Notes from the Field: 22 September 2015


I had a visit this morning from a mink. It came up two of three steps, looked about the porch and then headed toward the side of the cabin with that peculiar, humped gait all Mustelids have.

The  sky was stunning last night. The Northern Lights were visible but were low in the horizon, muted and diffuse. The stars, on the other hand, were brilliant! I could see the Milky Way stretching across a crystalline void, innumerable constellations I’ve seen (and can’t name) and even more that I haven’t. What a treat to be in a place with so little light pollution and so little moisture in the air!

Night sky at Giljalandi
Night sky at Giljalandi, Big Dipper at far left

This morning, on the other hand, dawned like almost every other: foggy, cloudy, windy, rainy. I had hoped to drive up into the Highlands today and so I did – or at least I headed that direction until my way was barred by a stream, swollen by at least two weeks of rain, that I was simply unwilling to ford in my crappy little rental car.

Ford at Eldgjá
Ford at Eldgjá

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and a nap a better way to spend the afternoon… And thus I did!

Notes from the Field: 17 September 2015


Foggy, but only for a couple hours. Cloudy. Not rainy, and windy only through bays and (mountain) passes. Still little chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis, but all in all, a definite improvement.

My drive today was relatively short and thus somewhat leisurely. For about two hours I was driving through what appeared to be a high, dry, mountainous, black sand desert crowned with jagged black peaks. It wasn’t a desert, of course – there were plenty of rivers carrying water from the glaciers and ice caps I’ve yet to see, and there were plants of the minute, low-growing sort – but it was as austere an environment as I’ve seen in a long while. I probably should have tried using  video to capture the sense of dark vastness since photos just didn’t do it justice, at least not with today’s lighting conditions. The few days that I’ve had with sunshine have brought out some brilliant colors in the rocks and plants here and I imagine this part if Iceland would have looked just magnificent with some sunlight!

In any event, I passed through this area and headed into Egilsstaðir, my first stop in East Iceland. I had a number of things to do there, chiefly buy groceries for the upcoming few days, replace a lost lens cap and eat lunch at the Gistihúsið Egilsstaðir, well-reviewed for its locally sourced, slow food menu. I wish I’d written down the dish specifics; what I remember is cream of celery root  soup with basil oil; and fish of the day with a sesame crust served over a cauliflower sauce with roe, pickled onion and dill. Both dishes were fantastic, and really not any more expensive than most other prepared meals in Iceland.

So, with a full stomach and a full gas tank I headed to Berunes via Route 939, a shortcut over a mountain pass.  The cloud cover by this time had lifted considerably so I had a largely unobstructed panoramic  view as I descended of terraced mountains laced with waterfalls and the river Berufjarðará, flowing down to the sea.

After getting settled in at the Berunes hostel (they have über-comfortable chairs here, like the Danish-designed chairs my parents have had for 30+ years), I did laundry for the first time since I ladded in-country – oh, for clean underwear and socks! –  and walked down to the beach to watch eiders and marvel at the merest traces of blue sky in the late evening light.

Returning Already

Well, posting on a regular basis didn’t go quite as I’d hoped or planned. The internet service at the dive resort wasn’t free (as advertised in multiple locations) and was pricey enough that I opted not to spend a lot of time attempting to update the blog, and our Western Highlands lodging had no service at all. So, in a nutshell:

The diving in Milne Bay was essentially everything it was cracked up to to be: healthy, vibrant reefs with a huge biomass of fish and inverts and visibility that ranged from good (by our Unalaska standards) to unbelievable. The only minor disappointment Continue reading “Returning Already”

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