Day 13 |
Jun 11, 2012

Höfn, Iceland, Scotland 

By Chris Harbard, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: N 64°15′ W 15°13′
Weather: Sunny with clouds, overcast later
Air Temperature: 5ºC 41ºF

The morning started beautifully sunny, with a slight but cold breeze. After an early breakfast the day's Glacier Lagoon tour began, departing at 8am. We travelled east following the Ring Road, towards the glacier lagoon, called Jökulsárlón. The drive took about an hour and a half, and on the way there were many pools and small lakes by the road with marshy areas, full of birds, which included Red-necked Phalaropes, Whooper Swans, and Curlews. We arrived at the lagoon and after a rest stop with coffee we boarded the amazing amphibious vehicles, which literally drove us down to the lagoon edge and straight into the water.

The lagoon was full of icebergs that have calved from Breiðamerkurjökull, one of the many outlet glaciers coming from the vast Ice Cap called Vatnajökull. It is one of the largest icecaps in the world with over 8000 square kilometers in area, and at some point over 1000 metres of ice thickness, and is covers 7 volcanoes. Our guide aboard the 'boat' told us all about icebergs, how they are formed and how long they last. Some were very colourful, with deep blue where the sun hit them, but many were also discoloured with sand and grit from the moraines of the glacier.

After our hour-long trip on the lagoon we had lunch at a farm with delicious lobster soup and local pate. We stopped at several places on the way back, including one coastal stop where, sadly, I missed the best sighting of the day, a pair of Harlequin ducks, a special Icelandic species, found nowhere else in Europe. Icelandic horses greeted us at another stop and all along the journey back we enjoyed the barren landscape of Iceland, with green fields, marshy pools and always a backdrop of brooding mountains, now cloud-capped, but still with snow visible.

Back at Höfn there was a chance to visit the Glacier museum, where I bought a book on Puffins and enjoyed the many displays, including one which featured footage from a James Bond movie, filmed in the area with exciting snow-mobile chases. In the harbour at Höfn were some family parties of Eiders, and six Red-necked Phalaropes, spinning on the surface to find their food. Arctic Terns were everywhere as there are large colonies of them nearby. Back at the ship we had a recap and briefing followed by the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner, a fitting end to a fine day!