Ísafjörður, Iceland

Jul 20, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Yesterday evening we arrived at the small town of Ísafjörður—a town, as the name suggests, set within a fjord. While the fjord can offer protection from some of the worst weather, the location may also leave the settlement vulnerable to avalanches, which have resulted in the installation of many large avalanche defense systems around the area. 

We left the ship around 0800 for morning activities. I chose to stretch my legs on a hike up a valley to see a beautiful waterfall. We took a bus part of the way, and our first stop was the Arctic Fox Center—a charity which funds all arctic fox research in Iceland. Two rescued arctic foxes live in an outdoor enclosure there, and it’s so interesting to watch them watching us and trying to figure out what we’re up to. After a short talk, a walk around the center, and some cake and coffee, it was back onto the bus for our drive to the hike. 

It rained during the hike, but that’s not surprising for Iceland! Even in the rain, it was still great to get outside and walk among the grass and bushes (well, birch trees really), to spot some birds and look at some beautiful flowers and berry bushes.

It was a good march to the waterfall. We walked along boggy tracks, crossed streams, and avoided slipping in mud on our way. At the waterfall, we crossed a bridge to get the best views. 

After lunch back on board the ship, we jumped into the Zodiacs and cruised by a small island packed with birdlife—puffins, guillemots, fulmars, purple sandpipers, eiders, and several other species. The sea was incredibly calm, so we were able to Zodiac right up to the small cliffs to get a closer look at the birds as well as explore some of the caves and view the basalt rock formations. We also happened upon two fearsome Vikings serving hot chocolate—with a kick. They looked remarkably similar to Marek and Anders from our hotel staff… It must be the genetics!

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About the Author

Peter Webster

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Born in Scotland, Peter became fascinated with nature and wildlife from a very young age. This early interest led to him earning a degree in conservation biology followed shortly after by an M.Sc in marine and fisheries ecology. He is currently studying for another M.Sc in digital mapping. After working as a commercial diver for several years Peter was offered the position of Field Diving Officer with the British Antarctic Survey in 2012. He then spent the next 16 months in the Antarctic, stationed at Rothera Research Station, on the peninsula where he managed the dive operations and a team of scientific divers working on a wide range of research on climate change, ocean acidification, and increased seabed disturbance by icebergs. As well as diving Peter also spent several months in the Antarctic deep field working in aircraft operations, depot laying, and meteorological work whilst living in tents in conditions below -30oC. 

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