National Geographic Resolution continued her circuit around the spectacular coast of Iceland through the night. The soft light of the early morning and calm seas – again! – gave us wonderful sightings of fin and minke whales. Fin whales are the second-largest animals on the planet. Minke whales, known as the “greyhounds of the sea” due to their speed, rarely hang about — they are often feeding on the hoof, so to speak.
Our destination for the early part of the day was Surtsey, one of the world’s newest islands. Since its eruption in 1973, this volcanic rock is eroding but remains a valuable resource for scientific research. It took just three years for the first plants to colonize — lichens and mosses, initially. A mere sixty years later, there are more than thirty plants. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the island is out-of-bounds to visitors. Together with its neighboring volcanos, it presents a formidable scene. Sailing around the island, we were fortunate to see the newest eruption taking place some miles away in the southwest of Iceland.
This final full day of our trip did not skimp on activities. Skirting volcanic peaks covered in tens of thousands of gannets, we watched the spectacle of them plunge-diving into the ocean. We then relocated to the island of Heimaey with its secluded natural harbor. Once an important fishing port, this small settlement was nearly destroyed by a large eruption in 1973. By swift action, the lava flow was prevented from cutting off the harbor, as water jets were used to solidify the encroaching magma. Hiking in the local mountains, we got a feel for the sheer power of these eruptions — a further enhancement to our incredible trip.
The night ended with a fond farewell from our captain, and the epic saga of National Geographic Resolution was concluded.