah delegation explored the state's potential of using geothermal energy in Iceland, a pioneer-era connection grew the bond between the two. (Photo: Mike Anderson, KSL-TV)

"He knew about Utah. He knew about the relationship (of) the first settlement of Icelanders in the United States was in Spanish Fork, Utah," said Franz Kolb, the director of International Trade and Diplomacy for the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity.

While the president declined an interview, he shared his appreciation for the shared history and the story of about 400 converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who emigrated to Utah. Most of them settled in Spanish Fork.

In 2005, church President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated a memorial to honor those Iceland emigrants.

The Icelander Lighthouse Monument of Spanish Fork is in Utah. While the Utah delegation explored the state's potential of using geothermal energy in Iceland, a pioneer-era connection grew the bond between the two.
The Icelander Lighthouse Monument of Spanish Fork is in Utah. While the Utah delegation explored the state's potential of using geothermal energy in Iceland, a pioneer-era connection grew the bond between the two. (Photo: Mike Anderson, KSL-TV)

Jóhannesson's awareness of the emigrants' journey to Utah was likely due to being a historian before being encouraged to run for president in 2018.

"I'm very grateful to be here and to for me, it was very, very important from an international business and and diplomacy standpoint," Kolb said.

Kolb said he was elated to meet Jóhannesson and believes that Utah and Iceland will have a strong relationship, even after Jóhannesson steps down in the summer.

"In international relations, it's not just one we learn from. First of all, we learn from each other. There will be a delegation from Iceland coming to Utah, in the near future," he said.

A Utah delegate gives Iceland President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson a gift. While the Utah delegation explored the state's potential of using geothermal energy in Iceland, a pioneer-era connection grew the bond between the two.
A Utah delegate gives Iceland President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson a gift. While the Utah delegation explored the state's potential of using geothermal energy in Iceland, a pioneer-era connection grew the bond between the two. (Photo: Mike Anderson, KSL-TV)

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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