Day 12 |
Sep 02, 2011

Grundarfjördur, Iceland

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates 64°55’33’’N, 23°15’03’’W
Weather: Mostly overcast with a few moments of sun
Air Temperature: 16 C

We have had a fantastic cruise so far, and I today did not disappoint, although, unfortunately, it was the last day of the cruise that started in Svalbard, then continued to Jan Mayen (one of the most isolated islands in the world) and finally here, to Iceland.

The Silver Explorer docked alongside early in the morning at the port of Grundarfjördur. This is a small fishing village that is tucked inside a very beautiful fjord in the Snaefellnes peninsula.

We were all boarded onto the buses by 8am and heading off for the full-day tour of the area. Our plans were to stop at several scenic and historic spots along the Snaefellnes peninsula and in the Snaefellnes National Park, known for its geology, birdlife and scenery.

The geological features that we saw from the bus were incredible – one of the real highlights was the active volcano that lies in the center of the peninsula. This exact volcano was made famous by Jules Verne who described it in his novel Voyage to the Center of the Earth as the entrance to the center of the earth.

Our first stop was at Djupalonssandur, which was a bustling little site during the times when cod and whale fishing were most popular. We saw several relics as we walked down the path to the shiny black pebble beach, but most of them were unrecognizable. However, we did get to see the large round stones that the fishermen used to use to train for endurance and strength.

For our next stop, we walked for about 30 minutes along a little trail that took us along the tops of the coastal cliffs. It was beautiful – we watched the surf crash onto the shore and the seabirds (fulmars, kittiwakes, glaucous gulls and cormorants) flying overhead. Our walk brought us to another small village called Arnastapi.

We stopped next at Budir, a quaint little church, where the lookout near the beach offered another beautiful view of the North Atlantic, then headed to the larger town of Stykkisholmur for lunch. After lunch we visited the Volcano museum founded by the world-renowned volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson, who greeted us himself and told us all about the volcanoes of Iceland.

The next stop was a highlight for me – we went to a farm that prepares cured Greenland Shark! Now, unless you are from Iceland and used to this ‘delicacy’, I do not recommend that you go out and buy a large container of it - it is certainly an acquired taste!!! The shark meat is actually poisonous if eaten fresh – it contains very high quantities of urea (an adaptation to survive in the cold Arctic waters), which, when eaten, can make you act as if you are very drunk. In high doses, it can actually kill you. But…if prepared properly, the meat can be rendered edible and non-toxic. To do this, you must bury the meat in boxes under the ground for six to nine weeks, then hang it out in the air to dry for another two or more months.

The final stage is to cut the meat up into very small chunks and eat it with a type of schnapps called “brantvin”. I personally had to have a few extra shots of the schnapps to try to get the taste out of my mouth!!! But I give many of our guests a lot of credit – they actually tried this Icelandic specialty, even though they saw the horrible faces of others before them.

Once all the guests were back onboard the Silver Explorer, we left the small port and started along our way towards or final stop – Reykjavik – where all but 16 guests are to disembark, and we receive another 100 or so for the next journey from Iceland onto Greenland and then to Canada.