We had a fairly rough crossing from Greenland to Iceland. Although there was nothing to see, at 9:30 PM on July 20 we passed within 35 miles of where the Bismarck sank the HMS Hood, the pride of the British fleet, in 1941. It went down in 3 minutes with all hands in these cold & gray waters. This was pretty shocking to the British because the German fleet was thought to be no match for the British (and really it wasn’t) but the Bismarck was a pretty formidable ship. It was sunk in turn not too much later (which was the subject of a movie around 1960) pretty much ending the German naval threat on the surface.
On a brighter note, the late morning of July 21 found us sailing through Isafjardurdjur, the fjord at the end of which is Isafjordur, the town that was our objective for the day. The fjord was very long with high cliffs on the sides, the lower part of which were deep green and the upper part obscured by long narrow clouds. Very spooky but also very beautiful. I really don’t think the pictures convey what it was like.
Mary had an aunt named Isa, but this town was not named after her. As we understand it, “isa” means ice in Icelandic, so this means Icy Fjord. We didn’t see any ice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a lot in the winter. It is very difficult to convey how the Icelanders pronounce these names because they tend to slur the syllables together, as if you said it with your hand over your mouth. But that difficulty aside, it seems that this is pronounced ISS-a-fyawrd-er, with the first syllable sounding like the last two letters of “this.”
The main story here is the fjord, as Isafjordur seemed to us like a pretty ordinary little town in a spectacular setting. It is located in the northwest part of Iceland, an area mostly separated by water from the rest of the country that looks on a map like a ragged extension from the upper left corner of the island. We were supposed to be docked here, but a ship from the AIDA line snuck in ahead of us and was given our berth, so we had to tender ashore. Which we did & walked around the town.
We visited the town library (of course), “Bokasafn” in Icelandic, which takes up most of a 90 year old building that is the cultural center. Until 1989 it had been a hospital. Out front was an interesting sculpture of fishermen and inside, in addition to books, was a room of old hospital equipment and a collection of vintage Icelandic dresses along with some lovely old carved furniture.
Next to the cultural center was the church, which some think looks like a concertina. We didn’t see the inside, but outside its not very attractive.
We had read that Isafjordur has a whalebone arch. We had seen one in the Falklands that was quite nice so we wanted to see the arch here. It was not easy (for us) to find. We walked past a wooded park across from the culture center and up a hill then toward the water, but no arch. This took us through an interesting neighborhood, but no arch. So we gave up and came back down the hill. We walked into the park and there it was, not far from the entrance. We were glad to find it, but it was a little disappointing, with just two whalebones painted white to look like they could have been wooden. The one in the Falklands is much better.
There were many colorful flowers in Isafjordur, some wild & some not so much, but all worth noticing. As usual, I’m afraid I don’t know their names.
Many of the houses in Iceland have corrugated metal siding & sometimes roofs. We were told that these provide good insulation, but I expect in a warmer climate they would make the heat in a house much worse. The day in Isafjordur began with fog & chill but most of the time we were ashore it was warm & sunny. In fact, throughout our 3 day visit to the north side of Iceland the temperatures were in the high 60’s to high 70’s during the day, which the Icelanders called a heat wave, even in July. We noticed that the vintage houses in Isafjordur appear to have their year of construction posted on the side. Near the tender port we came upon what looked like white seal skins drying on a rack.
So back on the ship we made our way out the way we had come, through the fjord looking a little more bright & colorful in the late afternoon sun. We left around 7:30 PM, but in the North that is still late afternoon, as there were about 3 hours left until sunset. Isafjordur was the most northerly stop on this trip & there were only about 5 hours of night. Fortunately we have pretty good curtains to block out the sun.
So that was Isafjordur. At 10:22 PM we crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time (we were given a certificate to make it official). And once again there were towel animals to end the day.