(this is a couple days post hoc, but I had to write a paper about soil erosion and sheep farming in the meantime)
I went to bed kinda late on Thursday, and as I was walking from the main hotel (the only bit with wifi) to the separate buildings that had our rooms in them, I looked up and saw some strange green smears in the sky. I squinted for a moment before realizing it was the northern lights! It’s been low activity and also far too cloudy to see them for the last week I was here, bu there they were. I could actually see them shifting and changing intensity and it was extremely neat.
Woke up just barely in time for a buffet breakfast, and as I was walking back to the main building to eat, I was like, hmm this is a little windy. That shouldn’t matter today though, because we’re going to a town to talk about avalanches, we won’t be that exposed, this will be fine. (this is foreshadowing)
Turns out we were making a short scenic detour to the cliffs of Látrabjarg, which is both the western most point of Iceland and one of the places puffins roost. It was also blowing like hell.
It’s almost difficult to describe how windy it was; it was impossible to stand up straight, I had to brace against the wind all the time. My eyes watered involuntarily (behind my glasses!) if I looked into the wind for too long. It was extremely easy to stumble and end up several paces downwind before I caught my balance again. The sea had enormous waves and whitecaps that were tossed up by wind, including a great deal of spume. The wind never dropped and only occasionally gusted, so it was this constant pressure and howling noise. The cliffs were extremely pretty, but I wish any of the pictures I have could capture the sound.
After staggering back down the cliffs, even just standing in the lee of the bus seemed too easy and too quiet. We stopped briefly at a beach afterwards, and I was temporarily very confused that the sand wasn’t black (all the parent rock around here is black basalt, the sand should be black) but when I picked it up it was entirely shell fragments, and that did make me feel better.
Eventually we arrived in the tiny town of Patreksfjörður, where we talked about wind-disrupting vanes on nearby hilltops and sloped walls around the residential areas. The wind vanes are useful because the hillslopes are too steep to form avalanches in the usual way, but the wind comes screaming over the peaks and pushes a surprising amount of snow in front of it, before dumping the snow on the town. What baffled me was that even though a fairly devastating avalanche hit a town a couple fjords over in 2020, this town was initially resistant to putting up avalanche walls.
We filed through a local grocery store to acquire some lunch stuff, I bought a doughnut, and then we piled back into the bus to drive all the way back to Isafjordur. I dozed a little; I still don’t like traveling by bus, but if I work at it and the roads aren’t gravel I can sometimes channel some soporific effects.
I’ve spent the last couple days doing the last homework assignment for this class (the aforementioned paper about sheep and soil erosion), and tomorrow (because Iceland doesn’t do Labor Day) my first core class starts, Coastal and Marine Ecology. I’m very excited.
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