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Published: September 18th 2015
Iceland Voyage Map
Our route on the Ocean Nova
Reykjavík to Akureyrí...
I’ve been on board the M/V Ocean Nova for a couple of weeks now, bouncing around in the North Atlantic on a Bahamian flagged vessel. We set sail from lovely Reykjavík, the Icelandic Capital for a semi circumnavigation of this fascinating island. Naturally, I was with an eclectic group of colleagues from far flung corners of the globe, all with a sense of adventure and the need to explore... Let’s go!
There where many highlights during the Iceland voyage, but taking the Zodiacs around the rocky outcrop of Eldey was certainly one of the best! Tens of thousands of gannets soared overhead - a haunting and mesmerizing spectacle. Eldey is an island off the south western tip of Iceland and gets very few visitors, it is the last place on Earth where the Great Auk nested. Now extinct, this mighty flightless bird of the north was hunted by man until the the late 1800s - the last one was taken on this island. There were a few sightings of the Great Auk for a few years afterwards, but the population didn’t recover, so they finally became extinct... We all felt honoured to have gotten so close
Peculiar art in the capital city that is famous for Bjork and strongmen.
to this magnificent memorial.
A little ways down the coast are the Vestmannaeyar (Westmann Islands), a volcanic archipelago with dramatic scenes rising from the ocean. We visited the small community of Heimey on the largest of the islands. I went off alone and hiked up one of the dormant volcanic peaks on the coast and was rewarded with rain and wind and the lingering aroma of the fish processing plant below - very refreshing though! Next up in the same island group was one of the world’s newest islands (possibly the newest)... The Island of Surtsey rose up from the sea in 1963 during and under water volcanic eruption. The island is weird, it looks strange! This is what early Earth may have looked like? We could not get closer than 500 metres from island as it is a strictly protected area. It is one of the few places on the planet where plant colonization can be studied. Already, there are several lichens and mosses as well as a few grasses and flowering plants on the island. Most of these plants arrived as seeds in the feathers of birds. Surtsey is a very bleak island, and yet again an
honour to get so close.
We called in at a few communities along the rugged Iceland coast, most memorable was Siglufjörður, a herring fishing village in the north with a lovely museum about the industry and lots of traditionally dressed characters. Siglufjörður is set in a beautiful lush-green fjord and also get very few visitors due to its location far from the main highway.
Our most northerly stop was Iceland’s most northerly point on the island of Grimsey. The northern few hundred metres of the island is the only part of Iceland that is north of the Arctic Circle, we took the Zodiacs to shore and hiked to the monument that is situated near the Circle’s latitude (the circle is moving northward due to the planet’s wobbly tendencies, so the monument is now slightly to the south). The island of Grimsey is a low lying island with dramatic views to the mainland’s mighty snowcapped peaks.
From Iceland’s northern extreme, we headed due west to the exposed and roadless Northwest Fjords. Hornbjarg and Hornvík are possibly Iceland’s most dramatic areas! Massive cliffs and huge rock pinnacles rising straight out of the sea. We spent a full day exploring
the rugged coastline and hiking along the stunning coast. We were treated with viewing some arctic foxes, Iceland’s only native land mammals...
“The whole scene was marvelous beyond all power of words; most memorable was the gravity of the colouring, the dark green sea, the purple rocks,the blue glacier cliff, the near grey, the remote yellowish snow, and over and all the dull leaden-grey of the clouds, combined into a solemn harmony of tone over which brooded the great silence of the north” Martin Conway.
The dark mountains and the ever-gloomy sky surround this mystical island. Towering volcanoes and deep turquoise lakes dot the stark countryside. There are rocks that look like trolls, and valleys where the Hidden People live.
Iceland is a wonderful country full of folklore. We had a local historian onboard telling us tales of elves, trolls and the Hidden People. I believe these tales - I think to enjoy Iceland to its fullest, you have to believe them... Or at least be open to the possibility of them being true... Many Icelanders believe in the ‘other beings’, and they take it quite seriously.
Many don’t believe it - but they don’t necessarily deny it either...
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