Today we visited the Shetland Islands, a windy archipelago that forms the northern outpost of Great Britain. Arriving by sea from the Orkneys, we sailed under the towering cliffs of the Isle of Noss, upon whose ledges multitudes of gannets and murres lay their eggs and rear their young. Gannets sailed and swooped over the ship. Murres beat their short wings furiously to stay aloft, while fulmars alternately flapped and glided. Once on land, we explored by coach and on foot. We saw scarcely any trees, but spreading farm fields reach down to the shore. A visit to the southern tip of the main island brought us to the Sumburgh (rhymes with Edinburgh) light station, which can only be reached by a narrow ridge flanked on both sides by seabird cliffs. From this ridge, we peered down at the murres brooding their eggs and young on a sloping rock just above the turbulent sea and at the puffins guarding their burrow entrances on the grassy slopes. The day ended with the Captain’s welcome dinner in the dining room.
National Geographic Explorer
We started the day with beautiful weather and a gorgeous sail into Heimaey. An adventurous group from National Geographic Explorer hiked up the volcano that threatened the city in 1973, and others took a panoramic tour of the area. The grand finale for everyone was a visit to the Volcano Museum, which is built around a house that was partially destroyed in the eruption. In the distance, we could see steam and gases from a new volcanic eruption. After leaving Heimaey, we sailed around several of the Westman Islands, where the only ‘residents’ are seabirds nesting on the cliffs. Gannets, northern fulmars, puffins, black guillemots, and red-necked phalaropes were prolific. We found a large group of gannets diving into the water to catch fish. Several minke whales were spotted briefly before we headed off for our visit to Surtsey, which we circumnavigated. After the guest slideshow and the Captain’s Farewell, our ship sailed by National Geographic Resolution as we passed the newly erupting Litli-Hrutur.