Nature & Environment Mar 03, 2017


Guest post by William Helms

Crawling on all fours, my wife and I slowly advanced toward the cliff face above the ocean along the north coast of Iceland. One of our goals while on a ten week teaching assignment in the summer of 2004 at the U.S. Naval Air Station/Nato Base at Keflavik was to see some of Iceland’s famous puffins. On this particular weekend we were staying near Husavik, and our Icelandic host had kindly suggested a general area where we might be able to see some puffins.

In binoculars, I had spotted something from several hundred yards away that might be promising, hence our crawl toward the coastal cliff. As we got a little closer we realized the cliff face was covered with a number of birds! Could these be puffins? Stealth was the key as we slowly crawled even closer across the grass trying to make as little noise as possible. “YES,” they were puffins! We were hoping to get a closer glimpse and perhaps a photo or two before we scared the puffins away. But as we got much closer it became quite clear that the puffins were totally undisturbed by our slow advance. As my photo shows, we eventually got within a few feet of some of them, and we were able to sit up on the grass. The joke was on us!

On this morning, we sat for almost an hour watching the puffins and the waves breaking from the ocean.  The puffins seemed as interested in us as we were in them. Occasionally, some of them would leave the cliff and head out into the ocean and then return. We enjoyed the opportunity to watch their flying antics.  Our experience was enhanced by the fact that we were alone with the puffins in a beautiful, peaceful setting.

During this teaching assignment and on another one in spring 2006, we had the opportunity to travel to all corners of Iceland and fulfill other sightseeing goals. We had the opportunity to see the amazing Northern Lights on some clear spring evenings. We didn’t get much sleep some nights! We had the chance on the island of Heimaey to walk up a small mountain that did not exist before 1973. One weekend I went to the top of the famous Snaefellsjokull mountain by snowmobile on a totally clear day with incredible views. We visited the iceberg filled glacial lagoon called Jokulsarlon several times. Each time the distribution of icebergs and lighting were different.  

The waterfalls, geysers, glaciers, icebergs, mountains, fiery geology, coastal roads and towns, farms, culture, history, and variety of weather in Iceland cannot be completely described to someone who has never been there. Iceland is truly a unique and special place.

Remember to stay safe during your Icelandic excursions! Take a look at Iceland Academy’s guide to taking safe photos while in Iceland!

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