Whilst in northern Iceland I set off from Akureyri (population 18,000), the second largest population centre in the country to the small port town of Dalvik (population 1,400) about 30 minutes north to go on an afternoon whale watching cruise in the Eyjafjörður (Island Fjord). This is the longest fjord in Iceland reaching south to Akureyri and in its middle, off Dalvik is the island of Hrisey.
Each side of the fjord is flanked by snow-covered mountains and the scenery is quite stunning. Far to the north of the fjords mouth is Grimsey island (40 km off the coast) which is the northernmost inhabited Icelandic territory with a population of less than 90 people (you can reach it by ferry from Dalvik).
Even though this day was a sunny, relatively clear one at around minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) with a wind chill factor of around minus 17 Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) it was cold by Icelandic standards. This made for a chilly day out on the water so the tour company issues you with a special arctic suit to put on over your existing cold weather gear (in my case 5 upper layers!) to keep you warm and dry.
Once we and the boat were readied, we set sail from the port of Dalvik out into the Fjord. The plan was to circumnavigate Hrisey island and see some whales (although not the typical whale watching season they are about in winter – predominately Humpback whales). The scenery was stunning as the sun was shining brightly just above the surrounding mountains. The sunshine and snowy landscape provided quite a backdrop to the waters of the Eyjafjörður.
The arctic suit was immediately proving very handy. Despite the nice day, the cold wind was kicking up a lot of freezing water early into the voyage. To give you an idea of the cold, by the end of the day my backpack which was on a seat had been splashed with water a bit and the outside was frozen solid!
As we started to approach Hrisey we still had not seen a whale. On the other side of the island the boat was no longer going into the wind so the splashing water eased and we kept and eye out for these elusive whales. Still nothing.
North of the island there was a brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise but that was it. We had to be content with the stunning sunset over the mountains.
As we turned back for Dalvik everyone was a bit down at not seeing a whale but then with a smile the captain handed out some hot chocolate to drink and asked “who wants to go fishing instead?”. We all said yes and out came the fishing rods for a spot of arctic fishing.
No bait was required as all of the fishing rods were fitted with a large lure. This was dropped to the bottom (about 35 metres / 115 feet) then we wound it up a little and started bobbing the line up and down. Not too much longer the first person had a bite and caught a cod! Soon we all had caught a cod and had a good bag for a sizeable meal.
The captain had soon gutted and filleted the catch onboard and we set off for the port and some warmth with the promise of a good meal. The cod fillets were quickly put on a BBQ with some herbs and spices added for a delicious meal (you cannot get fresher than that!).
The number one industry in Iceland used to be fishing but today it is tourism. I managed to combine both!
So that was that. As always on these types of things you make the most of what unfolds. There were no whales but regardless, the stunning scenery and the fishing made for a fun experience. Iceland always delivers something to make your day.