Volunteer at the Great Seal Count 2016

About 10 days ago one of my best friends and I decided to use our day off to help in the Great Seal Count organized by the Icelandic Seal Center in Hvammstangi. This was the 10th year that they have organized the Seal Count. Every year with the help of Volunteers they count the seals at Vatsnes Peninsula during the Spring tide, the lowest tide of the year. Iceland has several species of seals but the most common ones are the Harbour seal and the Grey seal. During the count the coast line is divided up into sections which get distributed between all the Volunteers. We only learned that this is happening about a week before but it didn’t take us long to decide that we want to drive there and help. Now it is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Akureyri and the fact that is was a really grey morning when we left, but we still decided to go even if the weather won’t be good, tells you how much we love marine mammals and learning about different research going on. In the end we had a 4 hour long hike along the coastline over fields and rocky coast (in the rain and wind for about 3 1/2 hours) but we saw ca 50 seals. If you want to read a little bit more about the total numbers you can click here.  It is not a long article but the only one in english I have seen so far.

Letters old and new

Once again I only have incoming letters to show but they are well worth showing off. After June was so slow work wise, July was packed full and even my days off were spend doing lots of stuff. Hopefully I will get around to writing about those things soon.

I don’t have any letters I send off to show you due to the afore mentioned work load but these pretties made it’s way to me in different ways. The one from the UK and one of the US letters arrived in the normal postal way. The other two actually were send to Germany and arrived just a couple of weeks after I left for Iceland. As my parents were visiting last weekend they brought me a bunch of stuff and these two letters of perfection were in the bag as well. So not only did these letters see both Germany and Iceland now they also got to go on a cruise with my parents. I would say they are some well traveled letters 😉

Now this following letter from Canada was such a surprise. My mum already told me I got mail from Haley, normally when she tells me who I got mail from I recognize my penpal names right away but this left me super confused. Did I have a penpal that I forgot about (terrifying thought), did I somehow left my address online somewhere for everyone accessible (also a bit of a scary though as I don’t want everyone on the internet to know my address), did I meet a Haley somewhere while I was travelling and we exchanged addresses???? So many possibilities but my brain just couldn’t figure it out…. Last Sunday this mystery was finally solved. At a beginning of february I read about a girl making a documentary about snail mail and mail art and since I loved that idea I took the chance to send something (I honestly can’t remember the letter I send) to help her out. That girl was Haley (mystery solved, yay!!!). However Haley went above and beyond in her thank you letter, she not only send a thank you note but heaps of other amazing paper bits that absolutely made my day. So much that I know am tempted to send her a thank you note for her thank you note which would just start a vicious never ending cycle (Emma, if you are reading this you know what I’m talking about ;), this is how we ended up as penpals because we couldn’t stop sending thank yous for the thank yous…). Oh the problems of being a snail mail lover 😀 Anywhere here is the awesome letter that she send 🙂

Excuse the shadow in the photos, if you want to believe it or not the sun is actually shining today. Crazy times here in Iceland!!! 😀

 

Gásir Medieval Market

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Gásir is located on the west side of Eyjafjördur and after always talking about it on the tours last weekend we finally decided to visit the area. In the middle ages this used to be the main trading post in Northern Iceland and is mentioned in several sagas and legends, first records are from 1163. Foreign traders came to Gásir with their goods and it was not only a trading point but also a major transit point for people coming to or leaving Iceland. Foreign merchants came especially from Norway and the norwegians actually build a Church so that it could be seen from the fjord right away. This Church was more of a symbol though and not used by the icelandic people. Archeological digging has shown how important Gásir must have been in that time for the North of Iceland. The first time archeologists looked at this area was in 1907 and they completely uncovered one of the trading booth. Extensive digging was done between 2001 and 2006 by the icelandic Institute of Archeology. This is when they found the remains of the Church and several more booths from the trading camp site.

The trading camp at Gásir was seasonal and no evidence has been found that would suggest people lived there year round. It is much more likely that the camp was set up over the summer and then taken down over the winter months. The booths where build a little into the earth with tents made out of canvas or animal hides. The archeological digging showed that some of these were connected by narrow passages and almost all contained a fire place as well.

Gásir is last mentioned in records in the 14th century and it is not clearly what happened to stop trading there but sand bars  forming at the mouth of the river Hörgá, silting up of the harbour could have played a role. It is clear that in the 16th century trading started up in Akureyri but what happened to Gásir in the 15th century is unclear.

Every year in mid-July there is a medieval market set up in Gásir to show how the people lived there and how it might have looked. It was a lot of fun to visit and the area is really beautiful.

