Djúpivogur, Iceland

Jul 06, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer arrived in Djúpivogur, a natural harbor in the southeast of Iceland, for a packed day of exploring. Forty-six intrepid explorers disembarked early in the morning and boarded a bus to Vatnajökull, known as Lake Glacier—the largest glacier in Iceland, covering an area of 8,100 km2 or about eight percent of the country. On the way, our bus drove through vast, peaceful landscapes, passing several bays. One of those bays, Swan Bay, is named for the hundreds of whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) that gather there, filling the area with their slender, white bodies and reverberating sounds.

We arrived at Vatnajökull National Park, and after picking up adequate gear, walked 2.4 km to the glacier’s base. Once fitted with crampons, we walked out onto the glacier and spotted bright blue ice.

We meandered past small waterfalls on our walk back and then boarded the bus for Jökulsárlón or Glacier River Lagoon. At the spectacular lake, we took photos of the icebergs that calve from the glacier.

This region is occupied by abundant wildlife typical of the far North. Great skuas (Stercorarius skua) and Arctic skuas (Stercorarius parasiticus) regularly patrolled the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) colonies. Terns feed at the river mouth, and when they successfully trap fish, they are chased by the Arctic skuas until they release their prey. At times, some of the great skuas prey on the unattended eggs or chicks of the Arctic terns—such is the cycle of life.

On the tundra, we encountered common ringed plovers (Charadrius hiaticula), protecting their chicks from passersby, as well as barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), a cliff-dwelling species flourishing in Iceland but originally from Greenland and Svalbard, Norway. After enjoying the icebergs and birds, we finally made our way back to the ship.

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About the Author

Javier Cotin


Javier 's passion for birds and nature began as a child exploring the Pyrenees mountains with his father. The mystery that surrounds the Lammergeier silhouette triggered his curiosity and interest towards wildlife. 

About the Photographer

Susan Seubert

National Geographic Photographer

Award-winning travel and editorial photographer Susan Seubert has photographed more than 20 feature stories for National Geographic Traveler since joining the magazine as a contributor in 2004. Her subjects range from Canada to the Caribbean and Texas to Thailand. Her work has been recognized by the department of journalism at Columbia University with an Alfred Eisenstadt Award and most recently by the North American Travel Journalists Association for excellence in photography. In addition to being widely published and exhibited, she also lectures regularly about her work at such institutions as Harvard University and the Portland Art Museum.  

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in Central Oregon where she spent her childhood ski racing, riding horses, playing classical piano, and working summer jobs on a dude ranch. She then attended the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles earning degrees in cinema-television, history, and international relations. Although immersed in the studies of narrative filmmaking, she gravitated toward the process, deeper on-camera conversations, and scientific and human themes explored in documentary production.

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