Aug 04, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer
Day one of our circumnavigation of Iceland was a tour-de-force of explorations in three spectacular locations. We began our morning in the idyllic island village of Flatey, which in Icelandic, translates to flat island. The island was first settled in 1172 by monks and then a long history of fishing followed. Today, Flatey is enjoyed primarily by summer-goers, with the exception of five year-round residents. We walked along stunning bird cliffs speckled with arctic terns, black guillemots, puffins, and eiders. Our tour around the island finished with a musical performance in an old herring factory adjacent to the harbor, where through the music, we had a unique perspective of Iceland’s arts and culture.
After our lunch, we continued northwestward along the coast of Iceland to one of the highlights of our voyage—the Latrabjarg cliffs. These cliffs are a geological and ecological wonder. At nearly 14km long and more than 400 meters at their highest, they towered over us as we sailed by them in Zodiacs. We saw rich diversity in the birds perched on the cliffs at their preferred height. We were introduced to some of the geology of Iceland, including how lava flows create the landmasses of the island. We saw firsthand the powerful effects of wind and water erosion on the landscape, creating ideal conditions for birds to nest as well as a series of frightening caves in the splash zone.
As the wind began to pick up at Latrabjarg, we returned to the ship where we enjoyed a delicious meal. Our expedition team and, in particular, our ambitious captain set aside one last treat for our first day—a visit to Dynjandi. Dynjandi is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. We disembarked for an after-dinner walk and light hike. On our way in and out of the fjord, we were escorted by several humpback whales, who, like us, thought it appropriate to get moving after our evening meal.
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