The first full day of our expedition started in a great way with National Geographic Explorer visiting the very impressive cliffs at Látrabjarg, which are full of life. Located in the westernmost portion of Iceland, the cliffs are the nesting site of several different seabird species and hundreds of thousands of individuals. We kept a safe and respectful distance to avoid disturbing the nesting birds and follow the regulations that protect this place, which is one of the most important nesting sites for marine birds in Europe and certainly in Iceland. All around us, we were able to watch the birds flying around on their daily commute to fishing sites at sea, including black-legged kittiwakes, fulmars, common and black guillemots, razorbills, and everyone’s favorite, the Atlantic puffin. Látrabjarg is the world’s single most important nesting site for the razorbill, a larger relative of the puffin. As we were looking at the cliffs, we spotted a couple of killer whales swimming nearby, another example of how productive those nutrient-rich waters are. Visiting the Látrabjarg cliffs today was an excellent introduction to the wonderful and fascinating world of seabirds on our journey to the edge of the Arctic.
After our visit to Látrabjarg, we sailed back east deeper into Breiðafjörður, the large fjord in the southern part of the Westfjords, and we anchored just off Flatey. Meaning “flat island” in Icelandic, Flatey is a small island with lots of history and natural richness. A small community proudly preserves Iceland’s smallest and first library and a church with marvelous murals decorating its interior that show different aspects of the island’s history and daily life. We also had the pleasure of walking to some bird cliffs near the settlement to watch arctic terns, common eider ducks, and Atlantic puffins sitting in the water and flying around. Numerous young arctic tern fledglings were practicing their first flights, oftentimes resting right there on the trail, making us slow down and providing great photo opportunities. Back on board, we enjoyed listening to Icelandic songwriter and singer Hafdís Huid, who traveled from her home in Reykjavik to Flatey to delight us with her music before the Captain’s Welcome cocktail party. What a wonderful way to start our expedition!
Photo caption and photographer: Icelandic sheep at Flatey. Photo by Carlos Navarro