Day 10 |
Aug 31, 2011

Husavik, Iceland  

By Luciano Bernacchi, Naturalist, Birder, Glacier Guide

Co-ordinates: 66,02,29N 17,21,33W
Weather: Partially cloudy
Air Temperature: 15,2ºC – 59 ºF
Pressure: 1002 hPa
Humidity: 68%
Wind: Very calm

As I woke up, we were approaching our first call in Iceland for this voyage. The little town of Husavik in northern Iceland, home to about 2,000 people. The area’s industry includes a whale watching outfitter, a very interesting whale museum, and the most unusual phallus museum.

I had breakfast as the Silver Explorer was securing its lines to the wharf, and soon afterwards we had clearance and all began to get ready for the day’s excursion. I had feared for bad weather according to the forecast, but we were fortunate and all day it was rather good. Grey skies, but no wind nor rain.

Buses were rolling for today’s excursion called the Diamond Circle, and I looked forward to exploring this northern part of Iceland. The first stop was quite a photographic viewpoint overlooking the ocean. I spotted and pointed out some Cormorants, Eider ducks and huge jellyfish below the cliffs in the clam waters. Our guide’s name was Ragna, actually that is her short name, the full real name is hard to remember and spell, as is the case with many Icelandic names.

The landscape is at the same time barren and green, with good pastures for sheep and very few trees, except for some sheltered areas were birch grow. Next stop at the Hljodaklettar or Whispering Cliffs, I walked together with some guests for about an hour, and we approached the basalt columns. I must say the rock formations are very interesting and quite unique, and we had excellent photographic opportunities of the river thundering by the basalt and the crater plugs. They say Iceland is all about geology, volcanoes and glaciers. Fire & Ice as we call our voyage, and it is certainly true.

As the coach took us to the next stop, many corners of the empty landscape reminded me of my home area in Patagonia.

We walked around the pretty little lake of Asbyrgi, nestled in a horseshoe cliff, where Northern Fulmars nest and fly around. It in not uncommon for seabirds to find nesting sites a few miles from sea, but seeing them fly over land is always strange, as one is mostly used to seeing them in their marine environment.

Probably the highlight of the day was the walk near the impressive waterfall of Dettifoss –Europe’s most powerful waterfall. At least for me, walking close to the edge and feeling the tremendous power of the water falling from the 45 metres high and 100 metres wide cliff was a great experience. There are no buildings of any kind around the waterfall. The rocks, the water and the surroundings have a dark grey tone.

Our last interesting stop was the geothermal fields of Namaskard. A short walk took me right next to the fumaroles. I had never been so close to geothermal areas. The smell of the sulphur pits is characteristic, the soil offers many different colours from the various minerals, and some of the boiling mud pools are pretty unique. We all learned how the water is heated in the depths and rises boiling hot. Walking around the area, the scenery made me think of a landscape from some other planet, or our own Earth at a very distant past time. It would be interesting to see one of the country’s many geothermal power plants.

At about 16:30, we were entering Husavik again. There was time to explore this little village, and some guests chose to be dropped in town and walk back the Silver Explorer. I also had some free time before the “all aboard” time, and went for walk around town. I particularly enjoyed seen some old oak boats, traditionally used for fishing and now adapted for day whale watching outings. The town is nice and tidy and had a little church entirely made of wood.

Back on board for sail away, I shared dinner in The Restaurant with some Australian guests and we all talked about the day’s events, scenery and various other topics, ranging from climate change, world economy, and future trip plans. As usual on board Silver Explorer, it had been another fantastic expedition day. We continued sailing overnight toward tomorrow’s exploration of north-western Iceland.