Saturday, 31 May 2014


Photo: Lisa Anderson

If it’s whale watching in Iceland, mainly the name Husavik springs to mind, our destination for this morning. Only passing from Grimsey to the Northeast of Iceland we had spotted so many whales, literally on the drive-by, how promising is it to go out with the people who live here! And indeed some of them are bold enough to give a guarantee to spot the gentle giants. The port of Husavik sports many of very beautiful whale watching boats, giving the whole place a bit of a Moby-Dick feeling.
Photo: Klaus Kiesewetter
So it is more than natural that some of us set out with the schooner Haukur to see plenty of birds and of course follow the blows at the oceans surface.
After a stunning visit at the steep cliffs that were literally teeming with puffins it takes only a short ride until the first whales come into sight. In the end the statistics speak of minkys, fin whales and humpbacks. Not bad for a mornings ride!
Photo: Lisa Anderson
Photo: Klaus Kiesewetter
At the same time others were busy marinating in the Myvatn Nature Baths, geothermal natural pools of a constant 40 degrees (centigrade…), after a pretty hike around the perfect caldera of Hverfell. Really volcanic it gets on the Lake Myvatn Express that takes the third group through the mighty lava fields of Dimmuborgir and the boiling sulfur pots of Namaskard. So there is something for everybody, many stories are swapped after returning for the ride to our evening destination Thorshofn, where the local music school performs for us in the observation lounge.
Photo: Lisa Anderson
Photo: Lisa Anderson

Friday, 30 May 2014

Akureyri and Grimsey Island

Akureyri is a pretty town of 18,000 people situated near the end of a long fjord.  As usual the harbour is located right next to the centre of town. It was a perfect day to drive through the Icelandic countryside.  Two motor coaches departed the pier area at 09:00 and headed inland towards Godafoss Falls. Spring time in Iceland means that all of the rivers and streams are swollen to capacity and that means there is lots of water tumbling down the fjord walls.  Beautiful waterfalls seemed to be everywhere but we were headed to one of the most beautiful and famous waterfalls in all of Iceland.

On route we passed through lush green farmland punctuated with old moss covered lavafields.

Godafoss waterfalls did not disappoint.  It is not the tallest of waterfalls but it is in a beautiful setting. We were able to spend more than 45 minutes at the waterfall and were able to follow a path along the river’s edge to a restaurant, café and gift shop where we rejoined our bus. Once back in Akureyri we visited the botanical garden which was rife with luxuriant spring growth.
Female Eider Duck on Nest

In the evening we went to the small but very charming island of Grimsey which is situated smack dab on the middle of the Arctic Circle.  It was wonderful to walk to the outskirts of the small town to the seabird cliffs.  En route you had to pass veritable clouds of Arctic Terns and large flocks of Kittiwakes.  Walking along the cliff edge you could easily see nesting Fulmars, Kittiwakes and the occassional Puffin.  The cliff top was literally riddled with Puffin burrows but it seemed that most of the diminutive birds were at sea or deep within the burrow.

Shortly after our departure from Grimsey we were once again visited by King Neptune who demanded payment for our having crossed the Arctic Circle.  What was the payment?  Ice cold water poured down the back of your neck of course.  Funny how that guy seems to follow us around.

We had a perfect finale to the day when Humpbach Whales were spotted at 23:00.  We stopped the ship to observe these leviathans of the deep.  Behind us we enjoyed a setting sun over Grimsey and in front of us we enjoyed watching several Humpback whales!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Come away with us...

Unknown places, wilderness, nature, experiences, wildlife - these are our major keywords. This is what we do, our hallmark, this is why we go to extreme places.
You shall see what only a few do see.
For that purpose we very often have to try new things, meet new challenges.
This morning offered the perfect opportunity for that, as we pulled into the beautiful bay of Hornvik, far in the North of the rugged westfjords. It’s the location of some of the most stunning bird cliffs in the whole of Iceland and also the departure point for a hike of rare beauty, across the Hornbjerg.
A hike in the wild needs to be tried and tested before we can take a group of guests into the unknown. So three of us set out to discover.
It turned out to be not quite a walk in the park, twelve serious kilometers had to be braved in a very short time, starting no later than at five o’clock in the morning.
Crossing rivers and ice fields, clambering up steep mountains, and following the path through a landscape of wonders took three and a half hours, but only because parts of it were parcoured running.
Finally the descent on the other side to rendezvous point near an old light house, the wind has picked up, there is a nasty swell. So the three of us have no hesitation to meet the boat, that FRAM has sent to pick us up, hallways in the surf.
Wet, exhausted, but utterly happy we return to the ship with a lot of new impressions and information that we will share with you on a future trip.
After a rather short leg we arrive in Siglufjördur, a small town with great importance and a great history - the history of the herring.
For a long, long time the waters in the north of Iceland were the richest in herring worldwide, causing the place to grow and prosper. And then more. Work was abundant, experienced fishermen came from all over to make a living.
But economy is a fickle friend, going up and down (sounds familiar?), times weren’t always good, and sometimes so bad that the whole herring industry came to a standstill and a total exodus set in. Today Siglufjördur is a cozy little town with a reasonably-sized fishery.
But the real attraction is the herring museum. No, it’s not a museum like many others, it is a live narration of the herring times. People are re-enacting open air, they gut the herring, they sing and dance, and all that with the backdrop of the original buildings that virtually bring the “good ole times” alive. A great experience!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Cruise Ship Is All About Mobility

