A Perfect Beginning to The World’s Iceland Expedition
Iceland provided The World with the warmest possible welcome on our first expedition day. Under a cloudless blue sky, we sailed between the looming basalt cliffs typical of the Eastern Fjords region, and anchored off the tip of the peninsula at Skálanes. This private nature reserve hosts an international group of scientists each year, studying everything from the biology of nesting seabirds to the ecology of the Nootka Iupine, a beautiful but invasive plant from Alaska to combat erosion.
We made the short run by Zodiac from the Ship to a black sand beach – where everyone immediately began peeling off down coats and vests. The balmy temperatures were hardly what we had been prepared for at 65 degrees north!
A short uphill walk brought us to the jeep track leading to the research station, where we were met by a local guide who was – of course – wearing shorts. From there, most of us proceeded along the track to the bird nesting cliffs, where wooden observation platforms allowed stunning views of nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes and Northern Fulmars – along with a cluster of Atlantic Puffins barely 30 feet away, resting on a grassy verge of the cliff. The cacophonous cries of the Kittiwakes and constant comings and goings of all the birds provided an ever-changing spectacle.
Meanwhile, a hardy group of “long hikers” set off on a 5-mile trek up the cliffside above the station, and were rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view over the fjord, along with the beautiful wildflowers including bluebells and three species of orchids, as well as bragging rights as the fittest of the fit.
Before returning to the Ship, there were leisurely Zodiac tours around the headland to the base of the bird cliffs, providing a totally different perspective on this dramatic landscape. An eider duck paddled away at our approach, and every now and then a curious harbor seal popped its head out of the water.
All in all, a perfect first day for The World’s Iceland Expedition.