Travel memories from Northern Atlantic in May-June 2007

Heimaey
That Friday, 25 May 2007, I woke up to a very nice weather. The air was fresh, and there was no haze. I hoped that the whole day would be like that.

When I finished my breakfast it was announced that Iceland was visible.

I can understand why it got the name Ice-land.


During the night we had set our watches back one hour, the second time during the cruise. It was around half past eight in the morning, and we were to sail along the southern coast of Icelands for some ten hours.
Sailing towards Great Britain?

As usual I spent most of the time outdoors. For a change my cameras had a calm day. The following photos were taken with around one hour intervals...


Cloudy over the southeastern Iceland.

My thoughts travelled too. Mostly I thought about how it was for the Norsemen, the Vikings, sailing across the North Atlantic in their open wooden ships. As it is with other islands in the North Atlantic, the first visitors may have been Irish monks settling around year 795.

The eldest recorded Norse sighting was made in year 850, when Naddođur on his way to the settled Faroe Islands drifted north to the east coast of what he called Snowland. Five years later Garđar Svavarsson also drifted to Iceland. He sailed around the island, which he called Garđar's Island.

Hrafna-Flóki, the first Viking to stay here during one winter with his crew, gave the island its present name Iceland. Later settlers arrived mainly from Norway, but they seem to have brought with them slaves and wives from Ireland and Scotland 'on the way'.

At half past one we were close enough to see land - not covered with ice or snow.


The area seen from above, on a model in Reykjavik City Hall. One of many calculations about the future indicates that with a temperature raise of 2 degrees Celsius the large Vatnajokul glacier will be half as large after 100 years and maybe gone within 200 years.

Looking westwards.

In the afternoon it was allowed to visit the bridge, and naturally I did so.
 

 
Plenty of space, I think, but they sure have many instruments to keep their eyes on. Many, even though several are doubled.
 

 
A display showing where we were. What may be shown over there?
 
Yes, they use traditional nautical charts too. It also was nice to see some Saab equipment (even though it wasn't a "Cars made in Sweden" which I write about here in konditori100).

Leaving the bridge with it's views of the MS Fram, I took some photos of the interior on deck 6.
   

 

More of Iceland, from the east to the west.


A thin haze rested over the island.

This cruise was 'a dream come true' for me. It was some eighteen months since I wrote to the company with my wish for a maiden voyage with Fram, visiting the islands Shetland, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. And here I was. (I also wished for Baffin Island and L'anse aux Meadows, but you can't get it all...)

  Our cabin on deck 3.

Another panorama from east to west.


Mother Nature sure has worked on those rocks.


Here we passed the southernmost area of Iceland, seeing among others the glacier Myrdalsjokull.

The glacier lies around the 1.450 metres high volcanoe Katla (in the low clouds?).

There were no clouds covering the view on the Iceland model.

 
I remembered my visit to Reykjavik and the fascinating surrounding area in 1997. Situated this far north and on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the American and the European continental plates moves in different directions, the diverse landscape includes volcanoes and geysers and glaciers. Some 11% of Iceland is covered of glaciers, the ice up to a kilometer thick, and another 11% are lava fields.
More 'carved' rocks.


All 103.000 square kilometres of Iceland are south of the polar circle. The northern end of Iceland is so close to it, so it's said that from there you can throw a stone across the polar circle. The average amount of sunlight is almost 15 hours a day. The population is around 300.000. Some 60% lives in the capital Reykjavik, but in this coastal area I saw houses 'all the way'.

I longed to get on land and get a closer look, but we had 65 kilometers more to sail before the days visit on land.

At a quarter past three in the afternoon I spotted the first icebergs.
 

 
I'd love to take a walk in those areas, too.

This is a photo of the plastic floor on the outdoor decks. I've taken video shots of some of them...

...when I accidentally missed the stop button on the video camera...

You who thought that I was wrong writing that some photos show icebergs, were right. That is the Vestmannaeyjar islands, where we were to visit the island Heimaey. The circa 40 islands were born by undersea volcanic activities.


(Did I miss the waves?)


Oh yes, I really love that kind of landscape.


Only two more hours to sail.

I don't know what that is. I noticed them when passing a window indoors. I didn't see them again later.

Are they UFO's (unidentified floating objects) or some islands?


The southern islands of the group.

The island to the right is Surtsey.
On the model in Reykjavik City Hall, Surtsey was placed closer to the Vestmannaeyjar islands.