Letter Fun

I am slowly catching up on all my reply’s which seems to be a good thing as every time I finished writing one a new letter turns up in my mailbox. These two are on a european journey to Ireland and Germany. I really like the theme of the Europa 2016 stamps (Ecology in Europe – Think Green) and the design fits once again to my envelopes (yay). The only sad thing is that this year every country is using the same design.

My incoming mail this week so far included a letter from America and a beautiful postcard from the UK, which is already up on my wall.

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Recently I could not resist buying a few new crafting supplies. I just can’t say no to travel and nature themes and convinced myself that they weren’t as expansive as they actually were. I’m really curious to try out these Washi Stickers and see how well they work. Has anyone used washi stickers before?

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In case you were wondering how my desk looks like when I write my letters, the answer would be very chaotic 😀 I always have a movie, audiobook or music playing so my laptop usually has to find a spot on the desk as well. While writing this letter I was watching ‘The Hobbit’ 😉IMG_20160709_103525

Humpback Whale Identification

Since I started this blog a bit over a year ago there have been quite a few posts about the humpback whales that we see here in Eyjafjördur. But today I realised that I never actually wrote about how you can recognize different humpback whales. Humpback whales are fantastic because it is possible to recognize them from the black and white pattern on the underside of the fluke. These patterns can really range from completely white to completely dark black and are so interesting. In different areas in the world there are extensive catalogues as scientists and researches have documented and re-sighted these whales for years. The unique pattern can also be used to come up with nicknames for the whales, which in some areas of the world is a very extensive process and is actually voted on. Here in Iceland is not done yet but we do sometimes come up with our nicknames, even if they are not official ones.

When you have two flukes that look very similar other markings along the body as well as shape and coloration/marking of the dorsal fin can also be used to figure out exactly which whale it is. If the whale has a completely whit or completely black fluke pattern the serrations on the edge of the fluke can be used to make a decision.

So here are just a few examples of the differences in fluke patterns that we see here in the fjord. In our catalogue of the fjord we so far have 78 different whales from last year and this year, three of which where seen in both years. But the season isn’t over yet 😉

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula part 2

Snaefellsnes peninsula has gorgeous landscapes and along the way I found lots of little plants that I couldn’t resist getting some close-ups of even though I don’t know what any of these are. The yellow ones especially were so beautiful just growing between the rocks and lava bits in places where you just don’t expect this speck of colour.

The main reason for our drive to Snaefellsnes was that we wanted to see the Snaefellsjökull, the glacier. The glacier is a 700,000 year old stratovolcano with the glacier covering the top of it. As we got higher up into the mountains though we realised that that’s probably not gonna happen as the road was impassable and still covered in lots of snow. Our car was definitely not ready to drive through snow, so like pretty much everyone else we had to turn around again.

But shortly after we found something that more than made up for not seeing the glacier, this gorgeous waterfall. I think that this is Bjarnafoss and we found it by accident, almost driving past thinking there is just another waterfall. The atmosphere there was amazing though, there were only a couple other people that disappeared quickly after we got there.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula part 1

This is a bit late but for some reason I never got around to writing about my long weekend trip to the west of Iceland before. At the beginning of June I had three days of in a row and decided to visit a friend of mine who was working on a Sheep and Mussel farm in the west. It was a great short little trip and we used the full day to drive to Snaefellsnes, a gorgeous Peninsula just a few hours north of Reykjavik and a few hours south of the west fjords. The Peninsula is a bout 90km long and there is so much to see that it is worth it to spend a few days there to explore properly. I definitely have only seen a small part of all there is to see. It wasn’t a planned out trip, more of a spontaneous where could we go/ lets go see the glacier trip. Although the weather that day was pretty gray and even a bit rainy at the end, if you are driving through stunning landscapes that change every hour it doesn’t really matter.

This is a very picture heavy post just because in this case the pictures will show the beautiful landscape much better than if I would try to explain it. Because there are so many photos showing the different landscapes I divided it into two parts. The ones here are mostly from along the coast driving on the road that goes around north and west part of Snaefellsnes where the National Park is.

The Lighthouse is called Malariff Lighthouse and like most lighthouses here in Iceland doesn’t look like a typical lighthouse. I tried finding out any more information about it but unsuccessfully. We basically just parked close to the lighthouse and walked from there to the Lóndrangar cliffs (the three photos on the bottom). These cliffs are two ancient volcanic plugs (60 and 70m high) and are home to a lot of nesting Northern Fulmers. You can also park a bit further down the road and then walk to the cliffs from there, which is I think what most people do.