Saturday, July 28, 2012

Places to visit in Iceland: Ósvör Maritime Museum

Coming from Ísafjörður just after you spot the town of Bolungarvík you can't help but notice a handful of grass-roofed houses below the road, down by the sea. This is the Ósvör Maritime Museum, a restored 19th century fishing station. The houses there include a drying shed, salting hut, and the hut where the fishermen ate and slept, and there is also an authentic open boat of the kind used for fishing before the advent of trawlers and freezing plants.

You would usually be greeted by a man clad in a traditional fisherman's outfit and given a guided tour, but he wasn't on duty the day my mother and I visited the museum, although there was a guide, and boy did he love to talk!

If you are at all interested in fishing and its history and in how people used to live and work, this museum is well worth a visit.

The approach to the museum, with the drying shed on the right and the fishermen's hut and salting shed up ahead.

The drying shed in close-up. It would have been used to dry fish and possibly for the drying stage of shark-curing.

The fishermen's hut, salting hut and boat. 
The boat would be rowed by six men, but there might be more aboard.

The boat with the mountainside looming above it.

The view out the front door of the fishermen's hut:

The guide displaying some equipment. He loves to talk and knows a lot about his subject. 
When the fishermen stayed here, the room he is standing in would have been used to store fishing gear, food and clothes and they would have slept in the attic. 

A stack of salt cod on display in the salting shed gives a pale idea of what it would have looked and smelled like back in the old days.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kálfshamarsvík, part 3

Kálfshamarsvík is a natural trap for driftwood and all kinds of ocean debris and you can often find some interesting stuff on the beach, although you will mostly find weathered old plastic items, tangled nets and floats. 

This bobbin from a trawl net is rusting away in a pond just above the shore.
The source of the pond is fresh water but it is rendered brackish by the sea which washes into it during storms and high waves. These bobbins are very heavy and it must have taken some pretty powerful waves to carry it over the isthmus between the beach and the pond, or perhaps it was rolled there by people.

Here someone was clearly having some fun with a piece of driftwood and an old boot. 
The lighthouse can be glimpsed in the background.

The remains of an old winch lie rusting on the beach.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kálfshamarsvík, part 2

The ruins of a number of old sod and wood houses can be seen in the area. 
This one has turned into a kind of sculpture:

The Kálfshamar, seen from where the wooden dock used to be. Nothing remains of it except the pilings.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kálfshamarsvík, part 1

Kálfshamarsvík is a protected area in Skagi, about a 30 minute drive north of Skagaströnd. The name means "Calf's Cliff Cove", derived from the Kálfshamar or "Calf's Cliff", here seen from across the cove. I know of no stories about the provenance of the name, but it is likely that a calf may have fallen to its death off the cliff some time in the distant past. Another possibility is that the name was brought over to Iceland by Norwegian or Irish settlers. I'll be posting more photos from the area in the days to come. See also my previous posts about the place.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I went on a hike with some of my workmates three weeks ago. We drove to a spot on the road to Selfoss, leaving our cars at the highway diner/gas station called Litla Kaffistofan (the Little Café) and hiking across a about 1,5 km of lava field and climbing a small mountain before returning the same way. I didn't take a lot of photos on the hike, but this is one:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A lonely digger

Suðurstrandarvegur is a road that runs along the southern coast from Reykjanes to Selfoss. All work on a new and improved road stopped for 2-3 years following the financial crisis, but work then resumed and now it's finished. This digger was part of the project. Here it looks like it has been dumped in the middle of a lava field, but it is actually standing on a gravel track:

Taken on the same day as the photos from Herdísarvík (see previous four posts).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Herdísarvík, part 4 of 4

This concludes the Herdísarvík series.

Parts of the shore are composed of lava that reaches straight into the sea and gives the waves somehting to break against.
Here one of my hiking companions barely avoids a soaking:

Here two of my hiking companions watch the waves break at a safe(r) distance:

Standing alone, another hiking companion made a lonely figure as he gazed out into the Atlantic. If you were to set off by boat from here, heading due south with no winds would carry you off course, the next land you would strike would probably be in Antarctica.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Herdísarvík, part 2 of 4

This series continues tomorrow.
Continuing on from my last post about Herdísarvík, here are some of the things you might see if you look down on your hike through the area:

Ropy pahoehoe lava, smoothed by the tides and waves until it looks like complicated folds in a sculpture:

Never underestimate the toughness of a blade of grass. 
Here the action of persistent wind upon blades of grass has scraped grooves in the cement-like hard sand:

A fern growing in a shady hole in the lava. Had I stood a little to the right to take the photo, you would have been able to glimpse the toilet paper someone had deposited into the hole.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Herdísarvík, part 1 of 4

Herdísarvík is a former farm that used to belong to the poet Einar Benediktsson (1864-1940) but is now the property of the University of Iceland. This small summer-house is available to university staff for use. 

The landscape and nature along the southern coast of Reykjanes is beautiful. From the house there is a short walk down to the sea, where the waves crash against an ancient lava flow.
This series continues tomorrow.

Here soil has covered the lava but is now being washed away little by little by the tides.
Shapes like this are more commonly seen inland where wind and rain are eroding the topsoil:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Clouds over Mælifellshnjúkur

I was at a family reunion in Skagafjörður the weekend before last, and while we didn't get excellent weather, we couldn't exactly complain either because while it was quite windy, it was also warm and dry, and the clouds in the sky were magnificent:

Sunday, July 08, 2012


I took a trip to the north last weekend and on the way back I drove along the coast of Vatnsnes, where there is currently a big search going on for a polar bear that was spotted there a couple of days ago. In one place on this small peninsula there is a tern nesting area right by the road and I couldn't resit going out to snap some photos. While many of the terns were busy trying to drive me away by screeching and dive-bombing me, others were fighting over territory: 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Church of the month: Háteigskirkja

Háteigskirkja is an atypical Icelandic church, architecturally speaking. The shape of the spires is uncommon and so are the double bell towers and indeed the secondary towers as well. I think it is one of the most beautiful churches in Iceland.

Architect: Halldór H. Jónsson.
Dedicated: 1965.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Clouds over Húnaflói

The area is under a different kind of cloud at the moment: a polar bear has been spotted in Vatnsnes. A large predator like that on the loose in the Icelandic countryside is not good news, and everyone will be relieved once it has been found and either killed or transported back to Greenland.