Flatey and the Westfjords

Jul 14, 2017 - National Geographic Orion


First day of expedition, high expectations and a beautiful scenery waiting for us. Flatey, that in icelandic means flat island, is the biggest of the archipelago and only 1 by 2 km. Although only five people live here all year round in the summer the older tradicional wood fisherman's houses became summer houses. This location has been very important since Middle Ages when it started being used as a trading post.

Walking through the colourful houses we end up at the church. Inside remarkable paintings from the 60’s by a Catalan artist, Baltasar Samper, decorate the church with scenes of island life. Just behind, a cosy little yellow wood house holds the oldest and smallest library of Iceland, established in 1864. Inside we can find a replica of the Flatey Book, the largest of medieval Icelandic manuscripts.

On the other side of the island a fishing warehouse has been converted in to a familiar coffee house. Here we had an incredible performance by Svavar Knútur. His plainness, his very personal lyrics and beautiful melody transformed everybody's energy.

After lunch Grace, our geologist, gave a very enlightening talk about the fascinating rich geology of Iceland. And the photo team onboard gave us an introduction to expedition photography.

While sailing to our next destination we got very close to Látrabjarg, the western most point of Iceland. Látrabjarg is a cliff 14 km long and 440 m high. Here around 12-14 m.y.a. repeated eruptions created these preglacial lava formations. Between the layers of lava are old soil horizons. The soil eroded faster than lava and created great shelves for nesting birds. Millions of birds breed and live on the cliff in the summer. Its incredible to see them fly by the ship on their way from finding food underwater and back to their nests.

“After dinner outing” said our program, something spectacular not to miss we were told. And indeed it was! The Dynjandi waterfall in the end of Arnarfjordur. To reach the waterfall we landed at a close by beach, walked through green lower vegetation and the first waterfall is just around the road curve. As we make our way to the top, many small taller, wider, shorter waterfalls make the sinuous path to the great waterfront. The view from the top was simply spectacular. 

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About the Author

Madalena Patacho

Naturalist

Madalena was born and raised in Portugal. Her childhood was spent in Belem, surrounded by Portuguese maritime history, monuments and museums, always dreaming about exploring the oceans. Her love for nature has led her to study biology in Évora and later to take a Master’s in management of natural resources at Instituto Superior de Agronomia and Universidade de Évora, getting specialized in ecotourism. For many years she was a naturalist/guide at Oceanário de Lisboa (aquarium) working with a variety of audiences raising awareness on ocean conservation and biodiversity.

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