The guests aboard the National Geographic Explorer spent the day in the Vestmannaeyjar Islands off the southern tip of Iceland. In the morning, we cruised by the small eroded volcanic archipelago with a tremendous number of sea birds. We saw puffins, guillemots, and fulmars on the cliffs and flying around. The gannets stole the show with their beautiful yellow heads and large colonies. We also ran across a pod of gorgeous killer whales, so we watched this family group swimming and feeding for over 30 minutes.
After a fascinating lecture on the geology and volcanoes of Iceland, we arrived at the island of Heimaey, which suffered a destructive volcano eruption in 1973. First, the ship entered the narrow entrance of Heimaey Harbor, which was almost closed off by the lava flow from the eruption. After lunch, some guests went on a bus tour to see the bird cliffs of Heimaey, where they saw hundreds of puffins and other birds. Many guests opted to climb the Eldfell Volcano, a cinder cone built up in only a month during the 1973 eruption. The lava destroyed half the city, but all the residents escaped safely on the fleet of fishing boats. On both trips, there were beautiful wildflowers such as lupines covering the fields.
Before recap, the ship stopped to see Elephant Rocks, a series of caves and spectacular columnar jointing. Even the dessert tonight was volcano-themed: chocolate lava cake. After dinner, the ship navigated around Surtsey, a brand-new island created by the 1963 cinder cone eruption. The night concluded with a beautiful music concert by our guest musician Hafdis Huld.