Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Siglufjordur and Grimsey- Herring and puffins

We are more or less half-way round Iceland on our circumnavigation and arrived at Siglufjordur in the north-central portion of the country. By the way, so many nouns in Icelandic end is 'UR'- the ending simply signifies 'the'. In Icelandic, as in many Germanic languages, nouns are declined by adding endings, which signifies the role of the noun in the sentence.

The community of about 3000 people got its start as a trading post and fishing centre but grew tremendously once the Herring fishery started. This was initially a food fishery (1800s) and the Herring were salted, packed in barrels, and shipped out to Europe. Later this turned into an industrial fishery producing Herring oil and fish meal. Untold tonnes of Herring were caught in the rich waters around Iceland and processed in the plant here. However, it wasn't so long after that the fishery collapsed in the 1950s. It came back some in the 1960s but then went for good. Ironically, the tourism which now drives a thriving economy here in Siglufjordur is partially based on a display of the Herring fishing era in the town. This is done at the very interesting Herring Goldrush Museum. So the Herring continue to give but don't get much in return!

After lunch we sailed north to the Arctic Circle and to Grimsey Island. This place is a fascinating microcosm of the whole of Iceland, all contained on an island no longer than about 5 km. We landed in our Polar Cirkel boats in the harbour and had several hours to explore the island on our own. Many walked north to see the breeding puffins and to walk over the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 34 minutes north. At 60 nautical miles per degree, that means we are almost 4000 nautical miles north of the Equator, which equates to about 4800 regular miles or 8600 km!

A few intrepid guests went out in our kayaks with our expert kayak guide Tessa. They had great views of puffins and other seabirds from water-level. Those who decided to hike along the spectacular cliffs of Grimsey were also afforded great views of puffins, fulmars, and other local birds.

Atlantic Puffins off-duty on the cliff top (the mates are in the burrows)
This puffin was trying to land with nest material but the wind was too strong
 A Northern Fulmar, relative of petrels and albatrosses
Once we returned to the Fram, our Captain circumnavigated Grimsey which meant that all of us crossed the Arctic Circle twice. Of course when an auspicious event like this happens, Fram always gets a visit from King Neptune who insists on initiating those new Arctic Circle crossers with a drenching of ice-cold water.