Leaving Scotland, we had two sea days before reaching Isafjordur, Iceland. After cruising all night and most of the day in the North Atlantic Ocean, we were making good time to Iceland. Each day at noon the Captain comes on the loudspeaker to update us on our location, sea conditions, weather forecasts, etc. It is a routine daily update everyone expects. We also know from past cruise experiences, if the captain comes on the loudspeaker at any other time, it is never good news. Sure enough, at 4:00 in the afternoon, the captain made an unexpected announcement. A passenger on the ship was very ill and needed immediate medical treatment. Since we were in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and out of range of a rescue helicopter, the captain had no choice but to turn around and head back towards Scotland. When he got within range, a helicopter would fly out and pick up the critically ill passenger.
Four hours later we spotted a helicopter in the distance headed for the ship. It was a British Coast Guard long range military rescue helicopter. It hovered over the ship and had to abort the first rescue attempt and make another circle around the ship. There is no place large enough on the ship for a helicopter that size to land. They had to lower a cradle basket down for the patient to be placed in and then raised into the helicopter. A dangerous and tricky operation. The winds were light and the sea was relatively calm, which helped reduce the risk of failure.
On the second try the mission was successfully completed and the helicopter flew off towards Scotland. Our ship’s captain slowly turned the ship around and we were headed once again towards Iceland.
The next day we were invited to a Captain’s Cocktail Party. The captain and many officers were there. The captain said the passenger had made it safely to Scotland and was recovering nicely. He received applause and cheers from the passengers for successfully getting the patient treatment. He said he was putting the pedal to the metal so to speak and we should still arrive in Iceland at the scheduled time. I will say that of all our cruises, this is the youngest ship’s captain we have ever had.
We could definitely feel a change in temperature around the ship, especially when walking outside. Temperatures outside were now in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s as we steamed in the North Atlantic towards Iceland.
We are now very close to the Arctic Circle so sunset is 53 minutes after midnight and sunrise is 2:09 A.M.! A little more than an hour of darkness each day.
Our first port in Iceland was Isafjordur, located just below the Arctic Circle. Isafjordur, meaning “ice fjord” in the Icelandic language, is a tiny town in northwest Iceland, population 2,600. It is characterized by dramatic fjords, rugged cliffs and remote valleys.
This area was first settled in the ninth century by mainly Norsemen. Around the 16th century the town grew rapidly as it became a merchant trading post and in the 18th century a flourishing fishing village. Isafjordur and all the tiny neighboring towns share the same history; they were founded on and grew up around fishing, whether you processed fish on land or fished at sea. Isolation has forced the inhabitants to be culturally self-sufficient. The town became a municipality in 1786. Some of the oldest houses in Iceland are located here. The majority of the population here is of Icelandic descent. There are few immigrants from other countries. Today, tourism is the fastest growing industry in this part of Iceland and therefore English is now widely spoken
True to the Captain’s word, we arrived in Isafjordur right on schedule. The harbor here was too shallow to accommodate a large cruise ship, therefore this was a tender port, meaning we would have to board small lifeboats to go into port from the ship. It is one of our least favorite things to do. Fortunately we were given priority boarding passes for the tender boat, meaning we could go over anytime we wanted. We didn’t have to get up early and get in line for tender tickets.
We did not have an excursion booked for this port, and knowing it was a very small town, we took our time at breakfast, figuring all the people with excursions would be taking the early tender boats. When we went down at 9:15 we were quite surprised to see a long line. It was about a 30 minute wait before we were on the next tender boat. They sure pile people in there tight. Fortunately the water was smooth as glass and it was only a ten minute ride to shore.
We walked through Old Town, with wooden houses built in the late 19th century, which is considered very old in Iceland. For the most part the houses are very well cared for and made for quite a picturesque setting against the fjord and harbor.
Bill found two geocaches, one of which was located in the town’s one and only roundabout.
It was cold, windy and occasionally spitting rain. We walked back to the tender boat and were very glad they took us quickly back to the ship. We were afraid we would have to wait until the boat was full. It was nice on the ride back not to be packed in like sardines.
Some hot tea and lunch sure tasted good.
We chuckled at this teenager’s jacket at lunch. Kids!!
As the ship pulled away later in the afternoon, the fog was moving in creating an eerie look.
Next up: A very cold, rainy, windy day exploring Iceland