A cruise ship is of course, all about mobility but once in a while it is nice to be in one port all day or even overnight.  We docked in Isafjordur around 22:00 last night and didn't depart until 21:30 today. A ship at anchor or tied to a pier overnight is so peaceful.  Quiet.  Relaxing.  Here in beautiful Isafjordur we are far from the maddening crowd.  Although we are right next to a small town of approximately 3500 people, there is no traffic noise.  For the most part it was the plaintive sound of Gulls calling. Another wonderful thing about being in port all day, especially a beautiful place like Isafjordur, is that you have time to do everything, or, if you wish, plenty of time to do nothing at all.  It's totally up to you.
We had several terrific excursions available today which included: touring the nearby town of Sudureyri and tasting seafood,  hiking up to the Troll's Throne which had a magnificent view of
Isafjordur, a cultural walking tour of the town of
Isafjordur, and horse back riding on Icelandic horses.
The weather cooperated with us today.  We had periods of sunshine with great visibility.  We could see the top of the fjord and surrounding mountains and best of all, no rain! Yippee!  The great weather really contributed to making all of the excursions great!
In the evening two local young ladies performed in the Observation Lounge at 19:45.  Salome sang and Kristin accompanied her on the piano.  They were really excellent. Everyone wished they could have performed a little longer.
Then at 22:00 the officers and Expedition Team put on a fashion show modelling many of the items we have for sale in the gift shop here on board Fram.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Rocks & Ducks

Traveler, if you go to Iceland you are to choose if you want to be in Europe or in America first. This is no joke: Iceland sits atop, better: astride the mid-Atlantic ridge, so half of it belongs to the Eurasian and the other half to the North-American plate. And they move away from each other, at the neck-breaking speed of one inch a year. Because it is right here where new crust, new terrain is formed, a process involving a lot of fire and ka-boom. Usually this happens at the bottom of the ocean, but not so in Iceland. So powerful is the Earth’s mantle supply that the whole mid-ocean ridge was lifted way above sea level, very recently, one might add. (Geologically speaking - we are still talking a few million years…).
And as this spreading of the ocean floor perpetuates, the rocks of Iceland are getting younger towards the island’s centre, Thingvellir.

Therefore, reaching the west coast, we are in the old part today. And it shows: Not that the basalt is darker or thicker, but erosion by the ice ages had more time to do it’s sculpting work. The coastline is tremendously serrated, the deep fjords are so numerous that the mountains in-between look like fingers on a hand.
Nestled in this impressive landscape lie small and smaller places, like Flateyri, a little village with just about 200 inhabitants. As we dock on the tiny pier, we are immediately the largest building in town, casually more than doubling the population.

A peaceful place, with very welcoming people, a cosy café and even a few (!) museums. One of them is proudly presented by Eythor Eyolfsson. It is the house of his great-grandparents, the one he himself was raised in. He kept it just the way it used to look a hundred years ago, a beautiful and very personal exhibition of the olden days. And next door he also sells books - by the weight…
The other end of Flateyri features a huge structure which looks like a fortress with a big solid tunnel in it. It is an avalanche protection wall, build after 1995, when 20 people of Flateyri lost their lives under the snow. That’s ten percent, convert this to your home town and you know the drama. Now the village is safe.

If you like soft pillows, our second destination for the day might be of interest - Vigur is one of the very well-known breeding places for Eider ducks. Their inner feathers provide the unbelievable combination of softness, warmth and almost zero weight. This precious material is collected once a year by the inhabitants and turned into a rather pricy product.

