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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Icelandic Road Trip 2014

Icelandic Road Trip 2014 
Reykjavík - Hrísey - Grímsey - Mývatn - Hornvík - Reykjavík


My very good friend Maria and I decided to tick off a few more places in Iceland from our list. In 10 days we drove in my recently purchased Volkswagen polo north, starting  Saturday the 13th to catch the 17:30 ferry from Árskógssandur to Hrísey.

Hrísey

We camped for two days in beautiful weather. Birdlife was abundant with black-tailed godwits, whimbels, red shanks, golden plovers and terns everywhere. Hrísey is famous, to the bird enthusiasts of us all, for the ptarmigan, but these were more difficult to find. I later found out that mid August is the best time to see them when they ventured into the town with their chicks to escape the falcons. For next time. 




Grímsey

Our next adventure was Grímsey, which, once reaching the mainland was just 10 minutes drive down the road to the town of Dalvik to catch the 3 hour ferry. The ride was a bit much for some but Maria and I was surprised how good the sea conditions were considering we were in open North Atlantic Ocean heading towards the Arctic Circle. The weather was again stunning, shorts and t-shirt heat, measuring about 18°C. It was incredible; puffins covered every inch of coastline. They were quite skittish, however, because from the 1st of July till around mid August inhabitants start netting them for food. We talked to a few locals and puffin netting travellers about this. One gentlemen, from Grindavik, SW Iceland, has been netting puffins for about 30 years but comes north now to net puffins as puffin hunting has been banned in the south due to the low reproductive success for nearly a decade. This year doing 60% better, because of this puffin meat is in demand and we were told that one fully feathered puffin is worth about 700kr. So, to get any close puffin pictures I had to get into stealth mode. A large majority of them were carrying sandeels, perfect as I have pictures of puffins doing almost everything else except with fish in their beaks. The netters trying not to net these particular individuals but sometimes it happens, in this case they hope the other parent is bringing back food for the chick. We also noticed that there were lots of puffins with many sandeels in their beaks but just standing around not going into holes, apparently these individuals were just showing off to the others but were yet still a bit too young to breed. One day there was a cold and eerie mist that swept the island, a few more layers had to be added but I loved it and the pictures it offered too. After Grímsey it was a quick trip to Husavík for a whale nerd conference, we tried to get on a whales watching trip the next morning but they were booked out, normal for whale watching when the sun shows itself.










Mývatn

Mývatn was our next stop. I’ve been here before, a couple of times, but harlequin ducks are always worth the extra stop. I spotted 3 females in the distance resting on stones and once again went into stealth mood and got within a few meters without them noticing. It was wonderful watching them and other females joined in too. Eventually there were 5 swimming around and one came to sit on top of a rock just about 2 m from me, stayed there for a few minutes before spotting me and unfortunately flying off.




Hornvík

The next day we were off to Hornvík in Hornstrandir for arctic foxes, taking a 2 hour ferry from Bolungarvík. We set up our tent and waited for the arctic foxes to show. We were told by the warden about a vixen and her cubs that made a den under their hut. It wasn’t long before they showed, cubs couldn’t wait to stretch their legs and play whilst the mother walked around from person to person looking for food, taking breaks to wrestle with her young ones. Then she was given a fish and was off to, what we presume, was to other cubs she has been moving up to the rocky cliffs. The other cubs moving back under the hut to were they stayed until their mother returned. She apparently had 5 cubs; the most we saw was 3 that we saw the next morning. Maria walked to the bird cliffs but the mist was low and I wasn’t sure we would see much so I was hoping the foxes might come out again and waited in the campsite. At 4 o’clock we packed up and walked over to the other side were we would get picked up the next day from Veiðileysufjörður at 11 o’clock. We were so glad we did it the night before as with all our gear and me with less fitness, what apparently should have taken only 4-5 hours took us 7. It was also a bit scary with the mist rolling over and the large snow/ice sheets which Maria loved and skied herself down faster and more graceful than me sledging down on my arse. We finally arrived at the campsite around 23:30 tired but happy with our success at the finish line, the trek being a lot more challenging  than we were told. So, be warned it’s not as easy as what everyone says but beautiful and definitely worth it. Just leave lots of time and pack light J. Don’t take all the camera gear that I like to take everywhere, even though the tripod came extremely handy down the sky slops. Once picked up, our boots were soaked but our spirits were high. Once back on the mainland we gave our good friend Guðmundur Geir, who used to work for Elding but now works as a captain on the boats for Borea Adventures, a big hug and asked for some very important advice…the nearest and best hot tub, luckily only 2 minutes drive up the road. Loving Iceland and their geothermal heat allowing for hot tubs in every nook and cranny of the Island. 













On the way home

There we decided to travel home but camping if something sparked our interest on the way, such like eagles, which nest in the area we will be driving through. No eagles, unfortunately, but we did see two humpback whales in Skötufjörður that we enjoyed for a couple of hours until driving all the way home, dropping Maria off in Reykjavík at 00:30 and about 01:30 for me back to my place in Keflavík and here I am sorting out all the cool pictures and reliving the fun adventures. 






Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Peaceful Whaling Protest in Hvalafjörður

On Iceland's day of Independence the first fin whale of the whaling season is brought for processing at the whaling station at the end of Hvalfjörður, SW Iceland. IFAW, ICEWHALE and SEEDS gathered their troops to peacefully protest this action, with banners asking the question “what’s the point?” and statements such as “Don’t let your visit to Iceland leave a bad taste in your mouth, choose a whale friendly restaurant”.

Iceland has been hunting whales since the late 1940's before this Norway was the main whaling body hunting whales in Icelandic waters. The whaling station in Hvalfjörður has been processing whales since 1948. Currently, Iceland has a quota of 154 fin whales per year and these are processed and then exported to Japan. Fin whales are the second largest of all whales and classified as Endangered by the IUCN. 

The question ‘what’s the point?’ refers to the fact that the market in Japan has been decreasing and has even been reported, by IFAW, WDCS and EIA amongst others, that the meat has been used as dog food. The transportation of these products to Japan is also costly, time consuming and legally restrictive. The WDCS states on their website that “During 2009 and 2010, exports of whale oil to Norway and other frozen products to Japan were conducted under their respective reservations to the CITES Appendix I listing of whales, while a shipment of whale meat to Latvia in early 2010 violated both CITES and European Union laws”.


So definitely begs the question, What’s the Point?














Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gannets!!


It was incredible today, gannets where just soaring past and gliding on the air currents very close to the boat. I kinda forgot all about the Humpback Whales popping up around the us. 







Sunday, March 23, 2014

Whale Shenanigans!

It's been a while since my last blog post and I'm trying to be better with it. So here I am. Yesterday was a great day at work and picture opportunities were endless. As you see below...