Day 16 |
Sep 06, 2010

Grundarfjördur, Iceland

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates:64°55’33’’N, 23°15’03’’W
Weather: cloudy, sometimes rainy
Air Temperature: 21 C

This was our last excursion day on our trip from Tromso up to Svalbard over to Jan Mayen and down to Iceland. The Prince Albert II was alongside on time in the port of the small fishing village of Grundarfjördur on the Snaefellnes peninsula. The planned excursion for this day was a bus tour that would take our guests around the peninsula. The weather today was not as favorable as in the last days, as it was cloudy with sometimes rainy showers.

Grundarfjördur is a typical fishing village in Iceland, some small houses, a big building in the harbor, administrative buildings and a swimming pool, which our guide said functioned as the social center of the community.

The westernmost part of the Snaefellnes peninsula is where the Snaefellnes National Park is located. It is outstanding for its great geological diversity, rich birdlife and the Snaefellsjökull Glacier, an active volcano that lies in the center of the peninsula and is towering over everything in the national park. In Jules Verne’s novel “Voyage to the Center of the Earth” the entrance to the center is located exactly by this volcano.

Our first stop on the tour was at Djupalonssandur, a former fishing camp in a good protected bay on the west coast of the peninsula. A short walk on a small path brought our guests to a beautiful black gravel beach where, beside some heavy weight lifting stones that were used by the fishermen for training and the rests of a British trawler, nothing else remains of the busy days at the highpoint of whale and cod fishing.

After a ten-minute ride the bus stopped again in the former fisher village of Hellnar, which today is more a vacation resort with houses owned by people from the capital of Reykjavík.

In contrary to the stop before, the next visiting point was a highlight of the tour. An easy 30-minute walk along the cliffs with beautiful views along the coast of western Iceland brought us to the little village of Arnastapi. On the cliffs we could observe Glaucous Gull, Kittywakes, Cormorants, Shags, Northern Fulmars and Eider Ducks. In a pond just behind cliffs Mare’s Tail was growing, on the cliffs itself Sea Plantain, Thrift and the Roseroot were their autumn colors. But the most interesting thing on the cliffs was the stunning views that this walk offered.

The last stop before lunch was at Budir, a nice little church in typical Nordic style with an equally nice view out into the Northern Atlantic.

After this the busses brought us directly to the town of Stykkisholmur, one of the bigger towns in this area with approximately 1.500 inhabitants. It was our lunch stop. The lunch was good, and our guests had an excellent menu, starting with cauliflower soup, fresh cod with vegetables and potatoes, and a fruit cake with strawberries coming from the local glasshouses for dessert. After lunch we visited the Volcano museum founded by the famous volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson. The founder itself gave us an interesting insight into the world of volcanology.

Leaving the town of Stykkisholmur, we were heading to a place called Bjarnarhöfn. Not famous for its stunning views, volcanoes, wildlife or history but famous for its outstanding delicacy, the meat of the cured Greenland shark. A short introduction described how the shark is prepared. Because of its high concentration of urea in its tissues, the meat has to be buried in boxes in the ground for six to nine weeks and afterwards hung out in the air to dry for another minimum two months. It’s a delicacy and Icelandic people generally eat the shark with schnapps called “brantvin”. I tasted it twice and at the end I was not sure what tasted more awful – the shark or the brantvin! Our guests loved it though, especially because we could not only taste this famous Icelandic dish but also see how the meat pieces are hung out for drying.

Enriched with a new taste experience, the tour went back to the ship on the north side of the peninsula and after a full day of Icelandic impressions, our guests arrived at the ship around half past four. Enough time to have a little rest before Kristine, our photographer on board, presented her work on the second half of the journey from Tromso to Reykjavik.

Afterwards, dinner was served in The Resta