Can black beaches be that pretty? Some sayeth “No”? Well let’s see…
But first, while Winnie and her folks were having breakfast, I strolled a couple hundred meters over to Vík í Mýrdal town’s black volcanic beach for a preview of the day’s coming attractions, where I shot an image of those spires in the distance.
Those spires are basalt pinnacles in the ocean just off the cliffs of Reynisfjall. Legend has it that they were formed when two trolls attempted to drag a three-masted ship to shore. The plan failed when the sun came up and turned the trolls into rock pinnacles, stranded just off shore forever.
Unlike this particularly warm and sunny day, the sea around the Reynisdranger is often quite stormy and rough. For this reason there is a monument to the memory of drowned seamen there on the beach. Sadly, I didn’t see a monument to the trolls. Too bad.
Our first stop of the morning was Halsanefshellir cave. Talk about easy access, we drove into a sparsely populated parking lot, parked, and strolled about 50 meters… and there it was.
Halsanefshellir Cave is a vaulted cavern on the beach of Reynisfjall. It’s made from columns of basalt rising from a black sandy beach and was created during the volcanic eruption that formed the island oh… maybe about 100 thousand years ago. Or so. Does this remind anyone else of a pipe organ just off the apse in a cathedral?
|These columns form an easily climbable series of steps for ten or twelve meters up the hillside. The columns are hexagonal and made me think about a honeycomb. You too?|
Oh, and that beach everyone’s on? When the weather is normal (bad) that beach can be gone in a few minutes as tides around here can reportedly range up to six or seven meters. That’s a lot of water movement, and no matter how strong a swimmer you think you are, you’re not going to beat the tides, winds and/or undertows here in this part of our hemisphere.
But enough of this. I can see Dyrhólaey (Door Hole Island) off in the distance. And it beckons..
Four legs on the ground, one spindly one off the edge.
For many years, boats were launched from Dyrhólaey when people still rowed out to sea to fish.
I sat on a rock on the edge of the cliff and pondered that a bit… Row boats? Today was a magnificently beautiful day by Icelandic standards… any season, bar none. (Immediately prior to our arrival a few days ago, though, one of the locals told me that they had experienced fifty (50) consecutive days of high winds and rain.) I tried to imagine these tough sailors rowing heavy wooden boats through the wind, rain, and waves to GO fishing, instead of running from the storm… I’ve been in some pretty rough seas before, but not in a dang wooden boat! Criminy! I imagined some souls quaking, and swallowing their fear to press on, to satisfy the need to feed the family. Inwardly, I wondered… “Would I do it?”
Another view of “Door Hole Island” (loose translation from Icelandic)
It’s kind of cool to note that there are three, doorways beneath the promontory’s cliffs at water level. That one on the left is the largest, and boats of up to 30 tons can pass through it. And although it’s unthinkable to me, some daredevil pilot flew his airplane right through the door. Who would do such a thing?! 😉
Icelanders place great stock in preserving nature, both by word and deed. Dyrhólaey was declared a nature reserve in 1978 to protect both the landscape and the ecosystem of the area, particularly the birdlife which is rapidly dwindling due to climate change. During May and June, access to the area is strictly limited due to the nesting season. If you go off-trail, be very careful where you step. The locals carefully harvest small amounts of eider from the ducks nesting on the ground, always leaving some to protect the eggs and, later, the chicks.
I would hesitate to call Iceland a nanny state… There are no fences on the edge of the cliffs. One may step as close as desired, sometimes closer than even kinda-good sense would allow. (I don’t do that. But, WINNIE does!)
Now. Doesn’t this look more relaxing? A lot more safe than that dang daredevil Winnie? Just leaning back in a cool breeze, taking in the warmth of the sun… eyes slowly closing from the brightness.. my head nods..
Just a couple of years ago, a couple inadvertently trod upon some of those crumbly million year old rocks and… well, birds and crabs gotta eat too. Darwin smiled a sad smile.
A lighthouse was built on the promontory in 1910. Trivia Alert! The present structure (est. 1927) has the largest lens of any lighthouse in Iceland. Why anyone would want/need to know that, I haven’t the vaguest idea. But now, you and I do. Off to the bars to win some bets!
Well, shunning common sense, I headed toward “The Edge”, on hands and knees, to shoot some Kittiwakes…
Perched just below the edge was this kittiwake. She didn’t have a care in the world as I watched her from a few meters away, seemingly happy and contentedly perched there on her rock in the sun.
Hanging off the edge to get a better shot seemed a little dicey on that crumbly old rock, so I took a couple of pot-shots at a couple of the airborne kittiwakes…
Finally, it’s time to pack up the camera and the sticks and head out for more adventures in Iceland, land of fire and ice.