Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From North to South

In the past week and a half, I’ve been on seven different boats, caught twenty fish myself (though seen others catch many many more), slept in six different towns, and been interviewed on one Icelandic television station. Most of this was while traveling with a group of Nordic students from the first-ever version of a Nordnatur intensive course on monitoring aquatic ecosystems, where I was officially labeled as Hreiðar’s “personal assistant,” which was basically an excuse for allowing me to come along. There were thirteen students in all, nine from Finland, two from Denmark, one from Norway, and one from Iceland – plus four Finnish teachers who came along to help for part of the time (i.e. see cool stuff in Iceland), a German girl doing an internship in marine biotechnology at the University of Akureyri who joined the group when I did, and me. Most of the students are studying some sort of fisheries science at their home university (though also a few in forestry and landscape design and other less directly-relevant subjects), which meant that they were a great source of information about invasive species in Norway and eutrophication in the Baltic Sea and fisheries regulations in Finland and other subjects I never would have had a chance to learn about otherwise. Plus, of course, it was nice to have some traveling companions and they turned out to be generally an interesting and fun group of people to spend time with.

I took a huge number of pictures, the first group of which are already online here, with more still to come. And, of course, I’ll be posting some chronicles of my adventures here soon. For now though, after a fourteen-hour trip from the north, I have made my way to Vestmanneyjar – a town of about 5000 people on the island of Heimaey in the Westman Islands (also called Vestmanneyjar in Icelandic) in southwest Iceland. The island is most famous for the eruption in 1973 that forced the entire town to evacuate and almost filled in the harbor with lava before some combination of natural forces and a crew spraying the flowing lava with high-pressure water hoses made it stop. Sailing into town last night in the dark, the combination of the recent lava and cliffs of misty cliffs of welded tuff made the island seem mysterious and certainly like no place I’ve ever seen before.

More updates and pictures coming soon with stories about my final travels in northern Iceland and my next adventures here in Vestmanneyjar.

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