Friday 13 July 2012

Shooting Ice and Puffin Volcanoes

It was a bit odd, waking up early to backtrack down the same road we did yesterday and I had to ask myself why I booked a place so far away. But hey, with a trip this rushed we were not going to do everything right.

So we revisited the amazing glacial lake Jökulsárlón, marvelling at the shimmering black sand beaches and snapping some daylight shots with my latest favourite technique of using a tripod and ten-stop ND filter to get crispy sharp foreground with smooth flowing water.

Waves crash over Ice - Jökulsárlón
Iceland 2012 - Jökulsárlón
Oh, and a happy-snap of what I look like when I don’t shave for 8 weeks. This seafood soup from a cafe by the lake was surprisingly delicious too, definitely worth a second helping.

Viking eating soup - Jökulsárlón
Further back along the road again we paused for one last peek at the misty curtain of Skógafoss.

A moody shot of Skogafoss Waterfall
Like the last time we drove this road, I couldn't help stopping every now and again for some quick shots. Iceland is like that I think.

The dynamic Mountains of Iceland
Sheep in Southern Iceland
One worthwhile stop for both of us was a family-run roadside museum with informative displays on Iceland's volcanoes and glaciers, with a great little video showing life for those living beneath a volcanic glacier. This of course was Eyjafjallajökull, the comparatively small but now famous Icelandic volcano whose ash cloud caused flight delays all over the world in 2010.

Eyjafjallajokull - The volcano that caused the 2010 chaos
Reynisfjara Beach was another geologically interesting stop. The beachside basalt columns were massive and were easy for kids and likeminded tourists to climb all over.

Basalt Columns at Reynisfjara Beach
But our goal today was Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the volcanic Vestmannaeyjar. We took the short hop over on a car ferry over which was a first for me. A couple of historical facts about these Vestmannaeyjar islands fascinated us. For instance, the newest island was formed in 1963 called Surtsey island, which was intensively studied by volcanologists during its eruption, and afterwards by botanists and biologists as life forms gradually colonised the originally barren island (an algae got there first!). Very few people have ever stepped foot on the island, only some scientists for the study of biocolonisation. This allows the natural ecological succession for the island to proceed without outside interference. Heimaey island itself has a fiery history, with the most recent activity being when a volcanic fissure erupted in 1973 to create a new red cone called Eldfell and pour out millions of tonnes of lava over five months. It was quite devastating to the nearly one-third of all Heimaey homes that had been burned or covered with lava, but in the end the island gained 2.5 square kilometres of real estate and a more sheltered harbour.

Eldfell, Last erupted in 23 January 1973 - Vestmannaeyjar
The other main reason for visiting Heimaey was to see the ever-entertaining puffin colonies. These crazy little birds have some real character. It was hard not to laugh at their massive beaks, fat bodies, and tiny wings that suggested being stuck in an awkward evolutionary stage between normal flying birds and penguins. They were so inefficient and watching one land was rather amusing (think crashing into the side of a cliff).

A pair of Puffins - Vestmannaeyjar
Puffin on the rock face - Vestmannaeyjar
We also ate one, which was interesting but not all that enjoyable since I wasn't a fan of smoked things in general. The puffin plate came with a side of minke whale. It was not too bad, much like mild beef, but really it was not worth it. Leave it in the sea and eat cow instead, much tastier.

Puffin on the Right, Whale on the Left. Two things we will not eat again - Vestmannaeyjar
After a couple more shots of the beautiful landscape we left the tiny island and headed back to the airport for our evening departure.

Wave busts as it hit the rocks - Vestmannaeyjar
Waves crashing against the rocks - Vestmannaeyjar
We really loved Iceland and I’m looking forward to the day I get to see it again. I’m thinking it would look great in early spring when there is more ice and snow.

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