I can’t believe how time passes so quickly at the moment, it feels like so much is happening and nothing really at all. I feel bad that I’m not posting as regularly as before but a big part of it was that I’ve been trying to figure out how to watermark my photos (well at least some of them) and I’ve just been working a lot the last two weeks as our work schedule was very chaotic (kind of from non-existent and from day to day). Hopefully I’ll be able to post on a more regular basis again now that everything is a bit more sorted. And I also know that a lot of the letters I wrote arrived so soon I should be able to post a bit more about snail-mail stuff as well.
But on to my latest adventures. The company I work for is not only doing Whale Watching tours this year but also offering tours to Grimsey Island crossing the Arctic Circle. Grimsey a small Island in the north of Iceland and is home to about 65 people. It is the only place in Iceland that crosses the Arctic Circle. The island has been inhabited since the Vikings settled in Iceland and a legend ties the name back to a settler named ‘Grimur’.
Large numbers of sea birds are found nesting on Grimsey during the summer months. They nest on the high cliffs around the island, and the west coast houses one of the largest puffin colonies in Iceland. The only wild mammals that visit the island on rare occasions are polar bears, otherwise no other mammals can be found. In the past the cliffs of the island were a major source of food supply and each farmer owned specific parts of the cliffs for egg collection and bird hunting. On the east side the cliffs are between 60 and 100m high and collecting the eggs was very dangerous. The collector would be lowered down with a strong rope while 6-7 strong men were standing on top looking after the rope. The danger lay in falling rocks or the rope breaking along the rocky outcrops.
I am still super excited that I’m going to go there several times while working this season as I didn’t get around to visiting the island last year. The only ways to get there is taking a ferry (which I’ve been told is quite old and not the most comfortable way to get there), a plane or on the tours we are now doing.
Of course one of the main reasons for almost everyone to go there are the Puffins. If you don’t know what Puffins are, they are small birds with black and white plumage that often reminds people of penguins and big red/orange beak. Puffins spend the winters out at sea (seas of Newfoundland and Greenland) and come back to land for breeding over the summer. In Iceland they are generally found between April and September. About 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffins have their breeding grounds in Iceland. Puffins are excellent swimmers and can dive to depth of 60 metres. They are a long lived species and are estimated to reach 20-25 years of age. They are very social birds and generally pair for life. The eggs are laid in nesting burrows which can be up to half a metre in length. Young Puffins leave the nests about 45 days after hatching to fly out to sea.