Early risers were able to view six humpback and two fin whales. But the real excitement occurred around mid-morning, when National Geographic Explorer encountered a mini-superpod consisting of feeding gannets and orcas. The gannets were spectacular…diving from heights of 20-25 feet and plunging into the water, straight as an arrow. A few seconds later, they bobbed to the surface, the successful ones with a mackerel in their bills. The orcas also were feeding on the mackerel and at least one individual slapped its fluke on the surface to frighten the fish into a more manageable tight ball. The 90-minute feeding frenzy gave all of us a chance to fill our memory cards, both those in our cameras and in our minds.
We continued to Heimaey and entered the famous harbor. It’s famous because the 1973 eruption of Edfell Volcano nearly destroyed the harbor. Only by pumping millions of gallons of cold seawater on the advancing lava, was the lava stopped just before completely blocking the harbor’s entrance and creating a better harbor than before.
After lunch, we had a choice of hiking to the top of Edfell to enjoy a stimulating view of the Vestmannaeyjars, as well as the heat (hot enough to bake bread!) from a few vents. Others embarked on a bus tour of the island and saw pufflings.
The traditional guest slideshow looped during cocktail hour and it was clear that many of us are quite skilled photographers. The day concluded with a circumnavigation of Surtsey, a volcanic island that was formed during a continual eruption from 1963-1967. It is now a World Heritage Site and off limits to all but qualified biologists and geologists from Iceland.
Although the expedition has drawn to a close, we are left with indelible memories: the amazing acrobatics by the humpbacks Kaleesi and Sunshine, a feeding frenzy of gannets and orcas, beloved puffins, innumerable sea birds, flowers, fascinating geology, volcanos, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, and live music every night. Another classic Lindblad/National Geographic expedition!