Day 14 |
Sep 04, 2010

Husavik, Iceland

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist


Co-ordinates: 66º02’52”N, 017º20’39”W
Weather: sunny with scattered clouds
Air Temperature: 20ºC

I can’t tell you how beautiful it was to wake up to sunny skies and the scenic backdrop of the colourful houses of the small village of Husavik. The Captain moored the ship alongside a small jetty right nearby to the centre of town.

By 0800am the guests and staff who were heading off on the day-long Diamond Circle bus tour were already onboard the local buses and heading off for the day. I was not on that tour, so I stood at the gangway waving goodbye – I was heading off an hour later with a smaller group of our guests to go whale watching…but more about that later…

The Diamond Tour itinerary sounded wonderful! Their first stop was at Ásbyrgi - a lush horseshoe-shaped canyon. Local lore claims that an airborne horse, Sleipnir, belonging to the Norse god, Odinn, shaped the canyon when it accidentally touched the ground. Their second stop was in Hjodaklettar, or the “Echo Rocks” where they were going to walk up to the cliffs to take in the scenic views. After lunch, the tour continued on to the magnificent Dettifoss waterfall. These falls’ claim to fame is that they have the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe. It was here that I later found out that they experienced a very unique thing – a strong sand storm that left everybody covered in grit!! The final stop was at the seething sulfur pits and boiling mud pools near Námaskard. Everyone came back very happy and full of beautiful descriptions of the places they had been.

Meanwhile, while they were off on that tour, about 20 of us were met by a local guide and walked the 800m from the ship to the centre of town to board a local fishing boat for a whale watching tour. I had to have a little giggle when our guide introduced herself – her name was ‘Jona’, and she was guiding us on a whale watching tour – pretty ironic!!!

The all-timber boat that we were going out on was beautiful and was run by a grandfather and granddaughter team. At first, the wind was cold and the skies were cloudy, but not long into the tour the clouds dispersed and the wind turned warm and it was absolutely beautiful. We headed out into the Skjálfandi bay in search of any whales that we might find – but according to our guide the most likely ones we were to see would be Minkes. And sure enough, as we were approaching the rolling green slopes across the bay, we spotted the first of the whales for the day – a relatively small Minke whale. It seemed to be feeding and was not disturbed by our proximity. It continued to come to the surface for a few breaths, then head back underwater for about 5 minutes before resurfacing again. We stayed with this whale for about 20 minutes, then headed off to a spot where the guide had seen quite a bit of seabird activity – which in many cases can mean that there is a whale feeding nearby (the seabirds are attracted to the small fish and plankton that the whales stir up while feeding).

And, yes, there was a large Minke whale feeding! We got some fantastic sightings of this whale as it surfaced very close to the boat. Minke whales are the second smallest whale, reaching lengths of about 9m and weighing about 7 tons!!! They are very sleek whales with gorgeous white marking on their sides.

Once we were back on shore, our local guide walked with us to the Whale Museum, which had an excellent display of many of the skeletons of the most common whales in the area. Afterwards, most of the group dispersed for the afternoon – either doing a little souvenir shopping or just enjoying the warm sunshine while grabbing a bite to eat at the local café.

It was a great day and a wonderful introduction to Iceland for those of the guests who had never been here before!