Due to breeding season the access to Vigur is restricted, so we have one part of the group visiting the island, and the others enjoying a happy ride deep into the fjords on board our Polar Cirkel Boats, where we can watch the famous ducks flying about, among many other pretty birds, like fulmars, guillemots, terns, kittywakes - and of course puffins, the sea birds with the tropical beak.
In the evening we hoist the anchor to go around the corner and spend the night in Isafjördur, in the peaceful silence of the fjord.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Grundafjordur & Stykisholmur

On a cool grey misty morning we pulled alongside the pier in the picturesque Grundafjordor harbour at 07:30.  Kittiwakes and Northern Fulmars wheeled about the ship.
Photo © Lisa Anderson
The first tours of our Icelandic Odyssey set off at 08:30.  We hoped to see Snaefelsjokul but the constant low cloud cover and steady drizzle rendered that possibilty null and void.  Snaefelsjokul is the glacier capped mountain where Jules Verne’s famous story Journey To The Centre Of The Earth took place.  According to Jules Verne, the entrance to the centre of the earth is found on Snaefelsjokul.  The word jokul is Icelandic for glacier and is generally included with the name of the glacier as one word.  To say, “Snaefelsjokul glacier” would be incorrect.  It would be akin to saying, “Snaefels glacier glacier”.  Despite not being able to see the famous glacier it was wonderful to tour through the national park.  Tortured lava fields were everywhere.   The lava fields were largely covered in dense, luxurious moss. With all of the spring rain the mosses were turning a bright green.
Photo © Lisa Anderson

Shortly after 13:00 the motor coaches were back at the ship. In short order the AB’s cast off the lines and we were under way to our second landing of the day.
Our plan was to drop anchor outside of Stykisholmur and then use the Polar Cirkel boats to tender everyone in.  Our Icelandic Pilot informed us that it was possible to get Fram into the harbour and that we could tie up at the pier.  Great news!  It was an impressive docking.  The pier was tiny and the maneuvering space next to nil.  The ship’s officers and sailors did themselves proud by sliding Fram into the tight docking area as if they had been there 100 times before.
The cold rain continued on and off through the afternoon, but undaunted the hikers set off into The Berserk Lavafields.  Is it just me that thinks that is a great name?  The Berserk Lavafields.  It sounds straight out of a fantasy novel or a movie like The Princess Bride.
Another group went on a boat tour and visited many of the small islands close by.  It was possible to get great views of Puffins and many other seabirds.  One of the highlights of the tour was to taste seafood that they trawled up from the bottom of the sea.

At 20:00 we cast off our lines once again.  Our destination for tomorrow Flateyri!

The BIG Change

There are days when everything is culminating, like a well written detective story. Usually a changeover day is enough to deal with in its own right, we’d like to make sure our departing guests have a safe ongoing journey while at the same time we have to spend some thought to the logistics that have to be managed with the arriving group a few hours later. It feels like wiping the blackboard clean for a new formula.
This time, we don’t just wipe the board clean, we dismount the whole blackboard and throw away the chalk: Today was the introduction of the brand-new “operating system” for the whole ship, called Fidelio. Basically everything that runs on electronics here got merged into this vital piece of soft- and hardware. It’s a bit like a brain transplant while the patient is playing a game of chess. No wonder we all were very excited to see the transition at work, after weeks of having parts of the ship looking like the NORAD command centre. (Or rather the CHAOS computer club, as nobody was wearing uniform…)
And what can we say: Job well done, smooth opening, check-in worked like a charm, the new machines spat out the new cruise cards for the new system. Phew!
And now to the main thing, the upcoming expedition. What an excitement - we are going to go around Iceland now! FRAM has never done this before, so everybody is very much on his/her toes, wondering what the next ten days will bring. Many familiar faces arrive throughout the afternoon, the new destination lures many loyal fans of FRAM back on board.

Already during the welcoming speech the new arrivals seem eager to explore the new places with us. And after the necessary procedures like check-in, jacket distribution and safety instruction we cast the lines under a rather grey sky, heading into the Icelandic evening, while Captain Hårvik welcomes the new group.

Friday, 23 May 2014

A Day At Sea

Today was a perfect sea day.  The skies were clear for the better part of the day.  The sea was calm.  
It was a good day for bird watching.  Graceful Gannets were present throughout the day as well as Northern Fulmars and Arctic Terns.  In the morning we were visited by a group of Long-finned Pilot whales.
A day at sea is often a welcome respite to a busy holiday on Fram.  It is a chance to sit back and relax.  It is a time to collect your thoughts and review the exciting places we have been and all of the things we have done.  It is a chance to edit and collate photos and a time to write postcards.  You could also spend time in one of our two hot tubs, both of which have an amazing view of the sea.  You could elect to go to the gym or to the sauna. Or you could do just nothing at all.  just watch the ocean glide by. 
We do our best to keep you busy and to add to your understanding of the places we have visited.  A day at sea is a time for our lecture team to shine.  We had a full program of lectures in three different languages.  We also managed to squeeze in some bridge visits and of course there were the necessary briefings for tomorrow and how disembarkation would work on the following day.  But it’s too early to talk about that.

In the evening at 22:00 our whisky experts Bernie & Beastie enlightened, entertained and educated us.   Once again they provided three different whiskies to taste. What better way to end a relaxing day than sampling fine whisky whilst regarding a setting sun?