July 29, 2013 – Iceland: voyage to Grundarfjörđur and Wonders of the West
Posted on July 30th, 2013
Our last full day at sea proved a full and exciting one with time for events in the Theater. Captain Patrick began with a fascinating lecture on “Piracy and the Hijacking of Le Ponant in the Indian Ocean.” He has been master of a ship in the Gulf of Aden when Somali pirates attacked, boarded, and took control. Skilful and necessary negotiation were especially challenging with so much involved and safety always the priority. Next followed Jennifer Clement, continuing her account of the variety of voyages, expeditions, and other events offered by A&K.
Our Disembarkation Briefing took place before lunch, during which the dispositions of luggage and people going to several flights, or hotels, or other arrangements were explained.
Next, Guest Connor Holland showed some exceptional photographs of looming of icebergs and other features he saw near midnight as we left Greenland. The raffle for the illustrated chart was drawn and a delighted winner appeared. Staff were introduced for a final photographic opportunity before Richard Harker shared a slideshow of images from our voyage. So many memorable events reminded us of the thrill of being in this extraordinary place at the top of the world.
We approached Grundarfjörđur during lunch and, dare one write, in our usual magnificent weather. The green hills showed many strata of early volcanic eruptions carved into the fjord and surrounding valleys. The small colorful town stood at the head of the harbor as ‘Le Boreal’ came alongside the town pier.
We disembarked for a coach tour, travelling first past the Snæfellsjökul, a prominent peak with a large ice cap leading to an eponymous glacier. The road must have been a major work of engineering where, on several occasions, previous cuts were seen. We stopped during a descent to see the vast fjord, islands of Flatley, and north-western peninsula. A stop at Djupalonssadur presented astonishing views of volcanic remains with small canyons, broken lava fields and more. At the height of summer, this region was covered with blooming vegetation and its distinct perfume wafting in the air.
The beach consisted of surprisingly rounded stones, ranging from pebbles to boulders, a consequence of surging seas. We discovered two notable features there: lifting stones and the wreck of a British trawler from the 1930s. The former, a series of four weighing 23, 54, 100, and 154 kg were a test of strength for fishermen from the early days. Several people lifted the first weight and a few the second, but nobody could lift the third (not to mention the forth). The effect of successive Atlantic storms on a wreck was well-demonstrated with bits of riveted rusty wreckage strewn inland.
Our coach tour continued through lush farmland to a small fishing village, Arnarstapi. We spied several high waterfalls draining high snow slopes along the way. Among the many notable things seen at the village was the tidal range, at least nine feet with quays and launch ramps commensurate. We took a gentle walk along the cliffs complete with a spectacular double natural arch. There were also many birds, including many rare species which were added to the logbook record. We returned inland and made a stop for coffee and local crepes.
We continued on to see a church originally built in 1703 and a cemetery with both ancient and modern graves, each with evidence of the Lutheran tradition of leaving a candle lantern on All Souls’ Day. From the church, we followed a path to the beach and marveled (again) at the profusion of flora, convoluted geology, and volcanic features that ended in a series of sand dunes.
We headed back to ‘Le Boreal’ on a mountain road, passing a refuge cabin for stranded travellers as well as a series of cairns that marked an old pack trail from when horses were the only method of travel between the remote settlements.
We boarded ‘Le Boreal’ and departed after dinner, bound for Hafnarfjördur, one of the ports of Reykjavik.