Day 12 |
Aug 06, 2013

Grundarfjodur, Iceland

By Claudia Holgate, Ornithologist and Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 64º55’25’ N, 023º16’13”W
Weather: Clear with few clouds
Air Temperature: 8ºC
Pressure: 1013 hPa
Wind: 7 knots

Today started out the same as just about every other day on this voyage, just perfect! The weather conditions were spectacular, with blue skies and cirrus clouds streaked across the sky. We docked at Grundarfjordur, where we are to have a full day bus tour exploring around the whole Peninsula known as Snaefellsnes. I was allocated a bus with Rapa Nui and we left promptly at 8:30am. 

The scenery is typically Icelandic, with mountains, hills, lava fields, scattered farms, sea-cliffs, and big open spaces. The first stop was at a very beautiful pebble beach called Djupalonssandur. We took the first short walk to a lookout point overlooking the bay before heading down to the beach. On our way to the beach, we came across a stunning hole in the lava formation through which we could see the Snaefellsjokull glacier, which at 12 square kilometre is relatively small, but tends to dominate the landscape.
As we reached the beach we came across lifting stones - full strength (154kg), half strength (100kg), half carrier (54kg), and weakling (23kg). The fisherman needed to be able to pick up the half carrier stone to be eligible to row out to sea. I didn’t notice any of our guests trying to lift the stones, which was probably a good thing. 
Further down the beach we found the remains of the British Trawler, the Epine, which was wrecked off the coast in 1948. Only five of the 19 crew were saved and the iron remains are now strewn along the beach as a reminder of how unforgiving the ocean can be.
We continued our journey to Hellnar where there is an interesting visitor centre at the national park. Along the way we passed many lakes filled with water birds - from Black headed gulls to Green herons and Arctic terns. Our stop at the centre was short before we headed down to Arnastapi, with our guide telling us about some of the myths and legends of the area. 
When we arrived we had a beautiful walk along the coastline where we saw spectacular lava formations. My favourite were the columnar basalts which formed blow holes that we could walk right up to. The sea conditions were calm today, so no water was gushing into the holes, but there were times when the water spewed up the hole providing quite a spectacle.

The walk itself was just beautiful, and the unrelenting sea and wave action had eroded an archway along the coast which provided some superb photo opportunities. This area is known for its nesting birds, but we have reached the end of the season for the birds and all that was left was untidy used nests of kittiwakes and fulmars along the rockface. This didn’t dampen the spirit though as we have seen plenty throughout the trip.

Our next stop was also a scenic one where we spent a bit of time at an old, small historical church at Budir, which is a small church, with a lovely view of the glacier.
Next we stopped for lunch at Stykkisholmur, where we had a lovely meal with excellent service before heading off to our last visit of the day to the shark farm at Bjarnarhofn. This farm has been in the same family for four hundred years and they have created a small museum where they have everything from farming implements, fishing equipment and numerous stuffed birds and animals. The birds were interesting to see, as now many of our guests could see close up, the birds that we have been watching throughout the trip. The real story though was about the Icelandic delicacy of rotten shark meat. They explained how the shark is prepared, using Greenland shark that is left to rot for many months, then dried before it can be eaten. We then had a chance to try a small piece of shark, washed down with schnapps. I tried a piece and it wasn’t as bad as I expected, tasting a little like blue cheese, but it is not something I would go out of my way to eat!
It was now time to make our way back to the port, where we had a couple of hours of free time before Richard Sidey, our videographer, showed us the final DVD of a trip that was described by Robin, our expedition leader as a brochure trip. It has been the trip of the season.
Dinner was served in the restaurant and everyone could then think of packing before saying our farewells tomorrow.