You may not know it, but you’ve probably seen the dramatic Vestmannaeyjar Islands off the south coast of Iceland before. It’s like sailing into an Instagram picture. The uniquely sculpted land is both picturesque and memorable. Heimaey is the most amazing. The harbor here was nearly sealed off by an enormous eruption in the late 1970s that demolished many of the houses in the town at the water’s edge. Today, we climbed the remaining lava pile, still warm from the magma lurking beneath the island’s surface. The blue sky gave us broad views, and the strong winds gave us a true taste of the local life. After dinner, we got a closer look at Surtsey—a volcanic island that is younger than many of us on board. It’s a bittersweet but fitting end to our explorations of the land of fire and ice.
National Geographic Endurance
Lofoten Islands, Norway
This morning, we woke up just off Værøy, one of the outer Lofoten Islands. For centuries, this has been a core area for cod fishing. After breakfast, we set ashore at Måstad on the southern side of Værøy. The primary livelihoods of fishing, agriculture, and bird hunting made this old fishing village one of the most unique settlements in Norway. Måstad had approximately 150 inhabitants up to World War II. The lack of roads, electricity, and a good harbour resulted in the closing of the only store in 1940, followed by the local school in 1953. The last residents left in 1974, and the last inhabitant of Måstad died in 1982. Today, the few remaining houses are a precious link to their descendants and are carefully restored and maintained as summer homes. We spent the whole morning ashore. Most of the guests chose to go hiking along an old horse trail that connects Måstad to the northern side of the island. Other guests preferred to walk around on their own. After a good lunch and a break, we docked at Reine, a vibrant fishing village in Lofoten. This village is framed by spectacular scenery and has a combination of old and new buildings. Up until the end of the 19th century, many cabins were constructed to offer shelter for fishermen coming with their rowboats. These cabins were called “rorbu,” or rower’s cabin, and were used by hundreds of fishermen and land-based workers. The village was a self-contained community where the squire was responsible for everything, from the cabins, the shop, the steamship office, and the bank, to the buying and exportation of cod. After an informative recap and another great dinner, our day of exploration had still more in store. Just after 9:00 pm, Captain Aaron and his team gently maneuvered National Geographic Endurance through the extremely narrow passage into Trollfjord, a very scenic little fjord to the north of Lofoten Islands. What a wonderful finale to another great day of exploration along the coast of Norway!