After a short coastal passage along the coast of Iceland through the Denmark Strait, we turned eastward and entered the Isafjord in which the town of Isafjordur is located. A pretty fishing town Isafjodur is located in the heart of the beautiful, rugged West Fjords region. This busy port is a hive of industry, including shipyards as swell as shrimp and fish factories ready to handle the catch of the day from the icy waters of the Denmark Strait.
The town also boasts an excellent local maritime museum which contains four buildings built between 1736 and 1785. The above picture shows an exhibit of fishing gear plus piles of dried fish in the wheelbarrow. I felt the extensive exhibits were world class. On the second of three floors was an extensive collection of accordions, in fact we personally met the curator of the accordion exhibit.The West Fjords is Iceland’s most sparsely populated region apart from the central highlands. Life here means seabirds on rugged cliffs, arctic foxes in their lairs, and little fishing villages huddled against sheer mountains, where for centuries people have battled the forces of nature to harvest the ocean’s riches. (Narrative courtesy of the ships daily program)
The port of Isajford is where we caught our tour boat to Vigur Island, home of thousands of sea birds and our favorite bird for these parts; the Puffin. As I stated in a previous post, the Puffins of Alaska were a favorite of my late sister Jean. It is an accomplished diver and swimmer, frequently diving up to 45 – 50 feet and is capable of catching several fish in it’s mouth without surfacing, holding them cross-wise in it’s large bill, as shown in this postcard photograph. It can frequently be seen gathering in ‘rafts’ of many birds on the sea below it’s shore side nesting colony. On our 45 minute boat ride to the island, we observed many Puffins speeding past the boat just a few feet above the water. It’s stubby wings furiously beating the air to keep it airborne.
The weather that day was unusually warm and we were obviously overdressed, but it could just as well have been cold and windy. The island has been privately owned by the same family for the past 150 years, collecting and processing the down of the Eider Duck. Through the years the family have built ‘safe’ nesting places for these birds establishing a symbiotic relationship between man and bird. Eider down is extremely lightweight and fetches $1500 a kilo on the market. The Black Guillemot bird (shown here) occasionally co-opts these nesting sights for their own. That is a fish in the bill of this bird. Once again we were amazed at the beauty and starkness of the area and the hardiness of the original settlers. One exhibit in the maritime museum told of how, having no local trees, they utilized another ‘harvest from the sea’, in the form of driftwood that was washed into the Arctic from rivers in Russia and after years circulating around the Arctic, washed up on their shores. We had a truly memorable visit to this beautiful place. I would hardly recommend a visit to “Surprising Iceland”.
Nest: Welcome to Akureyri, Iceland
One thought on “Isafjord, Iceland and Bird Island”
Unfortunately when we were there the weather was cold and rainy. The shore excursion was cancelled. I missed seeing the puffins so Ralph bought me a small toy puffin as a momento