We were sailing to Heimaey, the large island on the model, with its sheltered harbour south of the high cliffs at the islands northern end.


More of Mother Natures artistic creations.


To compare with - do you see the building on the island?
   


Volcanic rock, yes.
 

Below a mix of rock, nesting birds - and what nesting birds leave on rocks.

It was interesting to see the layers, with so different structures.

At half past five we were approaching the island Heimaey, the largest of the Vestmannaeyjar islands. Here lives around 4.500 persons.

So did an airplane.


The pilot boat met us, with help to take us into the island.

The view northwards, with Iceland mainland in the background.

 
Photos of a dark island with a low sun in the background. Yes, I have manipulated several of the photos.

Passing the curving entrance to the harbour, my eyes were looking to the starboard side most of the time. This is why.
 


Really amazing structures.
 

 

 

 

Suddenly I saw an stave church, of an early Norwegian style. That sure would be one place to visit.


It is situated where a lava stream from a volcanic activity in 1973 threatened to block the entrance to the sheltered harbour.

The eruption went on from 23 January to 26 June, producing 230.000.000 cubic metres of lava and 20.000.000 cubic metres of ash. The island grew with an area of 2,5 square kilometres.
 
There's wasn't only birds living on the rocks.
 

 
The people were evacuated during the eruption. 417 buildings were destroyed or buried, but the rest of the town was restored. The volcanos name? Eldfell. The mountain of fire?


A colorful mural of the town.

I was among the first to leave MS Fram, and chose to walk around on my own. On the way to the stave church I got the first contact with the lava, and natures way of using it after some decades.

 
In the park were also a reminder of the power of the volcanic eruptions in 1973.
 

 
The church was built later. It is a gift from Norway, as I understood it.
 
That is the area where the lava stream almost cut off the entrance to the harbour.
 
During this cruise I had taken photos of three forts with old guns, close to where the ship had berthed, and here too there was an old gun. They should have had some guns in 1627, when North African pirates raided three areas in Iceland capturing 400 Icelanders as slaves and killing many others. Of almost 500 people living on the Vestmannaeyjar islands, only 60 were alive here after the raid 17-19 July.

 

Then I went up on the lava. Yes, it was cool. In two ways...
   


Some plants have found enough nourishment on the lava, among others a few small yellow flowers. And the eruptions ended in mid 1973, 33 years before my visit. At some edges the contrast is striking.


The top of Fram, and of the town.


A number of tourists walked up to the volcano, but I was more interested in the town.
 


With mainland Iceland in the background.


A part of the edge of the lava flow.
At Vestmannabraut / Heimegata(?)

A harsh reminder.
 
Not all thoughts during a cruise like this are pleasant. For some 50 years we humans have had the power to wipe out probably most of the life on the planet, with atomic and other weapons. We also have changed many of the normal rules of life, like the balance in the fauna between predators and prey. In many countries healthcare has prolonged the lifetime of its citizens, in both ends, making us become more and more people living on, and off, the planet. But when Mother Nature creates volcanos, earthquakes and other natural phenomena we are mostly helpless.

I often reflect over the discussions about the changing climate. Do we humans cause or add to it, or is it a natural change? Whatever, it wouldn't harm to take better care of Mother Nature. Would it?

So, why was I a tourist on this island? The way I live, I think I can do some trips like this. Yes, it can be discussed - but now I'll walk on in this town.

An early summer Friday evening, around 7 o'clock. Where were I? I have to admit that I'm not quite sure about that. No, I wasn't drunk at all. I was on the island Heimaey in the group of islands Vestmannaeyjar. Some info I have here, when writing this text, tells that the name of the town also is Vestmannaeyjar. Maybe we'll see a sign on a photo further down on this web page?

 
It's nice with towns like this, with various building types and plenty of green areas.


A couple of public buildings, I suppose. Maybe one of them houses a local museum, with some marine objects placed on the yard? They works as a playground too.

Volvo C10M

Isn't it a Volvo 850?


After some 20 minutes I came to an industrial area at the other end of the town, where another rock wall came changed the scenery.
 


Even though the passage to the harbour was curved and narrowed by the lava stream, even rather large container ships can enter. I think her name is MS Helgafell, from Torshavn on the Faroe Islands.

I passed this end of the harbour, and walked out on Strandvägen ('the shore road'). On a cliffside nearby puffins are nesting, but apparently the chickens were grown and the families had left. So far I hadn't noticed a single puffin during the cruise. I wondered if I would see any.

 
But there were other animals up on the slope. I guessed there was water under the boulder.
 

