Iceflow in the sea
Life - Ramblings - Travel

Life Reflected in Ice(land)

Last month my husband and I joined my parents for a cruise that traveled from Reykjavik, to three Icelandic ports, and three Greenland ports. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Just before we flew across the Atlantic left there were over 4,000 small earthquakes in Iceland, magma rising and pressing against the crust of the earth in an effort to find the sun.

We were worried about a volcano’s potential to cancel our trip. The day we landed in Iceland, we found out there had finally been an eruption, though not an explosion. The magma burst free, and lava oozed out of the cracks in the stone, spitting up flames and slowly making new hills and, luckily, not a lot of smoke. Every place we went with a public area, our hotel, restaurants, etc. had live camera footage on the TV, and we sat, with the sound muted, watching as earth does as everything does, and changed before our eyes.

Toby sitting in front of a television which depicts a volcanic crater spewing lava, with lava flows in front of it.
Toby in front of the volcanic activity on the last day of our trip

When we finally got on the ship, the Norwegian Star, we were excited to begin our journey, as it took us south and past the place where the lava had made its way to the sea. WIth binoculars we could (we thought) see a lava waterfall, dropping into the sea. The smoke was distant, and sat like low-lying clouds over the land, making details hard to see despite the binoculars and the 10x zoom of our camera. The red glow against the gray and tan of the ground and the sky stood out to the naked eye, but not when we tried to get a better look. It was content to be, and to be noticed, but it would not be scrutinized.

Tan fox and chocolate brown fox sitting in front of a chain link fence, smelling each other's noses
The two young arctic foxes living at the sanctuary in their full colored summer coats.

We made it around Iceland to our first port of call, Djupivogur, where we would tender in to shore. Due to choppy seas, we were unable to go to port, and our second day became an “at sea” day. Next we visited Akureyri where Toby and I joined our parents on a day long bus tour. In Isafjörður, my parents went on an excursion to a bird Island, and Toby and I went to the Arctic Fox Sanctuary.

Our next port was in Greenland, a country which is relatively new to being a cruise destination, with small sleepy ports, and quaint atmosphere. My parents and I went on a RIB boat Iceberg tour, clad in heavy safety suits (some many sizes too big, sorry Mom), that covered us from head to ankle, and would provide an buffer between us and the icy water, should we be unfortunately fall into the sea. 

We went out and around several icebergs, and learned a little about them (the blue lines and portions are where air is trapped in the ice), and even had the fortunate (?) honor of seeing one fall a bit apart. When the thunder sound started, and part of the face of it slipped down, crashing into the smaller portion, our boat speed off, ahead of the giant wave that the collapse had caused. As we made a wide circle around the berg, another portion crumbled down, and the end result was an iceberg about 3/4 the size (of the visible part, anyway), and with previously underwater portions now above the surface, changing the topography of the seascape. 

Iceberg pre-collapse
Iceberg pre collapse

One of the other riders got a video of the second part of the break, and was kind enough to send it to those of us whose cameras were safely tucked away in our super heavy canvas coveralls.


Back on board the captain came on to tell us that there was a storm and late iceflow that made the next two ports on our journey not viable. The first had three sides of the port were iced in, with the fourth predicted to be iced in within the hour, and the second was getting as bad. So our intended path changed, and we would instead go up a fjord to see a glacier, and to a different port the second day.

We woke up surrounded by small icebergs. The trip into the fjord was off, due to more ice flow, in fact, we had to wait until a larger cargo ship, with a sturdier hull, navigated through the ice field so we could follow it on the way out of the ice laden sea. We followed behind, like trying to step in the pockets of snow where the person before you has tread.

Our back-up port for the second day, yeah, that was iced in, too. Latest ice flow they’ve seen in over a decade.

So, we headed back for Iceland, a bit slower than normal, and with new excursions being crafted for a full day in Reykjavik we’d have before our original back to port day. My husband and I walked from the shuttle drop off point, back through the city, and then back to the ship. 

After the cruise, we had one more day (they kick you off the boat quite early, to prepare for the next sailing which would board hours later). We rented a car which barely fit the four of us and our luggage and the “Walk-Off” art I’d impulsively bid on at the final art auction. Luckily we only had to go a few kilometers to get to our hotel, where we unloaded, then got on our way for a tour of some of the natural wonders of Iceland.

The mid-Atlantic rift (between where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates) is one of those that grows through lava surfacing, rather than by plates crashing together, pushing up ground. Iceland is the only place in the world where this happens above ground. We got to walk between the two plates, down into Þingvellir (Thingvellir) valley where the the world’s first parliament met.

We also went to Gullfoss, an amazing waterfall which seemed to be three in one. There was even a point where the mist from a falls was so thick, it condensated and created a small rivulet fall on the clip opposite the main falls.

The trip we started out taking was much changed by the time it was over, some of the changes annoying (more days at sea) and some were pretty cool (I got to see more of Rejikivek than expected). But, like the activity of the earth’s crust, things change. 

Looking back, the trip feels an apt analogy for the several past years. We’ve been forced down a different path than we expected due to unforeseen circumstances, our families kept us strong, there were disappointments and unexpected wins. All the while we did our best to make the best of things, but it was frustrating and by the end we did not walk away from it the way we thought we would. But, can we say that our journey was a bad one? It was different than we’d planned, but the important thing is we moved forward, rolled with the punches the best we could, and made it to the other side.

I feel badly for having let this blog linger during and after the pandemic, but our paths took a big, unexpected turns. The routines I was used to, the milestones I’d set, were disrupted like the ground where magma breaks through, and the view of where we were going was hazy. The path took turns I didn’t expect, and through it all I relied on those close to me to help keep myself going. 

I know I can’t reclaim the path I was on, but have to forge out from where I landed from this detour, but I will do my best to dance through the ice field, and make my way through. 

Our initial itinerary.
The map of our actual path, including two replacement ports, Narsarsuaq- the fjord we were to travel to see a glacier, and Qaqortoq, that we also didn’t get to visit.