 
I tried to hold the camera steady by leaning on a lamp post, but the wind made it sway...


The container ship left, while Glofaxi and other fishing vessels remained. I continued too.


I walked on until the road stopped at another cliffside with an interesting surface.


And there is MS Fram, with a volcano in the background.

Scania 93M

 


Captain, is that a flying saucer?". "Captain, where are you? Can you read me?"   "Hello!?"

Well, I left that imaginary captain and headed back to Fram and a more useful captain with his crew. On the way I hoped to find a place where they had some souvenirs or postcards, but I didn't.


Tourists with cameras walking out right in front of a person that is aiming for a shot. Well, the digital camera (which is 'slower to shoot' than my old mechanical ones) managed to catch the Volvo XC70 before it left the picture...

 
I was back on Fram at twenty past eight, and went straight up to deck 5 to enjoy the scenery some more in the light of the descending sun.
 

 

 
At the construction site work was going on, even on the Friday evening. One item caught my eyes.

Yes, it was a Scania 112 truck.

 

Made me think of a base in the lunar landscape of the Moon...
 

 
The wind made patterns on the water surface.


A little later we would pass there again.

I went down to the restaurant to have dinner, but they had closed at eight. As a punishment for me missing the time, I had to eat something from the cafeteria instead. Some pieces of cake and so   ;-)


Then it was time to 'set sails' again. The ship was taken to the middle of the harbour, where it was rotated on the spot.
 

 
Meanwhile I took some complementary photos...
 

 
The weather was still lovely, even though it was a bit windy and chilly.

 
I noticed a house up there, in the upper left corner. Acts as a measure. On the starboard side some of the inhabitants performed a light show, probably without knowing it. (If anyone of you read this: it was fun to see. Thanks.)
 

 
Islands and Iceland in the sun. At least partly. Views from northeast to northwest.

 
The last ferry of the day, I suppose. Coming from Podákshöfn, I guess (looking at a small tourist map).
 

 
The sunshine must be blinding up there.

 


We sailed southwest, to get a closer look at one of the islands. The southernmost, which is the youngest of them.

During the evening we changed to a larger cabin on deck 5. Larger window, more space, water boiler, and close to a door to the outside (convenient when changing batteries and so).
 
But, as usual I spent most of the time outdoors enjoying the sights of the fantastic seascape that Mother Nature painted and continuously repainted.


The beauty of art is in the eyes of the beholder. It differs from person to person.
And from camera to camera.
 


Once again I was lucky to spend an evening in a magnificent surrounding with a beautiful sunset. After a day sailing off the southern Icelandic coast and among the Vestmannaeyjar islands, there still was one small island that I wanted to see. Even in the dusk of the evening.

It was just one hour before midnight, but since the sun just glided below the horizon it didn't feel like in the night.


There it is, the island Surtsey. I sent a thankful thought to the passenger visiting the bridge, and suddenly asking if we could pass the island.

I am old enough to remember watching footage of its birth on television. The 1,7 square kilometres large island was born during an undersea volcanic eruption, which with short intermissions lasted from November 1963 to June 1967. Two other islands born during the same eruption couldn't withstand the power of the waves for but a shorter period. Another island didn't even become an island, hiding under the surface.


Other islands were also interesting to see, even in the relative darkness. This one was probably better to see like this.

"Looking for Surtsey?"


I felt like I was sailing, in more than one way.


Surtsey is situated 20 km southwest of the Vestmannaeyjar islands. It was decided to use it only for scientific research, so just a limited number of people have been on the island.
 

 


The silhouette of Surtsey changed as we rounded south of the island.


Islands south of and in Iceland.

Shortly after half past eleven that night we took a northerly direction again.

Then I thought I saw something moving, in a way...

A lighthouse on one of the Vestmannaeyjar islands.

It felt special to have seen Surtsey on such a close distance. I can't describe how and why...


It had been another wonderful day, with uncountable numbers of fascinating sceneries.
Time for a midnight cup of tea. Then my travelmate went to bed, while I wrote my notes. I wrote that I also had some Solo and Kvikk-lunsj... A good ending of the day.

Before going to sleep I looked on my Reykjavik map, locating museums and some other places I wanted to visit. My main 'theme' for the visit was vikings, so I planned to get up early and take photos while sailing around the peninsula south of Reykjavik.

Maybe this is a more suitable last photo on this page?

2008-08-31. www.konditori100.se. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss ©. Prod: AG Informice